Ocasio-Cortez surprises Queens synagogue with family history: ‘Generations ago my family consisted of Sephardic Jews’

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use Overnight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use The Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran? MORE (D-N.Y.) on Sunday revealed to a group of constituents in Queens that she has Jewish ancestry.

A reporter for Haaretz Daily posted a video to social media that showed Ocasio-Cortez attending an event for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice on the final night of Hanukkah in which she discussed her ancestry.

“One of the things that we discovered about ourselves is that a very, very long time ago, generations and generations ago, my family consisted of Sephardic Jews,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

ADVERTISEMENT

She explained that during the Spanish Inquisition, scores of Jews living in Spain were forced to convert to Catholicism.

She said that many of those people were "strong-willed" and determined to continue practicing their faith internally, even if they were forced to practice Catholicism externally, and that numerous Spaniards fled for other countries in the face of the Inquisition.

Ocasio-Cortez cited the story as part of a broader point about diversity and how cultures mix and interact. 

“I think what it really goes to show is so many of our destinies are tied beyond our understanding,” she said.

Ocasio-Cortez defeated Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) in an upset primary victory earlier this year, then cruised to a general election win in the liberal 14th Congressional District. She has remained in the public spotlight throughout, clashing regularly with conservatives on Twitter.