The Prophet of the Andes by Graciela Mochkofsky
An Unlikely Journey to the Promised Land
The remarkable true story of how one Peruvian carpenter led hundreds of Christians to Judaism, sparking a pilgrimage from the Andes to Israel and inspiring a wave of emerging Latin American Jewish communities
Segundo Villanueva was born in 1927 in a tiny farming village perched in the Andes; when he was seventeen, his father was murdered and Segundo was left with little more than a Bible as his inheritance. This Bible launched Segundo on a lifelong obsession to find the true message of God contained in its pages. He found himself looking for answers outside the Catholic Church, whose hierarchy and colonial roots embodied the gaping social and racial inequities of Peruvian society.
Over years of religious study, Segundo explored various Protestant sects and founded his own religious community in the Amazon jungle before discovering a version of Judaism he pieced together independently from his readings of the Old Testament. His makeshift synagogue began to draw in crowds of fervent believers, seeking a faith that truly served their needs. Then, in a series of extraordinary events, politically motivated Israeli rabbis converted the community to Orthodox Judaism and resettled them on the West Bank. Segundo’s incredible journey made him an unlikely pioneer for a new kind of Jewish faith, one that is now attracting masses of impoverished people across Latin America.
Through detailed reporting and a deep understanding of religious and cultural history, Graciela Mochkofsky documents this unprecedented and momentous chapter in the history of modern religion. This is a moving and fascinating story of faith and the search for dignity and meaning.
Year first published: 2022