The rabbi represents the many contributions
and activities of the El Paso Jewish community, including the
first Jewish congregation, the Mount Sinai Association, founded
in 1887, and The Popular department store. The Schwartz family,
Adolph and Maurice, opened The Popular in 1902 in Downtown El
Paso, but it closed in 1995.
Many Jews immigrated to the New World during
the Spanish Inquisition that persecuted the Jews for their religious
beliefs. The governments of European countries, including Spain,
ordered all Jews to convert to Christianity or be banished from
their countries. Many traveled from Spain to New Spain and those
who moved north into what is now Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Because practicing Judaism in New Spain (Mexico)
was illegal, they continued in their old beliefs, under cover
of Catholicism. These people were the crypto-Jews. Many of them
spoke a Spanish dialect, so they were able to continue some Jewish
customs in the privacy of their own homes, including the preference
for goat meat over pork, keeping of the Sabbath on Saturday, eating
tortillas (which are unleavened) during Passover, and playing
with a toy that is common today among Mexican children that bears
a striking similarity to a Dreidl.
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