16 July 2019

The French (Jewish) Connection

14 Tamuz 5779

When you are a convert, a lot of Jews will ask you if there are any Jews in your background.  I started working on my family genealogy in 1985, about 5 years before I became interested in Judaism.  I worked on it sporadically over the years.  When this issue first came up, I thought the most likely Jewish connection might be found in my mother's father's line.  His parents were German immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island in 1880, a time of high German Jewish immigration, and their family name was Beck, which could be either Jewish or gentile.  However, my grandfather was orphaned at a very young age and knew no details about his parents.  What you see here is all I have ever been able to verify.

But a few days ago, I actually found my Jewish connection and in a most unlikely place.  I've had this information for two years, but I didn't understand what I had until this week.

Growing up on the upper Texas Gulf Coast, I had heard about the Louisiana "Cajuns," but I never knew until two years ago that a large portion of my father's family originated with them, and I don't think he had a clue either, a"h.  I learned the poem "Evangeline" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in school and could once recite portions of it from memory, so I had some inkling about the sad history of how the "Acadians" ('Cajuns) were forced out of Canada and wound up in Louisiana.  However, I was very short on the details.

I can't recall exactly what prompted me to look this subject up the other day - something I heard in passing about an "expulsion"....and I'm like "what!?"  In (very) short, French colonists settled in what is known today as Nova Scotia (and also further afield), but what for them was known as Acadie (Acadia in English). They succeeded and prospered and after about 100 years the British arrived and committed atrocities against them in order to illegally confiscate everything they owned.  They purposely separated couples from each other and parents from children and forcibly expelled some back to France, others to Jamaica and Dominica and some went of their own accord to Louisiana.  According to most accounts, about half were killed.

Until I began to read this, I had always believed Anusim (or Crypto-Jews) were to be found only in Spanish-speaking countries, but this sounded so like something that would happen to a Jewish community that it made me wonder if the Acadian-French could have been Anusim.  It turns out that it is a little-known fact that some Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition went to France.  (Remember that the Spanish expulsion took place in 1492.  The French who founded Acadie across the ocean in North America arrived there in 1640, already 150 years later.) Now, there is a small group investigating the Anusim in Canada.

I went back to my genealogy notes to find the family names.  Quite a few families with the "right" names intersect, but one stands out - Abraham Dugas and Marguerite Judith Doucet - my 9X Great-Grandparents.  Of Abraham, it has been written:
In Acadian genealogy, I believe there is one French Jew by the name of Abraham Dugas. Recent DNA test of his descendants seem to prove a Jewish descent. ...it has long been suspected that Abraham Dugas may very well have been one of the very first French Jews to come to Acadia. ...Others presume that his family was most likely of "Sephardic" descent having converted to Christianity long before his arrival to Acadia.
When I was listening to Devorah Esther's story just one month ago, I had not a clue that our histories might hold a common thread. And now look.

The fact that the descendants of Anusim are being called back home by HKB"H at this stage is yet another "sign" that Mashiach is already at the door. 

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

:)

moshe said...

Yes, I think I recently read where so many of the Jews today are disappearing because of intermarriage and also the assimilation where now we read about so many (lots of youth) going against Israel and the Jews. Many of these are already lost Jews and maybe because they are really the descendants and/or reincarnations of the Erev Rav. In their place, there are many conversions to Judaism now. Our Rabbis teach us that true converts have always had Jewish souls and were lost (for a few reasons, some kabbalistic). Therefore, before the coming of Moshiach all these souls must return to their roots. After Moshiach comes, there will no longer be converts; so it's speeding up where these Jewish souls are finding their rightful places within the Jewish fold. Amazing the mysterious ways of Hashem!

Batya said...

Wow

Batya said...

This post is included in Shiloh Musings: Keeping Cool Blog Carnival, Summer 5779, 2019. Take a look. What do you think?

Devorah Chayah said...

Thanks!

HDG, Yerushalayim, E"Y Shlemah said...

Mazal tov!!! ברוכים הבאים לכל משפחתיך!

Devorah Chayah said...

Normally, someone from America would be converted by an Ashkenazi rabbi, but chasdei Hashem, we converted k'halachah here in Israel and Hashem arranged it to be with the Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Beit Shemesh, HaRav Shimon Biton, and as converts in Eretz Yisrael we took on the minhagim of our Sephardic rabbi - 21 years ago!!