As a boy, the Rev. William Sanchez sensed that he was different. His Catholic family spun tops on Christmas, shunned pork, and whispered of a past in medieval Spain. If anyone knew the secret, they weren't telling, and Sanchez stopped asking.
Then three years ago, after watching a program on genealogy, Sanchez sent for a DNA kit that could help track a person's background through genetic footprinting. He soon got a call from Bennett Greenspan, owner of the Houston-based testing company.
"He said, 'Did you know you were Jewish?' " recalled Sanchez, 53. "He told me I was a Cohanim, a member of the priestly class descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses."
"In the 1530s and 1540s, you began to see converted Jews coming to Mexico City, where some converted back to Judaism," said Moshe Lazar, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Southern California and a specialist on Sephardic Jews, or those from Spain and Portugal. "The women preserved their tradition. They taught their daughters the religion. People began rediscovering their Jewishness but remained Catholics."
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