From Peru to Israel: the Long Journey of the Inca Jews –

Posted By on September 9, 2022

Segundo Villanueva was born in 1927 in atiny farming village perched in the Andes. When he was 17, his father was murdered and Segundo was left with littlemore than a Bible as his inheritance. This Biblelaunched Segundo on a lifelong obsession to findthe true message of God contained in its pages.

He found himself looking for answers outsidethe Catholic Church, with a hierarchy and colonial roots that embodied the gaping social andracial inequities of Peruvian society.

In The Prophet of the Andes: An UnlikelyJourney to the Promised Land, Argentinianauthor and journalist Graciela Mochkofsky documents the life of this little known religious leader who led thousands to Jewish conversion and how he would inspire a wave ofLatin American Jewish communities today.

Mochkofsky, who originally wrote the bookin Spanish (La Revelacin, 2009) focuses on this Peruvian villager and spiritual leader, who,over years of religious study, explored variousProtestant sects and founded his own religiouscommunity in the Amazon jungle before discovering a version of Judaism he pieced together independently from his readings of theOld Testament.

Engaged in a colossal adventure, in searchof the true faith, Villanueva, like a Moses,led an entire community from the top of thePeruvian Andes to the jungle of the Amazonto find a utopian community; from modernPeru to the dangerous Jewish colonies of theIsraeli Occupied Territories; from the Gospelsto the Torah and the Talmud, and from peaceand poverty to the very center of the politicalstorm and warfare of our day.

His makeshift synagogue began to drawin crowds of fervent believers, seeking a faiththat truly served their needs. Then, in a seriesof extraordinary events, politically motivatedIsraeli rabbis converted the community to Orthodox Judaism and resettled them on the WestBank.

Segundos incredible journey made himan unlikely pioneer for a new kind of Jewishfaith, one that is now attracting masses of impoverished people across Latin America.

In a recent interview with The JewishNews of Northern California, Mochkofsky explained that she found this story aboutthe Inca Jews on theInternet, while shewas looking for something else, something that had to do with personal identity and the fact that I grew up in a veryCatholic region of the world that has avery strong Jewish history at the sametime, she said. Her father is Jewish, andher mother is a Catholic, and she wasraised as a Catholic, but she became veryinterested in Judaism.

The story of the converted Inca Indians in Peru intrigued her.

It was this conversion out of nothing,and a mass conversion now, a contemporary mass conversion and then these people had been taken to Israel, she recalled.

Three weeks later, she was inTapuach, a settlement in the West Bank,in Israel, where Villanuevas familylived. Mochkofsky would spend the nexttwo decades reconstructing the spiritualstruggle that brought them to Israel, andthe fault lines in contemporary Judaismthat influenced their experience there.

A native of Argentina, Mochkofskywas recently appointed dean of the CraigNewmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. She has been aregular contributor of The New Yorker, where sheproduces a monthly column on Latinxculture and politics. She is a winner ofthe 2018 Maria Moors Cabot prize for outstanding reporting across Latin Americaand the Caribbean.

Mochofsky was a political correspondent with La Nacin in Argentina, hasbeen a columnist and blogger for El Pasin Spain, and a contributor to publications in Latin America, Europe, and theU.S., including The California SundayMagazine, The New Yorker online, andThe Paris Review blog.She is the author of six nonfictionbooks in Spanish, two of them about therelationship between press and politicalpower in her home country. The Prophetof the Andes, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillmanabout, is her latestbook.


From Peru to Israel: the Long Journey of the Inca Jews -

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