Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of 435 members of the incoming US House of Representatives, said on Monday that members of her family were Sephardim who were forced to flee to Puerto Rico during the Spanish Inquisition.
Ocasio-Cortez was speaking at an event marking the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, at a gathering held with the Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. She thanked the organization on a social media account for assembling the festivities.
“So many of our destinies are tied beyond our understanding,” Ocasio-Cortez said regarding her family lineage.
“A very long time ago, generations and generations ago, my family consisted of Sephardi... Jews.”
Ocasio-Cortez told the audience of her family’s struggles as Sephardim, and how they were forced to flee into the mountains of Puerto Rico during the Spanish Inquisition and practice Catholicism as a front to escape antisemitic oppression.
“During the Spanish Inquisition... so many people were forced to convert on the exterior to Catholicism, but on the interior continued to practice their faith,” the newly elected New York congresswoman told the crowd.
“The culture in Puerto Rico [was] that people [would] open their closets, there would be this small menorah inside. And as they had children, and their children had children and their children had children, these cultures started to kind of mix in a way that many people in those subsequent generations didn’t understand: to practice Catholicism on the exterior, but when you’re at home, to practice Judaism.”
Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is from Queens, New York. At the age 29, she will become the youngest member ever to serve in the US Congress.
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