The Prophet of the Andes
An Unlikely Journey to the Promised Land
The remarkable true story of how one Peruvian carpenter led hundreds of Christians to Judaism, sparking a pilgrimage from the Andes to Israel and inspiring a wave of emerging Latin American Jewish communities
"If Gabriel García Márquez had written the Old Testament, it might read like Graciela Mochkofsky's staggering true account of a humble Peruvian carpenter's spiritual odyssey from a shack in the Andes, via the Amazon, to the Promised Land of Israel with a community of devoted followers." --Judith Thurman, award-winning author of Isak Dinesen
Segundo Villanueva was born in 1927 in a tiny farming village perched in the Andes; when he was seventeen, his father was murdered and Segundo was left with little more than a Bible as his inheritance. This Bible launched Segundo on a lifelong obsession to find the true message of God contained in its pages. He found himself looking for answers outside the Catholic Church, whose hierarchy and colonial roots embodied the gaping social and racial inequities of Peruvian society.
Over years of religious study, Segundo explored various Protestant sects and founded his own religious community in the Amazon jungle before discovering a version of Judaism he pieced together independently from his readings of the Old Testament. His makeshift synagogue began to draw in crowds of fervent believers, seeking a faith that truly served their needs. Then, in a series of extraordinary events, politically motivated Israeli rabbis converted the community to Orthodox Judaism and resettled them on the West Bank. Segundo's incredible journey made him an unlikely pioneer for a new kind of Jewish faith, one that is now attracting masses of impoverished people across Latin America.
Through detailed reporting and a deep understanding of religious and cultural history, Graciela Mochkofsky documents this unprecedented and momentous chapter in the history of modern religion. This is a moving and fascinating story of faith and the search for dignity and meaning.
About this Author
GRACIELA MOCHKOFSKY is the author of six books of nonfiction in Spanish. She is a contributing writer for The New Yorker. Her work has appeared in The California Sunday Magazine, The Paris Review, the Jewish Forward, and numerous publications in Latin America and Spain. She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, a Cullman fellow at the New York Public Library, and a Prins Foundation fellow at the Center for Jewish History. She is the dean of CUNY's Newmark J-School. She lives in New York City.
Translated by Lisa Dillman.
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