Retuning Jew Fights for Life and Ancestors

M. Kathryn Peralta knew there was something different
about her family when her parents refused to buy pork for their Carrizozo dinner table.

“They said it was tooexpensive,” she recalls. “And
then, when I grew older, I saw
that it was actually the cheapest
meat in the supermarket.”
Growing up, such indicators
that “we weren’t as Catholic
as other Catholics,” were
commonplace – and the signposts
that took her on her life’s
journey.
After her parents divorced
when Peralta was a child, she
moved with her mother to
Albuquerque, who remained
disinclined to go to church and
wary of Catholicism and Catholics
as a whole.
Following a short marriage
at a young age that produced
two sons, Peralta remarried a
Brooklyn-born Jewish commodities
trader in a traditional
Jewish ceremony and settled in
Marin County. Although Peralta’s
interest in Jewish religion
and culture was piqued, her
new husband was a less-thanhelpful
guide.  
“When I asked him why he
didn’t go to services, he would
just laugh and insist that saying
that he was Jewish was just a
good ice-breaker (to meet
women),” Peralta smiles.
Although her husband’s
substance abuse issues eventually
caused the marriage to fail,
Peralta remained close with her
in-laws, especially her motherin-law
whom she describes with affection as a stereotypically
Jewish New Yawker with
an oversized personality. “She
was a very good lady,” Peralta
says fondly. “She taught me a
philosophy of giving and taking
care of your family.”  
Despite the devastating
breakup and resulting financial
burden, Peralta completed her
degree at UC Hastings School
of Law and applied her “social
worker, save the world mentality”
to a legal career that
included stops working at the
notorious San Quentin State
Prison, the California of Industrial
Relations and a stint as a
mental health ombudsman,
where she learned, “who’s
crazy and who isn’t.”
Meanwhile, her connection
to Jewish life grew stronger.
Dissuaded by an Orthodox
friend from visiting her synagogue
for fear that the mechitza
would offend Peralta’s feminist
sensibilities, Peralta studied
Judaism independently and
felt herself questioning her own
identity.
The unlikely facilitator
of Peralta’s deeper immersion
into her family’s history
came with Mimi Lozano, the
Mormon administrator of the
Hispanic genealogical website, Somos Primos.

Resources

Related Articles

Archive Search

Search the world's largest online archive of material about Jewish diversity.


Archive Search

Search the world's largest online archive of material about Jewish diversity.


.