Crypto-Jewish Sabbateans: The Donmeh

The story of Crypto-Judaism usually revolves around Spanish and Portuguese Jews who converted to Catholicisim between the 14th and 16th centuries and their struggles to maintain Jewish life amidst the Spanish and later Portuguese Inquisitions. There is however, another group that this term applies to.

The followers of Sabbatai Zevi, the false messiah of the 17th century still survive to this day. They are referred to as the Donmeh. In contrast to other Jews who initially supported the Sabbatean movement, the Donmeh converted to Islam and continued to observe Jewish practices, albeit often significantly altered, in secret.

Sabbatai Zevi


Their story is fascinating and while the bonds between the Donmeh and traditional Turkish Jewry were broken long ago, there are still bonds between them.

The following article discusses the fact that anti-Semitism is something which connects these two very different communities. The problem is so significant that some Donmeh are looking to take advantage of the Spanish government’s offer of citizenship to the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who left after the Expulsion decrees.

The article on the Jerusalem Post can be found at the following link:

Turkish Jewry’s secret medieval messianics survive

For another article on the Sabbatean movement, please see my post titled The Sabbatean Prophets.

Posted  Rabbi Juan Bejarano-Gutierrez the director of the B’nei Anusim Center for Education and author of What is Kosher?

About rambam442013 108 Articles
Rabbi Juan Bejarano-Gutierrez is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas where he earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. He studied at the Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland and received a Master of Arts Degree with Distinction in Judaic Studies. He completed his doctoral studies at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago in 2015. His doctoral dissertation is titled “Complex Identities: Christian and Jewish Attitudes Towards Conversos” and was accepted in September 2015. He also studied at the American Seminary for Contemporary Judaism and received rabbinic ordination in 2011 from Yeshiva Mesilat Yesharim.

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