Shavei Israel publishes new book: “Do You Have Jewish Roots?”

Shavei Israel publishes new book: “Do You Have Jewish Roots?”

Cover of book: Do you have Jewish roots?

Cover of book: Do you have Jewish roots?

Have you ever wondered if you might have Jewish roots? Is there a family tradition that seems unusual and that you don’t know where it comes from? Maybe your name is similar to other Jewish names from long ago?

Shavei Israel is here to help. We have just published our first ever, practical guide to discovering your Jewish heritage. The new 109-page book, available in both print and eBook versions, is called simply “Do You Have Jewish Roots?”

Its nine chapters cover all the major questions someone at the beginning of their Jewish discovery might have. There are discussions on how to conduct a genealogical search (including how to access records from the Spanish Inquisition when and if appropriate), which surnames are most commonly Jewish in different parts of the world (if you’re from Palma de Mallorca and your last name is Segura, there’s a good chance you have Jewish roots), plus information on “hidden” Jewish customs (such as candle lighting, mourning traditions, baking challah), organized by geography and history.

Personal stories are sprinkled throughout the text to provide inspiration and real world examples – if they could do it, so can you. There are questions to guide readers through their own process, and each chapter opens with a pasuk – an appropriate quotation from the Torah.

At the end of the book, we have included a section from Genie Milgrom, whose latest book, How I Found My 15 Grandmothers: A Step by Step Guide (available on, documents how Milgrom traced her own Jewish roots 15 generations back and proved that she was Jewish by birth. Milgrom is the president of the Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami and lectures widely on Jewish genealogy. We wrote about Milgrom here.

The first version of Shavei’s new book is in Spanish and is aimed at Bnei Anousim in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries in Central America (El Salvador and Colombia) where there are large numbers of people interested in uncovering Jewish roots. But the examples in the book are applicable to Jewish seekers anywhere. The next two print runs will be published in Portuguese and Italian, addressing Bnei Anousim in those countries. A future edition is planned in English, as well.

The book was written by Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund and Shavei’s educational director Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum, with help from Rabbi Nissan Ben-Avraham, Shavei Israel’s emissary to Spain, and Tzivia Kusminsky, the head of Shavei Israel’s Bnei Anousim and Hidden Jews of Poland department.

The book, which has been two years in the making, is available as an eBook online for free. Download your (Spanish) copy today. One thousand copies have been printed as well and are being distributed by Shavei Israel emissaries and staff. Some copies have already made their way to El Salvador where Michael Freund and Rabbi Birnbaum brought them to the community’s most recent Shabbaton.

If you think you might have Jewish roots, or you’re interested in following the remarkable resurgence of Jewish connection that Shavei Israel has been supporting from its inception, “Do You Have Jewish Roots?” is a must have addition for your Jewish bookshelf.