Introducing Raices Hebreos -- A Colorado Anous Community
We often learn of emerging Anous communities in exotic places, so it came as a surprise to actually find one in my own backyard, the Denver metro area. Sylvia and Raul Perez have heeded their unique spiritual journeys and ancestry and are leading a small group of Latinos back to Judaism. Raul is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, and Sylvia is from the US Southwest. Both have been on a spiritual path for many years. Both as a couple and as business partners they operated a religious bookstore and even served as pastors in an evangelical church.
Notwithstanding the protests from their former evangelical community, they have begun holding Shabbat services in the backyard of their bookstore. The have attracted a strong group of believers who bake their own challah and are fervent in their study of Torah.
I met Sylvia and Raul through a meeting called by Ivan Baca and Michael Fajardo, who organized a Symposium on the descendants of Sephardic Jews in Denver this past September.
Due to my association with Kulanu and as a member of B’Nai Chaim synagogue in Littleton, Colorado, I was invited to the meeting. In fact, I spoke on behalf of Kulanu at the Symposium, which was well attended by people from all over Colorado’s front range, Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
The members of this congregation attended the Symposium as well and I feel that they were the heart and soul of the event. All the members of this community have interesting stories, but I was most struck by the fervor of the members.
The group (which loosely calls itself Raices Hebreos) initially made contact with an Orthodox shul on Denver’s West Side, but they were not exactly welcomed with open arms. However, after attending one of the services at Raul and Sylvia’s, I invited the group to attend services at my synagogue, B’Nai Chaim, and they were welcomed by the congregation and even engaged in some discussion with our Rabbi Joel Schwartzman after the Oneg.
The very nature of Anousim recognizing their Jewish ancestry and the desire to return to Judaism are not without pitfalls. How do we overcome 500 years of separation? Though the gulf is indeed wide, I believe that it can be bridged with small steps. I was advised early in my own personal journey to study Torah and therein would I find my path. That has worked out for me, and with their fervor and the depth of commitment I believe that it can also work for the Raices Hebreos group.
Raul and Sylvia are a dynamic team and draw people from all over the Denver community. People attend from Castle Rock south of Denver, from Aurora, and from north Denver and the Thornton area. They are currently holding Shabbat services in their private home located in NW metro Denver.
All of the members of the congregation have interesting stories to tell of how they each arrived at a desire to embrace Torah. Each of the members has engaged in a great deal of study and introspection. I have worked a bit with them in connecting them to the resources of the mainstream Jewish community in Denver. We started a Hebrew study group which meets on Sunday mornings. We have engaged Ilana Fishman, the daughter of a rabbi from Philadelphia and a Denver school teacher, to teach the class.
If anyone wishes to contact Raices Hebreos de Denver, please contact me at beatleboy @ hotmail.com