Bello, Colombia. A city historically dominated by a reverent Christian community. Yet whispers throughout the city insist on a different ancestry, one hidden by 500 years of seclusion. Then, over the past 15 years, something strange began to happen. An Orthodox Jewish community, almost out of thin air, emerged within Bello. Where did this community pop up from?
Insert Juan Carlos Villegas, now Rabbi Elad Villegas, the devout man behind the growing Jewish community. A former evangelical pastor, after a work trip to Israel, he became convinced that Judaism was the true way to God. He immediately renounced his pastor-ship and converted to Judaism. Despite his controversial position, Rabbi Elad doesn't persuade anyone to convert to Judaism, rather, he leads by example.
What then is the connection between Bello and Judaism? Many Sephardic Jews converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition to hide their identities. They then migrated over to the New World and set up communities under Spain's new colonies (present-day Colombia), losing their original faith in the process. According to the Rabbi, the people of the Antioquia have all the characteristics of the Jewish people, from avoiding a diet with pork to lighting candles on the Sabbath. and he is just helping them rediscover their roots.
Despite his detractors and controversial past, he has proven himself a true servant of Judaism for his community, Comunidad Judia de Antioquia. With recent acceptance of Israel and the surrounding Jewish communities that once rejected their claims, Rabbi Elad has plans to help the community even further (which we discuss in the show).
This episode spans the Rabbi's search for identity, the differences between experienced religions, and outlook of the Comunidad Judia de Antioquia.
As the rabbi speaks Spanish and Hebrew, he had a translator speaking for him. We edited the Rabbi out of the episode for the translation. We're always trying new things here on the bus so let us know your opinion on this style of show. This was filmed and recorded at the synagogue in Bello, Colombia. Check out the YouTube channel for the video version.
Find out more about Rabbi Elad and his community here.