There’s no Shin!
In fact there’s nothing on the outside to identify the mezuzah as Jewish. The Jewish is on the inside, unseen. The Queen Esther Mezuzah holds the scroll on your doorpost secretly.
In order to save her people, Queen Esther kept her true identity secret, and for that reason she has been called “the patron saint of the crypto-Jews”, the present day descendants of those who were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition but secretly remained Jewish in identity and practice.
Historical Memory is Powerful
Here in the Southwest USA, where the Inquisition was still operating as late as 1820, many Jews still do not feel safe enough to hang a Jewish marker on their door.
And the same is true in many communities around the world.
What’s the Point?
In 1492 the Jews in Spain had three options: convert to Christianity, leave, or die. My ancestors fled and landed in the Ottoman empire where they kept their native tongue of Ladino, or Judeo-Espanyol, for five hundred years. Although my family never hid its identity, I am deeply connected to those who were forced to do so. But my aim in making these meuzahs is not to encourage secrecy and hiding. Instead I wish to honor the people who created, through the ingenious use of metaphor and code, an underground culture that has persisted to today. Centuries after being forced into hiding, the Jewish legacy lives on in these families.
The Queen Esther mezuzah honors the Sephardic Jews of the Southwest USA and all the Jews throughout history who were forced to pretend they were something other than what they were. In fact, everyone has their own story of persecution, resilience and survival. Queen Esther would be happy we survived.
These mezuzahs are available in piñón, lilac, and willow woods from tree branches found in New Mexico, USA.
If you are interested in learning more, here are two links to interesting reads:
Miedo o Mitzvah. A Spanish language Facebook post by Julia Elisheva Nieto, a resident of Madrid about fear of being targeted for hanging a mezuzah.
Queen Esther: Patron Saint of crypto-Jews. An article in the Times of Israel about the Festival of Saint Esther.
Also recommended: “To the Ends of the Earth” by Stanley Hordes. A meticulously researched history of the crypto-Jews.