Walk Till You Disappear

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Walk Till You Disappear book coverWhat the Book is About:

Twelve-year-old Miguel’s father wants him to follow in his footsteps and help run the family horse ranch near Tucson, Arizona, but Miguel, raised Catholic, would rather become a priest. However, when his father invites a Jewish peddler for dinner, a secret is revealed: 400 years ago, in Spain, the Abranos family had been Jewish. Suddenly, his family’s traditions of candle lighting and special bread on Friday nights make sense, but Miguel is horrified by the revelation. He runs away, only to be captured by a band of Apaches. Eventually Miguel is rescued by Rushing Cloud, a young man from the Tohono O'odham tribe, who himself is escaping – from white men who kidnap Tohono O’odham children and force them to live at a mission school and give up their traditional ways and beliefs. During their dangerous journey, the boys’ friendship grows, and through learning about Rushing Cloud’s experience, Miguel comes to see his Jewish heritage in a new light.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Miguel’s parents are both from Converso families. Although outwardly they are Catholic and know little about Jewish practice, the Abranos keep Friday night and Saturday as the Sabbath. They use silver candlesticks handed down through the generations and a white tablecloth, and they make a traditional festive meal, including challah and wine.
  • On the boys’ thirteenth birthdays, they are entrusted with the knowledge that they have Jewish heritage and are subsequently expected to value and continue the family’s traditions.
  • Miguel’s parents invite a Jewish traveling salesman for Friday night dinner. Mr. Franck says the blessing (bracha) over the candles and reads from a book written in Spanish using Hebrew letters, which records the family’s history – including their persecution at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition.

Positive Role Models

  • Miguel’s parents value their family history and Jewish heritage and insist that their children treat people from other cultures with respect.
  • Rushing Cloud has been kidnapped and forced to adopt white men’s ways, yet he risks his own freedom to help Miguel get back home. On their journey, he helps Miguel overcome his prejudices and understand the validity of other faiths and traditions.
  • Miguel’s conversations with Rushing Cloud help him broaden his outlook on life and challenge his previous prejudices. When Rushing Cloud’s freedom is threatened, Miguel defies the authorities who want to send him back to the mission school and helps Rushing Cloud escape.

Content Advisory

When Mr. Franck reads the diary of the Abranos' Jewish ancestor, Aharon ben Avraham, we learn that he was captured and tortured while trying to leave Spain, while his wife and children were murdered.

Talk it Over

When Miguel hears that his family has Jewish ancestry, he is so upset that he literally runs away from the news. How do you think he could have handled it better? What do you do when faced with some information that you would rather not deal with?

More for You

Centuries after the Inquisition led Conversos to travel from Spain to Mexico (and then to what became Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona), their descendants are researching and discovering their Jewish heritage. Despite practicing Catholicism for hundreds of years, increasing numbers are embracing their identity as Crypto-Jews. In 2017, Tucson’s Jewish Museum’s exhibition “Fluid Identities” featured audio testimonies that included stories of male relatives praying in a strange version of Spanish that was subsequently identified as Ladino, as well as grandmothers using separate pots and pans to cook meat and milk. Hispanic Sephardim who want to return to Judaism receive help from The Association of Crypto Jews of the Americas, which offers confirmation of a Jewish name and a Ceremony of Return recognized by the State of Israel.

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