American Morning

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September 10th, 2010
10:57 AM ET

The Muslims who rescued my Jewish Ancestors

Editor's Note: David Levy is a proud U.S. Air Force Veteran. He is also a journalist and a graphic artist who lives in New York City.
[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Jewish animosity and religious persecution continued for a century and culminated in the Spanish Inquisition in 1478"]
By David Levy, Production
My mother hates the fact that I live and work in New York City, especially when 9/11 comes around. She worries about Islamist terrorists attacking the city again. And yet, she also reminds me I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the moderate Muslims who rescued my Spanish-Jewish Ancestors.

Spanish Jews, or Sephardi, are Jews whose ancestors lived in Spain or Portugal in the Middle Ages until they were persecuted and forced to leave. My father is Sephardic. He came to America from Cuba in the 60's when Fidel Castro took power. My grandparents were born in Turkey, where the Levy family had lived for hundreds of years, ever since sometime around 1492.

Does that year, 1492, ring a bell? Of course, it's the year Columbus set sail for India with ships and money from the Spanish King and Queen, Ferdinand and Isabella. But that's not the only, or even the biggest, historic event in Spain that year. The same Ferdinand and Isabella we know from grade school also ordered the expulsion of Jews from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition, in 1492.

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September 10th, 2010
10:24 AM ET
September 10th, 2010
10:19 AM ET
September 10th, 2010
10:18 AM ET
September 10th, 2010
05:34 AM ET

Breaking: Blaze engulfs dozens of homes in California neighborhood

San Bruno, California (CNN) - Firefighters were still battling a deadly gas-fueled blaze Friday that engulfed dozens of homes and sent fireballs shooting into the air in this neighborhood near the San Francisco airport, emergency management officials said.

At least one person died in the fire, Kelly Huston of California Emergency Management said.

Local hospitals reported Thursday night that at least 28 people were being treated for injuries from the fire, some with critical burn injuries. The number of dead and injured was "likely to climb," Huston said.

At least 53 homes were severely damaged and up to 120 homes have some damage from the fast-moving fire, San Bruno Fire Chief Dennis Haag told reporters.

The fire was about 50 percent contained four hours after it began, he said. But the persistent flames had kept crews from searching the area for victims.

Firefighters had not yet been able to access the high-pressure gas line that appeared to be the source of an explosion that proceeded the blaze, he said.

City officials said they were trying to account for residents in the area. Haag said about 100 had evacuated to shelters.

Judy Serresseque, who evacuated with her husband after the blast, said it felt like an earthquake.

"The whole house shook, and I got up...and my living room filled with an organ glow. And when I went to my front door, I looked out and everything was just flames," said Judy Serresseque, who evacuated with her husband after the blast.

"The heat was intense, and you could hear it, you could hear the hiss," she said.

Bob Hensel said he had to open his garage door manually to escape the flames. The bumper of his wife's car melted as he drove away. Read more

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