THE MEZUZAH IN THE MADONNA'S FOOT by Trudi Alexy

THE MEZUZAH IN THE MADONNA'S FOOT

Oral Histories Exploring 500 Years in the Paradoxical Relationship of Spain and the Jews
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A compelling, multidimensional look at Judaism and Spain--a land infamous for its medieval anti-Semitism but as yet unheralded as a haven from Hitler. Alexy (a family therapist specializing in art therapy) provides a vivid picture of the painfully complex nature of Spanish-Jewish relations, using oral histories to flush out and flesh out Jewish families, including her own (which had been saved from the Holocaust in Franco's Spain) and those families who have secretly lived as Jewish Catholics or crypto-Jews since the Inquisition of 1492 (the author herself apparently lived much of her life as a Catholic with a disturbingly Jewish background). The oral narratives refer to several cherished but hidden religious symbols, such as ancient Hebrew parchments hidden within Catholic icons (as in the title), in what seems to be art-therapist Alexy's way of exploring a painfully denied Jewish past via tangible symbolism. Throughout much of her text, the author also explores ``the paradox of refugees fleeing the Nazi's Final Solution by seeking asylum in a country where no Jews had been allowed to live openly...for over four centuries.'' While medieval Jew-killing rituals and anti-Jewish stereotypes persisted among Spanish Catholics, these people also produced their own Raoul Wallenbergs who saved ``somewhere around 70,000 Jews'' during the Holocaust. After covering WW II, Alexy moves on to fascinating encounters with crypto-Jews in New Mexico, some of whom describe themselves as ``Jewish-Catholic-Indians.'' The author and several of her subjects, we learn, have found their own painfully submerged identities through pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Toledo, the ``Jerusalem of Spain.'' In this fine complement to Jane Gerber's The Jews of Spain (1992), Alexy guides us through the perilous tension between faith and identity, helping us to understand the complex psychospiritual reverberations of the Spanish Expulsion and Inquisition--still quivering from the aftershocks of 500 years.

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-77816-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993