Javier Zabaleta’s story
I had connections with Judaism since I began studying the Bible with friends in 1978. I never was a religious person in the accepted sense. I studied Bible from a “historical” point of view alone. That was my connection with Judaism. Time passed and I became convinced that the Bible embodied an enormous wisdom that was completely unfamiliar to regular Christian terminology. In my view, the Torah presents and proves that it is not just a rich collection of words but much more than that. This internal conviction caused me to finally cut my, in any case, weak tie with Christianity. I was never a full fledged member in the Christian Church. I came to an understanding that the Jewish people’s history, as it is [related] in the Torah and the Bible influences the entire world. The question that I asked myself was, “Why? What was the source of power that brought on this influence?” This was a great step towards Judaism and awoke within me an urge to think deeply and search. Above all, Moshe Rabbeinu’s personality aroused my curiosity. Under this framework, my friends and I one day went out and knocked on the door of the central synagogue here in Lima and they opened the door for us in a wonderful way. This initial contact was for me both astonishing and exciting. This may sound strange to you but I felt as if all this was well known to me, as if I was at home. I cannot explain why. This meeting was in 1980. From then on, we participated in all the Sabbath eve services at the synagogue. They told us all the time that we must learn a great deal in order to be “Einstein’s” in Judaism. That excited us very much. Quite sadly, we stopped coming because our “secession” from our friends for the sake of visiting the [Jewish] community was received in a negative manner by the rest of our friends. Therefore, we stopped coming to the synagogue but I continued my Bible studies with my friends. I always longed for the Sabbath eve service at the synagogue. I felt a big inadequacy, a vacuum in my soul… And so I heard one day that here, in the Komes neighborhood in Lima, there existed a small community of Peruvians who lived as Jews and kept the commandments. So, I went to meet them. Our meeting took place in Donia Blanca Argandonia’s house. She is known now as Batya. I had heard about them from my friend Perla who had also made her own “journey” towards Judaism. I learned everything at Blanca’s house: I learned what Halachah is, the Shulhan Aruch, how to observe the Sabbath. In short, I learned how to live as a Jew. This happened in 1994. Since then I live entirely as a Jew. With her, with Blanca I observed everything.