A Colombian Church That Became Orthodox

19 May 2016

How far would you go for your faith?

The California Sunday Magazine has this amazing story about two Colombian church leaders, René Cano and Juan Carlos, who converted to Orthodox Judaism and took their megachurch with them. The story almost has Biblical echoes:

“In groups of 30, men marched to the surgeon’s office to get circumcised. René had recently married Carol Zapata, a young woman with silky skin and big black eyes whom he had met in church and who had followed him into Judaism. At his 27th birthday party, she handed him a stack of bills. ‘Here,’ she said. ‘For your circumcision.’

Converting to Orthodox Judaism is never easy in the best of circumstances. For a group of families in an impoverished city where the average wage is less than $700 a month, the challenges were enormous. At one point, René considered selling the family dog to raise money to become Jewish.

“The congregants raised the money once again and paid, as they had paid for everything else: airplane tickets and lodging for rabbis, books, the Sefer Torah, kosher food, circumcisions. It turned out that becoming Jewish was expensive. By some estimates, it took 10 million pesos, about $3,000, to make a new Jew in Colombia. This was the equivalent of a year’s earnings for most.”

The story’s author, Graciela Mochlkofsky, writes that conversion to Judaism is part of a larger trend in Latin America.

“The Jews of Bello are the best organized, but they are not the only group that has transitioned from Catholicism to evangelicalism to Judaism. There are at least 60 such communities at different stages of conversion in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia. Even in Colombia, Bello is not unique. Thirty similar communities have emerged across the country. Some are just starting; others have been practicing for years.”

It’s a long read, but certain to inspire. Check out Moment Magazine’s interview with Graciela as well.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.