A moving documentary that is a reflection of the survival of spirit, belief, and heritage. This is the story of the unique Jewish community of Iquitos, Peru. In the late 19th century, among the adventurers who came to the Amazonian rainforest following the great rubber boom, were Jewish men from Morocco. Some of these men settled in the isolated town of Iquitos. There, they married indigenous women, raised families, and maintained names such as Cohen, Pinto, and Khan. Their original Jewish traditions became mixed with indigenous Amazonian life creating an authentic and practically unknown Jewish tradition. Following the "discovery" of the Iquitos Jewish community, interested and well-meaning rabbis and scholars have become part of their "return" to a more normative Jewish tradition. While in the distant capital of Lima, the Jewish community is reluctant to recognize the Iquitos Jews as their own, a group of Iquitos Jews has undergone a process of conversion, and many have immigrated to Israel. Others have remained in Iquitos in hopes of helping the community flourish and grow.
Written, Directed & Produced by: Lorry Salcedo MitraniLanguage: English & Spanish with English Subtitles
A moving documentary that is a reflection of the survival of spirit, belief, and heritage. This is the story of the unique Jewish community of Iquitos, Peru. In the late 19th century, among the adventurers who came to the Amazonian rainforest following the great rubber boom, were Jewish men from Morocco. Some of these men settled in the isolated town of Iquitos. There, they married indigenous women, raised families, and maintained names such as Cohen, Pinto, and Khan. Their original Jewish traditions became mixed with indigenous Amazonian life creating an authentic and practically unknown Jewish tradition. Following the "discovery" of the...
In this beautifully filmed documentary, with scenes moving between Amazonian Peru and Israel, we see the struggle for identity of this group of Jewish descendents. The traditional Ashkenazi community in Lima, on the other side of the Andes, simply rejected them as non-Jews, but others were supportive in teaching Hebrew and Jewish traditions and law in preparation for conversion. Their commitment and desire to live as Jews is inspirational. Two groups successfully completed rigorous conversions, supervised by a Conservative rabbi, and some have made aliyah and moved to Israel, where they have established productive lives.
For the entire review by Vivienne Roumani-Denn/Sephardic Horizon, check: http://www.sephardichorizons.org/Volume2/Issue3/firewithin.html
The Fire Within:
In the late 19th century, Sefardic Jews made their way to Peru to try their fortunes in the rubber boom. There they married indigenous women and created a Jewish community (called Judios mestizos) in the middle of the Amazonian rain forest. Five decades later, one man dedicated his life to guarding the Jewish spirit; his efforts led to more than 500 converts, 300 olim and virulent opposition from the Orthodox community in Lima. A descendant of Peruvian Jews, Lorry Salcedo Mitrani produced this documentary (with Gordon Gilbert) while discovering his grandfather’s story
Lorry Salcedo Mitrani's documentary The Fire Within tells the story of the Jewish community in Iquitos, Peru, created in the late 19th century after Jewish men-mostly Sephardic settlers from North Africa-came to take part in the Amazonian rubber boom, marrying local women. Over the years, the group maintained a quiet existence-maybe too quiet, since the Jewish community in the Peruvian capital of Lima wasn't even aware of their presence until the 1980s, sparking a controversy over the authenticity of the Iquitos community's Jewishness: Lima's Orthodox Jewish leaders rejected the Iquitos Jews as not being true members of the faith, but the city's Conservative Jews patiently instructed them in full Judaic protocol while also coordinating formal conversion ceremonies. Many members of the Jewish Iquitos community eventually resettled in Israel, where they made a determined effort to learn Hebrew while assimilating into a very different cultural environment. While The Fire Within skirts some obvious questions about the Iquitos community's acceptance of Jewish culture (including the issues of kosher food, circumcision, and the appropriate observance of religious holidays), it nevertheless presents a compelling real-life story of religious piety through a mix of archival footage/photos and remarkable interviews, offering a fascinating glimpse of a relatively obscure aspect of Latin American Jewish history.
P. Hall /The Video Librarian, July, 2009
“It was astounding to discover that in Iquitos there existed this group of people who were desperate to reconnect to their roots and re-establish ties to the broader Jewish world,” said Lorry Salcedo Mitrani, the director of a new documentary, “The Fire Within,” about the Jews of the Peruvian Amazon." For the entire review by Simon Romero/The New York Times, check: