Lost Jews return

Nearly 40 leaders of emerging ‘crypto-Jewish’ communities from across Portugal and Spain are gathering in Madrid for a three-day seminar being organised by the Jerusalem-based Amishav organisation this week, which reaches out and assists what it calls ‘lost Jews’ seeking to return to the Jewish people. The seminar, entitled ‘The Meaning of Liberty: Individual and Collective Freedom in the Life of the Bnai Anousim’, will include rabbis and academics from Portugal, Israel and Spain.

Bnai Anousim is the Hebrew term for people whose ancestors were forcibly converted to Catholicism during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Historians have often referred to these people by the derogatory term “Marranos”.

According to Amishav Director Michael Freund: “There are a growing number of people in both Spain and Portugal who are seeking to come to terms with their Jewish ancestry, and it is incumbent upon us to address this phenomenon and to facilitate their return to the Jewish people.”

Freund confirmed that the seminar will go ahead, despite the recent terror attacks in Madrid, saying: “This gathering has been in the works for months, and we will not allow the recent bombings to deter us from reaching out to our brothers and sisters there.”

Participants from Porto, Covilhã and Lisbon are registered to attend the event, which runs from today (March 26) to March 28, and includes lectures and discussions on issues such as ‘The Significance of Freedom in Jewish Tradition’, ‘Dilemmas in Jewish History’ and ‘Who is a Crypto-Jew?’. For more information, contact moreno@amishav.org.il