Whenever someone writes a question for a headline, the answer is probably no.
This post is no exception, but you could be excused for thinking there’s a possibility. Behold, the evidence:
- We know he really likes money
- He does Kabbalah
- His last name is Rodriguez
NameYourRoots.com was launched last week amidst little fanfare. Thanks to an extensive database of Sephardic Jewish names and meanings, anyone who suspects that they might have links to Judaism can begin their research by looking up the origins of their surname.
The idea behind the website is pretty straightforward: Thousands of secret Jews – conversos, marranos, anusim, etc. – seeking to avoid the Inquisition fled to the New World. There, they enjoyed a short reprieve from persecution before the Inquisition followed them. What this means is that a significant proportion of modern-day Hispanics are possibly of at least partial crypto-Jewish descent.
NameYourRoots asks visitors to enter their own last names in order to learn more about their origins. To be fair, the website’s creators are clear that names can serve as, at best, an indication of possible Jewish ancestry – in other words, a first step in the process. Sylvia Sontag, responsible for the content and outreach at the website, told The Jerusalem Post:
“This website should be seen as a gateway; not everyone who comes in will be able to find out if they are Jewish, and not everyone who comes to this site means that they are Jewish.”
(Though you have to admit, it would be pretty remarkable if you could guarantee that everyone who came to a particular website was Jewish.)
I was curious enough to give NameYourRoots a spin. You’re welcome. I started by entering the surnames from my own family tree. Unsurprisingly, none of them returned any results – even though I have some relatives who live in Arizona – because they’re all Ashkenazi. A promising start.
Now, to test some not-Ashkenazi names. For inspiration, I turned to a list of the most-common surnames in America, and selected from among the top 50 those names of clear Hispanic origin. Here’s what NameYourRoots told me:
You may have noticed that all 10 searches returned the following sentence:
There are many indicators that the name [whatever you searched for] may be of Jewish origin, emanating from the Jewish communities of Spain and Portugal.
Basically, if you have a Hispanic name, you might be Jewish. Thank you for the information.
But while that may turn out to be true in some instances, as this exercise made obvious, it’s probably worth considering that — for the purposes of ascertaining Jewish ancestry — one’s last name is a somewhat unhelpful heuristic. So I would like to offer an alternate tool visitors to NameYourRoots.com might find more informative and less time-consuming:
Are you of Hispanic origin? [Y/N]
If you answered Y, please check out some of the following historical documentation which you may find of interest:
I wish this website only success. It would certainly be nice if it turned out there was even one sport Jews could actually play. Between Rodriguez, Martinez, Hernandez, and Lopez, you’d be well on your way to a historic dynasty – and that’s with players from the Seattle Mariners alone.***
*Or not, depending on what century you lived in, and whether or not you asked Mr. Hills [
**You knew what that link was without even clicking on it. Also, to be fair to the Spanish, the Portuguese were totally in on it
***The Lopez part was a joke