Jorge Puello's Judaism
…In Fall 2007, The Society for Crypto Judiac Studies published an article on DR Crypto-Jews Visiting Anusim in the Dominican Republic. Anuism refers to Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity, but secretly kept their traditions. The article was written by Harry A. Ezratty, a Baltimore attorney and prominent scholar and historian of Jews in the US, Central America and the Caribbean. Ezratty lived in Puerto Rico for 25 years and is fluent in Spanish. A man using the name Jorge Yoram Torres--clearly our Jorge Torres Puello-- is central to the article, and many of the things we now know about Torres Puello are included in the article:
When Jorge Yoram Torres moved to the city of Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, he never dreamed he would become the founder of the largest congregation on that island. Born in Westchester County , New York , he has lived in Puerto Rico and Canada. A young Orthodox Jew, Torres sports a beard, a kippah, and the fringes of his dangle outside his shirt. His Spanish is perfect. In 2005, Torres opened an internet café in Santo Domingo, offering credit card and long distance calls, fax facilities and a sales office for cell phones.
Obviously Jewish, it was inevitable that someone would approach him. It wasn't one of the members of the island's two tiny Jewish communities, but a Dominican who claimed a crypto-Judaic heritage. What Torres discovered amazed him. A large group of Dominicans had been meeting for over 25 years, studying Torah weekly. Many claimed Jewish roots.
For over two and a half decades, they had no serious contact with Jews until they met Jorge Torres. Their leaders had made overtures to Santo Domingo 's Jewish community for assistance but were rebuffed. Now they were asking Torres for help. He went to Kulanu, an organization that assists “out of the way” Jewish communities. Jack Zeller, Kulanu's coordinator, called me and asked me to visit with the group and report on what I found.
I arrived at Las Americas airport in October, 2006, and was greeted by Torres and several enthusiastic members of the community. My trip involved a mitzvah , as it coincided with the Brit Millah of Jorge's son, which I attended. Torres contacted a mohel from Brooklyn , New York. who would also be arriving that day to perform the service. It was an auspicious event for the members of this community who had never seen or attended a circumcision. What I discovered was that this group was made up of about 3,000 dedicated members, some of whom alleged a crypto-Judaic background. Because of time restraints, I was only able to interview a dozen or so persons. Those I did speak with claimed that one quarter to a third of them are descendants of early colonial Jews. I heard the classical stories of grandparents and parents telling them that they were Jews or that there were odd rituals of candle lighting Friday nights or refraining from eating on certain days. I was not there to determine the veracity of their claims but to make recommendations on how they might be helped. I alerted Stanley Hordes and Seth Kunin, who are studying crypto Jews in the Caribbean islands once belonging to the Spanish Empire. They are now weeding out the claims and performing the necessary detective work to discover the true backgrounds of any Dominican anusim...
...This group has a remarkable history. For the past 25 years, they have met on the Shabbat, reading from the only version of the Torah available to them: just one precious book written in Spanish and containing the Five Books of Moses. It has been lovingly circulated amongst the community's leaders. Taken home by one of them weekly, the Book then studied and used by that person as he led the group for his appointed week. With no Jewish guidance as to the established meanings of the passages, the community followed the Bible literally as they understood it. For Passover they took a lamb into the woods and slaughtered it, kosher style.
When they met Torres their lives began to change. He held Rosh Ha Shonah services in the spacious courtyard of his home. They rallied to purchase a building with a sanctuary, classrooms and dormitories for men and women so that they might observe the Sabbath without traveling. For Hanukah, Torres successfully petitioned the government for permission to erect a huge menorah in one of Santo Domingo 's busiest intersections. Torres didn't stop there; he got the government to donate land for a synagogue, a Jewish cemetery and a Jewish hospital. A rabbi has consented to help bring them back to Judaism and possible aliyah to Israel.…
On March 16, 2009 Jorge Torres. Jr. filed papers with the Florida Secretary of State to incorporate the for-profit Sephardic Orthodox Jewish Council of America, Inc. Torres is listed as registered agent and president, Ana Ramirez vice president, and Ester Orellana treasurer. All three have Linkedin pages, but little information on them.. There are possible links to other corporatons, but that will take awhile to track down, so I'm skipping that for now.
The corporration submits its purpose as:
Represent[ing]the Sephardic Jewish comunities in the Americas, and establing synagoges and performing religious marriages, conversion, kosher certification, Rabbi appointment and kosher supervisors, arbitratin and mediation services.
The principal address is listed in Doral, Florida and the mailing address is in the Bosques de Lourdes section of la Liberdad, El Salvador. It appears to be the house where the young women were held captive (left)
"Jorge Yoran Torres -President of the Sephardic Orthodox Jewish Council of America and B'nei Anusim advocate" appears on numerous Jewish websites in what appears to be lifted--again-- from wiki. Included in these very long entries is a directory of Sephardic synagogues around the world. There is no listing for the Dominican Republic but we find this for El Salvador:
Sephardic Orthodox Jewish Council of Salvador "Shearit Israel" (2008)
http://sephardicjews.org; http://www.kosheresavaldor.com (neither of which work)
the only orthodox synagogue in El Salvador
But there's a problem. There is only one synagogue in the whole country, and it's not the Orthodox Council.…