Ahmadenijad’s Jewish ancestors

There have long been rumors, but the news in the Telegraph appears [or not–see late-breaking addendum below] to confirm them. The fact that Mahmoud Ahmadenijad has Jewish blood will be an “ah-ha” moment for a lot of different constituencies. Armchair psychologists will ascribe his anti-Semitism to  over-compensation (which is why the notion that Hitler might have had Jewish ancestors is so intuitively appealling too, if impossible to prove). Die-hard Israel defenders will make Ahmadenijad into a poster-child for Jewish-self-hatred, in an attempt to de-legitimize  liberal Jewish criticism of the Zionist state. For racialists, Ahmadenijad’s Judaism will henceforth be his most salient trait, no matter how passionate his Islamic beliefs, no matter how fanatical his hatred of Israel. Should that undermine his standing with the Ayatollahs and his Islamist base then it might not be an altogether bad thing.

None of the reviews of CULTS, CONSPIRACIES, AND SECRET SOCIETIES said anything about my coverage of Crypto-Judaism, which is a phenomenon that I find absolutely fascinating. Some of the Marranos of the Iberian peninsula really did subsist as secret societies, passing a handful of shibboleths and rituals down the generations to preserve their dimly-remembered Jewish identity. In 1917, a Polish-Jewish mining engineer named Samuel Schwarz discovered a community of Crypto-Jews in Belmonte, Portugal who had lost all their Hebrew except the word adonai, but secretly celebrated Passover and Purim in altered forms. Many Spanish Americans claim that their families practiced strange customs like salting meat, lighting candles on Friday nights, abstaining from pork, etc. that they now realize were vestiges of forbidden Judaism. In most cases, those practices are more likely to be artifacts of nineteenth century messianic Christian missionaries than the Inquisition, but who’s to say that some of the stories aren’t true?

BELATED ADDENDUM…. Of course the Telegraph’s proof might turn out to be no such thing. By early afternoon, its story is coming in for some sharp questioning.


2 thoughts on “Ahmadenijad’s Jewish ancestors

  1. “None of the reviews of CULTS, CONSPIRACIES, AND SECRET SOCIETIES said anything about my coverage of Crypto-Judaism, which is a phenomenon that I find absolutely fascinating.”

    I found that section highly interesting. You might find Rebecca Goldstein’s treatment of the subject of interest (if you’re not already familiar with it): in Betraying Spinoza, she examined how the Marranos influenced the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza.

    1. thank you so much. And yes, I did read Rebecca Goldstein’s book, which I thought was fascinating and moving. I’d recommend it to anyone.

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