In Memory of Flavio Montoya

I was speaking to a new member of my havurah I happened to mention my interest in crypto Jews He said “My landlord is a crypt Jew” I said that I would like to meet him

A few days later the three of us met for breakfast at a waterfront café in Redondo Beach And this was the beginning of a close friendship between Flavio Montoya and me

Flavio soon became an active member of my havurah and when he learned of my interest in crypto Jews he became a member of the SCJS also He eventually served as secretary of the society

We always called him Flavio but he was known as Floyd on his official documents He was completely bylingual or maybe even quadralingual as he spoke French and Italian almost as well has Spanish and English He worked as a translator with Immigration at the Los Angeles International Airport His office was near the El Al counter where he once was startled by the sound of gun fire He looked out to discover that a gunman had fired at the El Al center killing a bystander

Flavio was from New Mexico He grew up in a family that was Hispanic and Catholic But his family also had some odd practices that he later found out to be indicative of a crypto Jewish background

He once described to me how about a week before Christmas his father would place nine luminarias on the roof of their house Luminarias or farolitos are small paper bags half filled with sand with a lit candle in them They are a tradition in New Mexico in the Christmas season where they can be seen glowing in front of houses Some speculate that they evolved from secret observances of Hanukkah by the crypto Jews The fact that his father always lit exactly nine of them indicated to Flavio that they were definitely of Jewish origin

Flavio identified completely with the Jewish people He learned Ladino He often attended services in a nearby Chabad center He learned traditional Sephardic recipes and prepared them for our havurah events He once showed me how to cheat in the making of Hanukkah bormuelos He bought some frozen muffin dough and instead of baking the muffins he deep fried them They weren’t as fluffy as the bormuelos that I grew up with but they weren’t bad

He suffered from diabetes as his condition worsened he began dialysis Several times he was hospitalized Despite his condition he kept a happy spirit On Sunday August 28 I visited him in the hospital He was weak but he managed to smile and we joked together The next day we lost him We will miss him

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