Today, we have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Juan Marcos Bejarano-Gutierrez. He is a best-selling author, and several of his books have reached number one best-seller status on Amazon in the categories of the Jewish History of Religion, Kabbalah, and others as well.
Let’s get started with the Interview.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about what it is that you do.
I am a full-time engineer and the rabbi of a small Jewish community in the Dallas area. Being an author, I write on Jewish history, Jewish theology, and Jewish and Christian interfaith topics. During my doctoral studies at the Spertus Institute, I wrote about Secret Jews. That is, Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism in the late medieval period.
Please tell us about your book.
The book’s title is Secret Jews: The Complex Identity of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Judaism. The reason for the title is that these individuals lived dual lives. They pretended to be Christian outwardly but often secretly continued to practice Judaism out of fear of persecution. Since they did this clandestinely, we use the term Crypto Jew meaning secretive. The Spanish Inquisition, which is well known to many, actually had its start in hunting out these individuals whom they considered to be heretics.
That fascinating topic includes all the elements I am passionate about. It, of course, includes Jewish history, but this specific category of Jewish history is called Sephardic Jewish history. The term Sephardic refers to the Iberian Peninsula. My book also discusses Jewish theology and the attitudes towards these individuals in the Jewish community. Lastly, it covers Jewish and Christian interaction and relations. Christians were often suspect of these new converts, and we can see some of the earliest forms of racial theory and discrimination begin to surface at this time.
Please tell us about your journey.
I work with descendants of these converts, so it’s an incredible thing to see living history, as it were. Many of them found out about this heritage from a grandparent or relative just as they were about to pass. It’s an emotional topic that often raises many questions for individuals that never knew about their Jewish heritage. My goal is to help them navigate these questions and help them understand the situation historically. I can also help them learn more about Jewish practice and theology if they choose to. As a result, many of them wind up reintegrating into the Jewish community.
What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?
Regarding writing strategies, I think the most important element is the ability to recognize that a manuscript evolves. The willingness to review, correct, and sometimes shift focus is necessary and critical. This project took three years. The fact that it started out as my doctoral dissertation was difficult because of the rigorously applied critiques. But it was very good training. I have written many books since then in much shorter time periods, but the process of review and redirection is the most important thing I have learned.
Fantastic! So tell us, how can people find out more about you?
If you are interested in Jewish history and the various topics I write about, you can follow me on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B01ETZSEUO. Alternatively, you can pick up a free copy of one of my books at https://modern-scribe.com/free-book/.
You can also follow my blog at https://cryptojewisheducation.com/.
Thank you so much for giving us your precious time! We wish you all the best for your journey ahead!