For her part, Ms. Salazar’s mother backed up elements of her daughter’s claims, recalling at least a half-dozen visits to Colombia, and that “the Colombian culture was a huge part of our family.”
Ms. Salazar, 61, also said that while her children had lived in a nice house, she had sometimes struggled financially after she and her husband divorced. “If I could make it look easy for my kids, I did,” she said. “I thought that economic hardship was not a burden that kids that were going through a divorce needed to experience.”
Born into a Catholic family, Ms. Salazar said she converted to Judaism in her early 20s, and has been a part of a number of groups devoted to Jewish causes.
Ms. Salazar said her interest in Judaism is rooted in family history and their Sephardic roots in Spain, and was spurred as she was mourning her father’s death from prostate cancer in 2009, just as she was preparing to move to New York to attend Columbia.
“I started to search for meaning in my father’s death,” she said, adding, “A lot of mysteries that I wanted to solve.”
Ms. Salazar’s mother said that neither side of the family was Jewish, though she confirmed her late husband’s family had a Sephardic background, and that Julia had been curious about it. “That’s where her interest stems from,” she said, noting that her daughter had traveled to Israel during college. “This is not something that was invented for the purposes of this campaign.”
Before her conversion, however, Ms. Salazar had been a Columbia chapter president of Christians United for Israel, and in 2012, she also was interviewed by the conservative commentator, Glenn Beck, and asked by Mr. Beck about rumors that professors at the university were “Muslim Brotherhood and communist,” and exposing anti-Israel beliefs.