Home
In this issue
December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Woman tracks her hidden Jewish roots through 22 generations after grandmother's warning

By Ana Veciana-Suarez


Genie Milgrom stands in the entryway of her Kendall home wrapped in a paper filled with the names of 22 generations of her grandmothers. Behind her is a mosaic she created called 'The Blessing of the Home.'




JewishWorldReview.com |

MIAMI— (MCT) Genie Milgrom's quest for her religious roots began with a mysterious box her maternal grandmother left her when she died. It ends, if one can call it an ending, with a book, a website, speaking engagements around the world and a scholar's depth of knowledge about Jews who were forced to convert, or pretended to convert, by the Spanish Inquisition.

First, the box. Milgrom, who was raised Catholic in a traditional Cuban household, had already converted to Judaism when her maternal abuela left her a well-worn hamsa, or charm-like "hand of G0D" trinket, and one gold earring with a Star of David in the middle. No note accompanied this strange bequest.

Milgrom was intrigued. What did it mean? This, after all, was the grandmother who, upon Milgrom's conversion, had whispered a warning about the dangers of being a Jew.

"It was all very mysterious," said Milgrom, 58, president of her family's Miami-based pharmaceutical export company. "Then I started remembering all the strange family customs we had, like throwing some of the dough used for baking into the back of the oven and sweeping the floor towards the center of the room and even how we would cracks eggs in a glass to check for blood."

All Sephardic traditions. All customs practiced by Crypto Jews, those who secretly maintained their Jewish customs while pretending to be Catholic.

Curiosity piqued, Milgrom launched what would become an almost two-decade search for her Jewish roots, a search that took her to her ancestors' hometown of Fermoselle, a village in the province of Zamora on the Spanish-Portuguese border, as well as to a top Crypto Jewish historian in New Mexico, the head Sephardic rabbi in the U.S. and a rabbinical court in Israel.

The tangible result: "My 15 Grandmothers," a 158-page self-published book that recounts her odyssey through history. It often reads like a true-life "Da Vinci Code," complete with underground prayer rooms and enough cinematic twists to give Dan Brown a run for his money.

"It became like a dissertation," Milgrom said, "but a lot more personal. I was doing this for me, for my children, for my ancestors, for everything they had gone through."

Milgrom not only traced her genealogy 15 generations through her maternal line, but after writing the book, continued burrowing backward, past the years of the Inquisition and 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Spain. She has now tracked 22 generations of her mother's maternal line and unearthed centuries-old documents about both her family and Fermoselle as a Jewish settlement.


FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO INFLUENTIAL NEWSLETTER

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.


Abraham Lavender, a Florida International University professor of sociology and Judaic studies, said there has been increased awareness among Hispanic families about possible Jewish ancestry, but few people devote the time and energy to dig for so long and so far.

"She is much more into it than most people," Lavender said. "Most people go back just a few generations."

Milgrom, a mosaic artist whose work hangs throughout her spacious Kendall, Fla., home, laughs when asked about her persistence.

"I'm obsessed, 100 percent obsessed. Seriously, though, I wanted to be the voice my grandmothers never had. I wanted to tell people, 'Here we still are.'"

As a result of her "second career," as Milgrom calls her genealogical studies, she has become an expert on Crypto Jews and the byzantine process of tracking a family tree through the centuries. She is president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami, the executive vice president of the Society of Crypto Judaic Studies based in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the president of Tarbut Sefarad Fermoselle in Barcelona, an organization that disseminates information on cultural findings of Crypto Jewry. She also has published in scholarly journals.

"Generally we don't publish personal searches," said Lavender, who edits the Journal of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto Jews.( cryptojewsjournal.org ) "But Genie's research is so unique and so comprehensive and well documented that it's certainly at an academic level."

Milgrom's experience has morphed into a crusade to help others who are looking for their religious roots. She is now writing a guide book about researching genealogy in Spain. Her own work can serve as a template for others, she believes.

"I don't proselytize, I don't go looking for it," Milgrom said, "but people find me. They hear about my story. I feel I've become an advocate for those who want to do what I'm doing."

One of those is Gustavo Ramirez Calderon, an industrial engineer from San Jose, Costa Rica, who has been researching his family for more than three decades. He refers to Milgrom as his mentor.

"The first 34 years, I was just going in circles," Ramirez wrote in Spanish in an email, "and it wasn't until I met Genie Milgrom and read her book . . . that I got anywhere. I advanced more in eight months than I did in all the other years."

She had converted to Orthodox Judaism before meeting her husband, Michael Milgrom, who comes from a family of Belgian Jews. No one else in her family, including her parents, an older sister and her two children from her first marriage, has embraced the ancestral faith.

Though she attended Catholic schools all her life, Milgrom recalls always feeling an affinity for Judaism. As an adult, she began reading about the religion extensively, visiting various synagogues before venturing into an Orthodox shul. Twenty-five years later, she is still at Young Israel of Kendall and serves on its board.

She jokes easily about the long conversion process, peppering her conversation with Cuban idioms. "I took one shellfish out of my diet every three or four months. That was hard! Can you imagine taking away camaron?" she said, using the Spanish word for shrimp.

Milgrom and her husband keep kosher. They walk to shul. And when she lights candles every Friday night, "I feel all my grandmothers are standing around me and they're saying, 'Good job.' I'm glad they're here for me."

"In search of my roots" | Genie Milgrom from LUXDIGITAL by Fran Carmona on

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


Comment by clicking here.


© 2014, The Miami Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services

Quantcast