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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Says Her Family Tree Includes Sephardic Jews Who Were Forced To Flee Spain Or Convert To Catholicism

Incoming New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed a portion of her family history of Sunday during a Hanukkah candle lighting.

Haaretz reports that Ocasio-Cortez gave a speech during the event held at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center in Queens, telling attendees that her family has recently discovered that they are descended from Sephardic Jews.

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“The story goes that during the Spanish Inquisition, Jews were forced, on the exterior, to convert to Catholicism, but on the interior, they continued to be who they were, continued to practice their faith. And a strong group of people, who wanted to continue living life the way they wanted to live it, decided to get on a boat and leave Spain. Some of these people ended up in Puerto Rico," Ocasio-Cortez said.

Haaretz reports that Puerto Rico has a Jewish community of about 1,500. However, approximately 300,000 Sephardic Jews lived in Spain at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Roughly 3.5 million descendants of those Jews now live in various parts of the world, including Israel, the United States, France, Turkey, and Puerto Rico.

Ocasio-Cortez's mother was born in Puerto Rico. Her father was born in the Bronx, a portion of which the Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress now represents. 

Ocasio-Cortez told Haaretz that the speech marked the first time she had ever publicly spoken of her family's Jewish roots. In her speech, Ocasio-Cortez credited research for family trees to leading her family to the information.

"As the story of Puerto Rico is, we are an amalgamation, we are not one thing, we are black, indigenous, Spanish, European; we are all these things," Ocasio-Cortez said.

Ocasio-Cortez went on to speak of how Catholicism, Judaism, and other religions or spiritualisms, including African animalism, mixed together to make something "entirely distinct" for those living in Puerto Rico.

"I think it all goes to show that our destinies are tied beyond our understanding, beyond even what we know. And as we learn more and more about the histories of others, our friends and neighbors, we start to uncover what we already know to be true: Your destiny is mine, and my destiny is yours," Ocasio-Cortez said in her speech.

Ocasio-Cortez has consistently made headlines for her outspokenness since being elected to Congress in November, including comparing the migrant caravan from Central America to Jews fleeing the Nazis and taking shots at Donald Trump Jr. after Trump posted a meme of her on Instagram.

Ocasio-Cortez told Haaretz that she hadn't planned on talking about her family history during the event, "but sometimes I feel the space, I feel the moment."

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