Probably most people have no concern about the ethnicity of Sonia Maria Sotomayor. It is accepted that she is “Puerto Rican,” and that’s the end of it. (Actually, it’s the beginning, end, and middle. It’s the whole story.)
Sotomayor’s publicity exposures, however, do not present her as a speaker of Spanish; she apparently has not been to Puerto Rico; she was born in the Bronx (New York City). The only traveling she has done which the media has to some extent aggrandized is her heavily sponsored trips to Israel.
Sonia Maria Sotomayor
Aside from this vacuum of evidence or validation of even her cultural ties to Puerto Rico, there is something worth considering in the matter of Jewish identity. It may have absolutely nothing to do with Sonia Maria Sotomayor, but, it is an element in the modern world, and with a name like Sotomayor (which alone is her strong suit in the way of ethnic identity), we do well to look into the matter.
In Spanish, the name means literally “under-major,” denoting a court position of some kind, or a professional position, as an under-assistant, a deputy, etc. There is status to it. Old status. Soto, De Soto, Desoto, Sota, de Sota, de la Sota, Desota, Sotela, Sotelo, de Sotelo, Sotera, Sotero, Sotillo, and many other variations have long existed. We should be able to pin this down to origins.
But when we’re speaking of Spanish things, that’s when we should consider the largest group of crypto-Jews in history. During the Spanish Empire, many Jews outwardly coverted to Catholicism (and were known as conversos, and marranos), but many secretly practiced Judaism. Obviously, when faced with death, they manoeuvered. In 1492, another ultimatum was issued, and some 200,000 Jews fled Spain, rather than join the 300,000 who “converted.”
Don Luis de Carvajal, a converso, ended up with the largest land grant in the New World–El Reino de León, which included nearly all of today’s northern Mexico and half of Texas He developed it from 1579 until 1589. (It is a little appreciated fact that the Jews were the Americas from very early times, in the Southwest, long before America’s New England days. In fact, there were actual, practicing Jews in New Spain [Mexico] since 1521. However, in 1589, some 100 colonists were found to be practicing Jews, and thus the kingdom was overturned by Spanish authority, and renamed, El Cuadrado Trágico (referencing it’s shape on the map). For reference, see, Harriet and Fred Rochlin, Pioneer Jews (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1984).
There are simply times when Jews have to manage the situation. There is nothing wrong with being a cryptic Jew, inherently. It is circumstantial. (Now, to be Jewish and hate it, and work against it, and work against Jews, that’s an entirely different matter.) Probably the most famous case of cryptic Judaism in history is that wonderful story of Hadassah, who became “Esther,” Queen of Persia. According to the Bible (the book of Esther), she did not reveal her ethnicity or religion until the moment she decided to bid for her people–risking her life to do so (Esther 7:1-6). How she managed to keep her identity secret, even during the first international beauty contest (2:10; 20), or to keep secret even her blood-kinship to Mordecai–who was known to be Jewish, is indeed a mystery. It is a tale of true, successful, crypto-Judaism. In Esther’s case, however, she made her move, at the appropriate time.
That’s the key–the appropriate time. She didn’t parade as a Jewish entry in the first Miss Universe contest. Her personal beauty and demeanor alone won her the throne (2:17).
So, can’t a Jewish person just operate on his talents? Why not? Isn’t that the conservative way? Why, position, success, honor, is not about ethnicity, but about ability, talent, etc. Esther’s is an ancient story, but it flies in the face of modern “affirmative action” ideology, and whatever Jewish influence has ever been behind that.
The cryptic Jew is a conservative Jew! Now there’s a refreshing angle to develop.
Back to Sotomayor, it may be a extravagant flight of fancy that I should have thought she was Jewish from the beginning, but, I see no harm in such an intuition. Of course, it is based on the idea that “Jewish” is an ethnicity. Many people dispute that very highly. And a person who is Jewish who does not practice Judaism is not properly referred to as a Jew at all. That view is intensely meritorious.
I need Ilana Mercer to help out here. She has a new take, which, after she presents it, seems like the ancient, eternal take:
I’m not a religious Jew; I’m a Hebrew—of the civilization that invented equality under the law; a principle that is dictated in Deuteronomy and Exodus centuries before classical Greek philosophy. I believe the passion for justice is in my genes, as transmitted to me by a father—a rabbi—who’d repeat the phrase most repeated in the Hebrew Bible: “Justice, and justice alone, you shall pursue.” (Deuteronomy 16: 18-20)
“I’m not a religious Jew; I’m a Hebrew.” Sounds reasonable to me. There are many, many “Hebrews” out there. Now, religious Jews will no doubt despise such a position, since it claims the unique status of being Jewish, without paying any price for it. It claims the honor without the effort. But, I have to think of all the persecution Jews have suffered in history–it’s based on both religious practice and ethnicity. I’m quite sure not every Jew Hitler tossed in the ovens was a practicing Orthodox Jew.
In any case, back to Sonia Maria Sotomayor, I would be gratified to know more of her family genealogy. I give up on the Puerto Rican thing. If that’s what she want’s to identify herself as, fine. Ward Churchill, the white trash white trasher, claimed to be America Indian, and got paid $100k for it at the University of Colorado. But nobody cared about that. When they fired him, it was for gross academic fraud, not for falsely claiming to be Indian. Only liberals make a living off fabricated ethnic identity.
Ilana Mercer, Hebrew commentator.
So why do we have to look at Barbara Walters?
So let Sotomayor be Puerto Rican, apparently not knowing Spanish, apparently not having been to Puerto Rico, and making every effort to associate with Jewish interests. That’s okay, too. I just want to know if she’s “Hebrew.” (But, Ilana, I think you may have misunderstood your father. “Justice, justice you shall pursue” [Deut. 16:20] is not the most repeated phrase in the Torah. It’s just emphatic that the word tzedek is repeated in that sentence. We don’t want you associated with Ruth Bader Ginsberg, do we?!)
Sotomayer, Sutermeyer, Sutermayer, etc., etc. There are such names. Mark Krikorian hasn’t latched on to this issue in quite the same way, though he’s miffed at having to pronounced her name as it is in Spanish. Little does he know what another pronunciation suggests!
All in good sport. No ill intentions involved here. It’s just that, the SCOTUS nominee begs the question, “Ethnicity, ethnicity thou shalt pursue.” Isn’t that what’s happening? So let’s truly pursue it.