Gitlitz, David M.

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Gitlitz, David M.

(David Martin Gitlitz)


Education: Harvard University, B.A., Ph.D., 1968.


Office— Department of Languages, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881. E-mail— [email protected]


University of Nebraska, Lincoln, former head of department of modern languages; University of Rhode Island, Kingston, professor of Hispanic studies and former dean of arts and sciences and provost.


National Jewish Book Award for Secrecy and Deceit.


La estructura lírica de la comedia de Lope De Vega, Albatros (Valencia, Spain), 1980.

(Editor, with Jose A. Madriga)Critical Perspectives on Calderón de la Barca, Society of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies (Lincoln, NE), 1981.

(Translator and author of introduction and notes) Pedro Calderon de la Barca,Guárdate de la agua mansa: La gran comedia = Beware of Still Waters, Trinity University Press (San Antonio, TX), 1984.

Los arias Dávila de Segovia: Entre la sinagoga y la iglesia, International Scholars Publications (San Francisco, CA), 1996.

Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews, Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1996, new edition, with introduction by Ilan Stavans, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 2002.

(With Linda Kay Davidson)A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain's Secret Jews, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.

(Translator and author of introduction) Lope de Vega,The Best Boy in Spain = El mejor mozo de España, Bilingual Press (Tempe, AZ), 1999.

(With Linda Kay Davidson)The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook, St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Linda Kay Davidson)Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland: An Encyclopedia, two volumes, ABC-Clio (Santa Barbara, CA), 2002.

(With Linda Kay Davidson)Pilgrimage and the Jews, Praeger Publishers (Westport, CT), 2006.


David M. Gitlitz is an educator, administrator, and professor of Spanish whose academic interests include the Golden Age of Spanish literature, Spanish-Jewish history, and pilgrimages. He is also the author or coauthor of several books on Hispanic literature, Sephardic history, and pilgrimage. Gitlitz scoured Inquisition documents from Spain, Portugal, and elsewhere to write Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews. The author documents the religious customs of Iberian Jews, many of whom stayed in Spain during the Inquisition, unlike other Jews. As a result, the Iberian Jews were largely forced to convert to Catholicism in Spain, Portugal, and the American colonies during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. "Gitlitz has collected the habits of these crypto-Jews who did not want to assimilate into Catholic Christian culture, but to retain their Jewish identity," wrote Richard B. Rose in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies. "These Martanos were a minority among a minority, and their story is an example of one of the deepest aspirations of humanity, to remain faithful to one's religious identity and practices." Gitlitz focuses on the Iberian Jews' changes in practices and beliefs in response to their forced assimilation into Catholicism. In the process, he provides numerous accounts given by the Jews, which were recorded during the Inquisitions in Spain, Portugal, and the New World.

Gitlitz has also collaborated with Linda Kay Davidson, a colleague at the University of Rhode Island, on several books. A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain's Secret Jews is the first collaboration between the two authors. The book describes how numerous Jews in Spain struggled to keep their identity secret and their culture alive during the Spanish Inquisition, which offered Spanish Jews one of two choices: conversion to Catholicism or expulsion.

In an article in the New York Times, Gitlitz told Andree Brooks that the Spanish authorities took many measures to detect the Jews among them, even monitoring their buying and eating habits, such as dishes containing eggplant and chickpeas. Gitlitz noted: "These were recognized favorites of the Jews, the way collard greens would be identified with soul food today." Gitlitz also told Brooks that strife even arose within families and commented that one documented case reported a young man begging his mother to cook on Saturday so people would not suspect them of being Jewish. "Can you imagine the tension even inside the family?" Gitlitz asked Brooks. "No wonder after several generations most of these families were lost to Judaism forever." In A Drizzle of Honey, the authors recreate many of the recipes from the Spanish Jewish traditions and relate stories about some of the people who created them. Judith C. Sutton, writing in the Library Journal, called A Drizzle of Honey "a meticulously researched scholarly work."

In their next book together,The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook, Gitlitz and Davidson "have written the most important recent study of the pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela," according to Historian contributor Conrad Kent. The Road to Santiago is a famous Spanish pilgrimage to the site where the bones of St. James are said to have been discovered at Compostela in the northwest corner of Spain. Based on records dating back to the fifteenth century, more than one million people have made the pilgrimage to the Santiago cathedral located there. These journeys often took months or years and resulted in the pilgrims receiving a document called a compostellana, which gave the holder plenary indulgence and remission from purgatory. The pilgrimage is still made today, although many of the modern pilgrims use bicycles. Modern pilgrims also receive a compostellana. However, this document, written in Latin, merely validates their status as official pilgrims.

Over the years, both Gitlitz and Davidson have made the journey to the Santiago shrine; they provide in their book a personal narrative of their experiences in addition to an in-depth historical look at the pilgrimage. The authors discuss a variety of historical topics and interests, including the various architectural designs and the environments encountered during the pilgrimage. The authors include, too, a discussion of the small city of Sanguesa, providing a history of the city and its importance in the history of the pilgrimage, such as the city's numerous monuments, including the Iglesia de Santa Maria la Real. Kent related: "The most notable attribute of this … [book] is its elegantly rigorous commentary on the monuments, shrines, villages, folktales, and religious traditions." The authors also write about legends associated with the pilgrimage. The book includes a Spanish-English glossary, timeline of rulers and events, bibliographic references, and an index. Kent wrote that The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago "will clearly be the standard by which all future books on the road to Santiago will be judged," adding that it represents "a beguiling example of Spanish studies as they move away from reductive interpretations of ‘the Spaniard’ and toward the analysis of the varied textures of cultural history."

Gitlitz and Davidson also collaborated to write the two-volume Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland: An Encyclopedia, which provides 500 articles on pilgrimage destinations around the world. In addition to an alphabetical listing of the sites, the authors include information on the religions, belief systems, and institutions associated with sites and profiles of prominent figures. The book features approximately 200 black-and-white illustrations, including maps. "This encyclopedia contains a wealth of information on everything from the ‘Gettysburg Battlefield’ to ‘Circumambulation,’ and from ‘Activities Prohibited During Pilgrimage’ to ‘Shrine Caretakers,’" reported William P. Collins in Library Journal.

Although pilgrimages are most often associated with Christians and Muslims, in Pilgrimage and the Jews Gitlitz and Davidson write about Jewish pilgrimages, from trips to the holy temple in Jerusalem to graves of important personages in the Jewish religion to Holocaust sites. "The authors trace the history and explore the varieties of Jewish pilgrimage in this fascinating book," commented Marcia Welsh in the Library Journal. The book includes maps, photographs, illustrations, and notes. The authors also feature a chronology of the Jewish and Arab "shrine wars" in Jerusalem.



Americas: A Quarterly Review of Inter-American Cultural History, January, 2003, Judith Laikin Elkin, review of Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews, p. 412.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, June, 1997, A.J. Avery-Peck, review of Secrecy and Deceit, p. 1680; April, 2003, M.E. Snodgrass, review of Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland: An Encyclopedia, p. 1331; July-August, 2006, A.J. Avery-Peck, review of Pilgrimage and the Jews, p. 2009.

Historian, fall, 2002, Conrad Kent, review of The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook.

Journal of Ecumenical Studies, spring, 1998, Richard B. Rose, review of Secrecy and Deceit.

Library Journal, February 15, 1999, Judith C. Sutton, review of A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain's Secret Jews, p. 178; February 1, 2003, William P. Collins, review of Pilgrimage, p. 72; April 15, 2003, review of Pilgrimage, p. 41; March 15, 2006, Marcia Welsh, review of Pilgrimage and the Jews, p. 75.

New York Times, February 20, 1997, Andree Brooks, "When Household Habits Betrayed the Jews."

Reference & Research Book News, May, 1997, review of Secrecy and Deceit, p. 28; August, 2002, review of Secrecy and Deceit, p. 36; May, 2006, review of Pilgrimage and the Jews,.

Reference Reviews, January, 2004, John Lawrence, review of Pilgrimage.

ONLINE, (October 23, 2007), brief profile of David M. Gitlitz.

University New Mexico Press, (October 23, 2007), brief profile of David M. Gitlitz.

University of Rhode Island Department of Modern & Classical Languages and Literature Web site, (October 23, 2007), faculty profile of David M. Gitlitz.