From Inquisition to Religious Freedom

From Inquisition to Religious Freedom:
The Story of Jews and the U.S. Constitution

About this Event:

In 1791, the Bill of Rights – the first 10 Amendments – officially became part of the United States Constitution. The First Amendment enshrined liberty of conscience in America’s nascent governing framework. Yet, this moment did not arrive easily; it was the culmination of centuries of struggle for genuine religious freedom.

The arrival of Sephardic Jews (including conversos) in North America transformed the course of American and world history. The Founders of the United States invoked the Inquisition in their correspondence, in debates over procedural protections afforded to criminal suspects, and in the struggle over liberty of conscience. Their famous letters assuring Jews (and Christians) of religious freedom may be contextualized as starkly contrasting with the Inquisition that lasted into the 19th century.

Many of the leading Jewish figures (in New York; Newport, Rhode Island; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Savannah, Georgia, etc.), who knew the Founders, had directly suffered the Inquisition or were children or grandchildren of those who had. These experiences, coupled with the Founders’ repugnance at the Inquisition, helped to enshrine the ideal of religious liberty in the early American Republic.



Mr. Michael Steinberger, Founder & CEO of JHA.



Mrs. Blanca Carrasco President of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies. Blanca is a descendant of Marcos Alonso de la Garza y del Arcon, co-founder of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, a center for crypto-Jews in Mexico since the time of Luis Carvajal and Diego de Montemayor. Born in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico, her family migrated to El Paso, Texas. Although raised Catholic, she sought to find the place she could call “home.” In 2007, she and her family made the return to Judaism. In 2008, she officially converted. Blanca is active with her local Jewish community and the El Paso Jewish Federation and as editor of “The Jewish Voice” their monthly publication. She is a Board Member of the Anusim Center El Paso and supports its outreach in Mexico.



Dr. Isaac Amon, Director of Academic Research at Jewish Heritage Alliance, an educational organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of Sefarad, or Jews of the Iberian Peninsula. He earned a J.D., LL.M in dispute resolution and J.S.D. (PhD in Law) in comparative criminal procedure from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. A descendant of Jews who fled Spain for the Ottoman Empire in 1492, he was a legal fellow at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague and an ISIS war crimes investigator. He often speaks on the law, antisemitism, and Jewish history and memory.



The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies was founded in 1991 as a multi-disciplinary academic and secular association that fosters research, networking of people and ideas, and the exchange of information, among scholars and descendants of conversos, regarding the historical and contemporary developments involving crypto-Jews of Iberian origins and other hidden Jewish communities around the world.

Jewish Heritage Alliance is an informational cultural and historical platform with a mission to capture and promote the legacy of Sefarad, the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula in the hope and expectation of delivering awareness regarding the story of Sefarad to the world at large. As such, we cover many aspects of the story, including the saga of the Bnei Anusim (Conversos). We are supported by a strategic alliance comprised of a variety of organizations, institutions, and individuals covering the private and public sectors.



Congregation Mikveh Israel. the Spanish – Portuguese Synagogue, also known as The Synagogue of the American Revolution, Mikveh Israel, “The Hope of Israel”, is the oldest Jewish congregation in the city of Philadelphia, and the second oldest congregation in the United States. Many of the founding members of Mikveh Israel of Philadelphia were also Sephardic so it was agreed to adopt the Spanish and Portuguese customs and rite. To the present time the service and customs remain largely unchanged.

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