Is Carlos Santana — Jewish?

This is an odd entry. But it is an odd story. Santana, of course, is a almost a music legend. From his 1960s hits to his remarkable comeback in 1999 and his Grammy awards in 2000. Santana spoke a short Jewish prayer at the 2000 Grammys. Many people asked us: is he Jewish? Biographies say he was born Catholic. In the ’70’s he was a “soft Hindu”, in the ’80’s, a born-again Christian. In a 2000 interview, Santana said he is now down on all organized religion, but is still very “spiritual”. Santana’s buddy was famous impresario Bill Graham. Santana and Bill did benefits for a Bay Area Orthodox Jewish group. Well, the story is even more strange. A source that we completely trust told us that one of his friends is a religious Jewish woman in Mexico. She went to school with Santana’s sister. The Santana family, like some Mexican families, has a tradition in the family that they are the descendants of Conversos, i.e., Jews forced to convert by the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition, by the way, did not end until the early 19th century. Normally, we don’t seperately list persons of remote Jewish ancestry. But this is such an unusual story it is worth sharing. By the way, two of Santana’s huge hits were written or co-written by Jewish composers (“Black Magic Woman” by English Jewish rocker Peter Green; and “Smooth” by Itaal Schur–whose Israeli father is a head of Hebrew music studies at a famous seminary and composes Jewish religious music). A lot of Jewish streams come together when you add up the backgrounds of Santana, Green, Schur, and Bill Graham. Update September 2003: We have added a link to an article from Chanukah, 2001, in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin, about Santana’s appearance at the annual Bill Graham Memorial Chanukah celebration in San Francisco. The highlight of which is the lighting of a giant public menorah in the City. Santana was the annual “ambassador of light” and he was lifted in a cherrypicker to reach the level of the candles and light the first night’s candle. The ceremony was presided over by Rabbi Israel Langer, a Chabad-affiliated Orthodox rabbi, who was great friends with Graham. Rabbi Langer drove up on his Harley-Davidson.

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