Friday, February 8, 2013

Portuguese Synagogue protests false reports that they are connected to Shavei Israel and Michael Freund

I received the following letter today from the Board of Directors of Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue of Oporto Portugal. It strongly protests the false impression that they are connected with Michael Freund and Shavei Israel.[See update Feb 10, below -  which clarifies the original message]


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Dear Rabbi,
Kol Tuv and Shabat Shalom!
Our small Community is honored (http://www.i-newswire.com/the-synagogue-of-the-portuguese/197158) and our Synagogue is the largest Synagogue in Iberia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kadoorie_Synagogue).
It is the opinion of Religious Committee of the Jewish Community of Oporto, as well as reputable scholars, that there are no longer any Bnei Anousim in Portugal (just as there are no longer any Samurai Warriors in Japan) and it is misleading to imply that there are. The matter is now one for the history books, local culture and tourism. On the first floor of the Synagogue there is a museum where documents on Bnei Anousim are exhibited.
Please see the letter that two days ago our Community sent to Rabbis Schlomo Amar (Sefardic Chief) and Yona Metzguer (Ashkenazim Chief) in Israel.

Please contact our Rabbi Daniel Litvak.  He will can explain everything to you.
Thank you and Shabat Shalom!
Board of Directors
Jewish Community of Oporto
Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue
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Dear Rabbis Schlomo Amar and Yona Metzguer,

Baruch Hashem, please accept a big shalom!
1 -
On Monday, February 4, 2013, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) published the following article:
Portuguese synagogue celebrates 75th anniversary
(JTA) -- Nearly 300 guests attended the 75th anniversary celebration of a Portuguese synagogue.
Last week's event for the Kadoorie-Mekor Haim synagogue in Porto brought Jewish leaders from the U.S., Israel, the United Kingdom and Argentina to the northern Portuguese city. The synagogue services a community of 39 members, according to the Porto-based daily Jornal de Noticias.
Many members of the Porto’s Jewish community have converted to Judaism after having traced their lineages to Anousim, or conversos -- Jews forced to convert or practice Judaism secretly during the Portuguese Inquisition of the 15th century.
The synagogue was built by Artur Barros Basto, an army captain who started an outreach program for the descendants of conversos. Basto paid for his actions with his career and his reputation.
The fact that the synagogue still stands and serves the local Jewish community is a testament to his vision,” said Michael Freund of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit that provides outreach programs to former Jews. Shavei Israel has a permanent emissary in Porto named Daniel Litvak, the community’s rabbi.
According to Freund, Portugal has thousands of descendants of conversos who should be encouraged by Israel and the Jewish world to return to the fold.
I hope that one day we can fulfill Capt. Barros Bastos' vision and fill the pews of the Porto synagogue with Bnei Anousim," he said. "That, after all, is the legacy and the challenge that he bequeathed to us."
2 -
JTA's article was republished by other media, for example:
3 -
On Tuesday, February 5, 2013, at 2:22 AM, the Jewish Community of Oporto (Info CIP <info@comunidade-israelita-porto.org>) wrote to the JTA:
Dear Sirs,
Unbelievable!
In relation to the article "Portuguese Synagogue celebrates 75th anniversary” which appeared in your February 4, 2013 online issue, out of respect for your publication and in the interests of veracity, the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community of Oporto and the Synagogue Mekor Haim asks you to publish the following disclaimer, as the article gives the false impression that the Synagogue and the Community are connected to Shavei Israel and Michael Freund, which is untrue:
It is completely false that Shavei Israel has "a permanent emissary in Porto named Daniel Litvak, the community’s rabbi". Daniel Litvak is indeed the Rabbi of the community but he is not connected with Shavei Israel and much less is he its emissary! Shavei Israel has no part in the activities of the Jewish Community of Oporto and the Community strongly repudiates any such suggestion.
It is also not the case that many members of the Community were converted by Shavei Israel. The few members that were some years ago, did not meet the criteria of "Bnei Anousim". They simply wanted to convert to Judaism.
It is the opinion of Rabbi Litvak, of our religious committee, as well as other scholars, that there are no longer any Bnei Anousim in Portugal and it is misleading to imply that there are. The matter is now one for the history books, local culture and tourism.”
If the our disclaimer is not published, the Jewish Community of Oporto (http://comunidade-israelita-porto.org/?lang=en) will publish a PRESS RELEASE on the subject.
Thank you
Sincerely
Board of Directors
Jewish Community of Porto
Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue
4 -
On Tuesday, February 5, 2013, at 15:07 PM, Uriel Heilman <uheilman@jta.org> (Managing Editor, JTA) wrote to Jewish Community of Oporto:
This item was changed to reflect your letter.
5 -
The new version of the article is as follows:
Portuguese synagogue celebrates 75th anniversary
(JTA) -- Nearly 300 guests attended the 75th anniversary celebration of a Portuguese synagogue.
Last week's event for the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in Porto brought Jewish leaders from the U.S., Israel, the United Kingdom and Argentina to the northern Portuguese city. The synagogue services a community of 39 members, according to the Porto-based daily Jornal de Noticias.
Many members of the Porto’s Jewish community have converted to Judaism after having traced their lineages to Anousim, or conversos -- Jews forced to convert or practice Judaism secretly during the Portuguese Inquisition of the 15th century.
The synagogue was built by Artur Barros Basto, an army captain who started an outreach program for the descendants of conversos. Basto paid for his actions with his career and his reputation.
6 -
On Tuesday, February 5, 2013, at 16:26 PM, the Jewish Community of Oporto (Info CIP <info@comunidade-israelita-porto.org>) wrote to the JTA:
Dear Uriel,
Thank you for your quick response to our request. However, there continues to be mention of many conversions of those who traced their origins back to conversos. This is false. There were a few conversions several years ago indeed but they did not meet any geneological criteria or even attempt to demonstrate it and such conversions had nothing to do with this.
It is important that you advise the other news links and blogs to which you disseminated this article of the change as the false information is still all over the web and this is damaging to the good standing of the Syngaogue and its credibility which we strive to protect.
Please fee free to contact us directly as needed, as we would be pleased to provide you with any information regarding the Synagogue, its history and community whenever you should wish, Furthermore, you and the members of your publication are more than welcome to visit at your convenience.
Sincerely
Board of Directors
Comunidade Israelita do Porto (Jewish Community of Oporto)
Accordingly,
We ask you, great Rabbis to check the role of Shavei Israel in the Jewish world. Our rabbi (Daniel Litvak) can give you more details, as for as currently our Religious Commite thinks that there are no Bnei Anousim in Portugal, just as there are no Samurai Warriors in Japan!

Shalom and Kol Tuv!
Board of Directors
Jewish Community of Oporto
Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue

update February 10, 2013

Dear Rabbi,


Shavua Tov!


In the sequence of our previous e-mail and to a better enlightening of our readers, we would like you to post the following additament:


1. The name "Anoussim" (Heb. אנוסים, sing "forced" Anouss.) was given to the 15th century Jews, forced to convert to Christianity.
2. With the expression “Bnei Anoussim”, we intend to refer to the “Marranos”, that is to say, to those descending from the “Anoussim” and that kept the practice, in secret, of certain precepts of the Jewish religion. There are two requisites: (I) descendants of the Jews forced to convert in the 15th century, (II) who kept practice, in secret, of certain precepts of the Jewish religion.
3. The statement that there are no longer “Bnei Anoussim” in Portugal corresponds to the statement that there are no longer descendants from the Jews forced to convert in the 15th century and that kept the practice, in secret, of certain precepts of the Jewish religion. This is the opinion of our Religious Committee and of our scholars! They would like to see “evidence” that there are “Marranos” in Portugal!
4. The Jewish Community of Porto, at the time of Captain Barros Basto, had, among its members, dozens of “Marranos” (or better said, ex-Marranos, because, when entering the Synagogue, they ceased to practice Judaism in “secret”). These "Marranos" left descendants. We have friendship ties with many of these descendants (all of them children of non-Jewish mothers). But nothing connects them to religion! Nothing connects them to the practice of the precepts of the Jewish religion, let alone to its practice in “secret”! Therefore, the second requisite dies. We cannot consider them as "Marranos". No one can.
5. According to our experience, the other people who appeared in the Synagogue, saying they were "Marranos" or "descendants of Marranos" have no proof of that claim and their "stories" are absolutely inconsistent. They do not present evidence of being descendants of Jews forced to convert in the 15th century (by the way, they do not even present evidence of being descendants of "Jews"), neither do they present evidence that kept the practice, in "secret", of certain precepts of the Jewish religion, nor do they reveal who their relatives are and how such families can be contacted. It is at least strange that no evidence whatsoever is presented!
6. The Jewish Community of Oporto cannot assume that each Portuguese, Spaniard or Brazilian is a “Marrano”. The door of our Synagogue is not open to hundreds of millions of people. It would be damaging to the good standing of the Synagogue and its credibility which we strive to protect.


P.S. Conversions are a completely different issue! In the news placed in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) by the Shavei Israel, one can read: “Many members of the Porto’s Jewish community have converted to Judaism after having traced their lineages to Anousim, or conversos – Jews forced to convert or practice Judaism secretly during the Portuguese Inquisition of the 15th century.”. This news is absolutely false, as we have already stated and we see no inconvenient in repeating it. In fact, there were a few conversions by Shavei Israel several years ago (10% of the members of the current Community), but they did not meet the criteria of "Bnei Anousim" or any genealogical criteria or even an attempt to demonstrate it.


Board of Directors
Jewish Community of Oporto
Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue

18 comments:

  1. Uch just wrote a whole post on my iPad. Hit a wrong button and lost the post.

    In a nutshell poppycock. Of course there are bnai Anusim on the Iberian Pennisula.

    Costa rica was Primarly founded by Anusim circa 1500s.

    Costa Rican Jewish community are mainly immigrants fro
    Ate 19 th and 20 th century Jews primarily from Europe.

    The Jewish community there will haVe nothing to do with the Bnai Anusim. Amd the Bnai Anusim haVe their lineage documented via church records of marriages,births etc.

    The bnai anusimof costa rica are slowly waking up. I have met one and her story is fascinating.now she knows why her grandmother taught her that salt was
    Ike soap for meat and chicken.

    Her brother was told by her father at age 13 that he was aJew but thaT it must remain a secret and He should tell his sons when they turn thisrteen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What does Costa Rica(a Central American nation) have to do with the Iberian peninsula(primarily Spain and Portugal) which are two European nations?

      I find it odd that you are making your case for Anusim on the Iberian Peninsula based on what is happening in Costa Rica.

      Delete
    2. I made the comparison because in Costa Rica the established Jewish community will have nothing to do with the bnai Anusim. The established European Jews reject the Anusim.

      For anyone in Spain or Portugal to say that Bnai Anusim do not exist is absurd.

      According to genetic research it is estimated that at least 30% of the Iberian peninsulas population are of Jewish origin. I know "Jewish DNA " does not make one a Jew,but amongst those 30% there must be some people who identify themselves as bnai Anusim.

      So now we have a Rabbi Litvak determining that bnai Anusim do not exist. Uh huh!

      Heck I met Anusim on Long Island,NY. Lit candles Friday night in the basement saying a bunch pf meaningless words on Friday night. Fasting for 24 hours sometime in September with no none reason other than it was a tradition passed through the generations. Although Catholics never eat pork or shellfish.

      Delete
    3. see update Feb 10 by the community which addresses your issues

      Delete
    4. Jewish Community of OportoMarch 24, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      There were a few conversions by Shavei Israel several years ago (10% of the members of the current Community), but they did not meet the criteria of "Bnei Anousim" or any genealogical criteria or even an attempt to demonstrate it.
      There are no longer descendants from the Jews forced to convert in the 15th century and that kept the practice, in secret, of certain precepts of the Jewish religion. This is the opinion of our Religious Committee and of our scholars! They would like to see “evidence” that there are “Marranos” in Portugal!
      According to our experience, the people who appeared in the Synagogue, saying they were "Marranos" or "descendants of Marranos" have no proof of that claim and their "stories" are absolutely inconsistent. They do not present evidence of being descendants of Jews forced to convert in the 15th century (by the way, they do not even present evidence of being descendants of "Jews"), neither do they present evidence that kept the practice, in "secret", of certain precepts of the Jewish religion, nor do they reveal who their relatives are and how such families can be contacted. It is at least strange that no evidence whatsoever is presented!

      Delete
  2. Well that has to be embarrassing. Will it change anything?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Note the Rabbi's name "Daniel Litvak", obviously a shaliach rather than a Sephardic Jew.

    Also his statement is absurd. he considers there are no longer any bnei anusim in Portigal or Spain?

    Furthermore, an authority no less than R Karelitz has already shown there to be bnei anusim there.

    And there are also possibly some in S. America.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Litvak does not necessarily show that the Rav is not Sephardi. Just as one of the current Dayyanim of the Eidah HaChareidit Sephardit is Rav Ashkenazi... You find Sephardi last names(Pinto for example) amongst Ashkenazim, and Ashkenazi names amongst Sephardim. It simply indicates where their families originated generations ago.
      If he was the Shaliakch of Shavei why would he be denying it?

      Delete
    2. Do you know many Sephardim with a name like Litvak? Litvak, FYI, means lithuanian. There are not many lithuanian Sephardim.

      By shaliach, I meant he is not a native Portuguese. He is indeed a Shaliach from Brazil (only S. American country they speak Portugeuse).

      Seph/Ashk is a Patrilineal system, and hence one's surname is pretty indicative.

      Delete
    3. Do you know many Sephardim with a name like Litvak? Litvak, FYI, means lithuanian. There are not many lithuanian Sephardim.

      Two actually. One of which was my chavrutta for a number of years.

      Seph/Ashk is a Patrilineal system, and hence one's surname is pretty indicative.
      Also true, but until relatively recently Minhag HaMakom reigned supreme, so when a Sephardi or Ashkenazi moved to a Ashkenazi or Sephardi country respectively, they took on the local minhag in place of their own.

      Not saying that is definitely the case here, but until there is definitive proof one way or another, there is no way to really know based solely on the last name.

      Delete
    4. So you agree that the Litvak in question is not of Sephsrdic ethnic origin, which was the only point I was making. Obviously, many Ashkenazim escaped Europe and moved to S America.

      Delete
    5. So you agree that the Litvak in question is not of Sephsrdic ethnic origin, which was the only point I was making.
      No I don't agree. I'm saying you can't know based on the name. Could have been, like a Luria, a family that moved to Egypt 500yrs ago.

      Delete
    6. Jewish Community of OportoMarch 24, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      The statement that there are no longer “Bnei Anoussim” (marranos) in Portugal corresponds to the statement that there are no longer descendants from the Jews forced to convert in the 15th century and that kept the practice, in secret, of certain precepts of the Jewish religion. This is the opinion of our Religious Committee and of our scholars! They would like to see “evidence” that there are “Marranos” in Portugal!
      The Jewish Community of Porto, at the time of Captain Barros Basto, had, among its members, dozens of “Marranos” (or better said, ex-Marranos, because, when entering the Synagogue, they ceased to practice Judaism in “secret”). These "Marranos" left descendants. We have friendship ties with many of these descendants (all of them children of non-Jewish mothers). But nothing connects them to religion! Nothing connects them to the practice of the precepts of the Jewish religion, let alone to its practice in “secret”! Therefore, we cannot consider them as "Marranos". No one can.
      According to our experience, the other people who appeared in the Synagogue, saying they were "Marranos" or "descendants of Marranos" have no proof of that claim and their "stories" are absolutely inconsistent. They do not present evidence of being descendants of Jews forced to convert in the 15th century (by the way, they do not even present evidence of being descendants of "Jews"), neither do they present evidence that kept the practice, in "secret", of certain precepts of the Jewish religion, nor do they reveal who their relatives are and how such families can be contacted. It is at least strange that no evidence whatsoever is presented!

      Delete
  4. What a coincidence. I have already contacted the Porto Jewish community as I am visiting there in the summer. After seeing this video - I can't wait!
    Shabbat shalom.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What they probably mean by saying "there are no Bnei Anousim" is that there are no families that have Jewish ancestry and have passed down some crypto-Jewish customs. A lot of Portuguese have family rumors of Jewish ancestry, and at least in Spain genetic tests have suggested that a large proportion of the population has some Jewish ancestry (which would make sense after conversos intermarried with the rest of the non-Jewish population for several hundred years). I don't think the Portugese Jews are denying that there is anyone with any Jewish ancestry. There are just making clear that whatever conversions did occur were not questionable or lenient conversions done because the candidates were Bnei Anousim but were in fact regular halachic conversions (whether or not the persons involved believed they had Jewish roots). This is understandable -- they want to ensure that people don't cast doubt on their conversions or community.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See update Feb 10 by the community which addresses your issue

      Delete
  6. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 10, 2013 at 7:02 AM

    Squabbling between posters concerning narishkeit misses the point that Shavei Israel is a controversial organization that has been criticized many times on this blog for the deliberate proselytization efforts.

    Saying things like "30%" of Iberians may be "Jewish" because of DNA is a very dangerous thing because that then comes to the arguments of the now-disgraced EJF that used similar arguments that at least one third of humanity may have possible Jewish DNA that means that out of 7 billion humans on Earth, 1.7 Billion may be "Jewish" based on DNA. Right now we are having trouble managing the approximately 14 million known Jews. many of whom have serious questions about their ("pedigree') hanging over them, so ther is no room for groups like Shavei Israel or other to go looking for more situations that can only create immense problems that no one, besides the true Jewish Mashiach, can solve. All sorts of Hispanic people seem to all of a sudden be "discovering" they are from "anusim" aka marranos, and alot of them seem to be doing it with an eye to making aliya and abetter life in israel as they escape the crushing poverty in South America especially.

    But yes, there are many people with Jewish "genes" obviously there has been much voluntary apostasy (shmad) and forced conversion over the millennia, in many countries, that is nothing new, but to go running around trying to look for people who have no chazaka of being HALACHICALLY Jewish is highly controversial.

    By the way since when do Catholics "never" eat pork or shellfish??????

    ReplyDelete
  7. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 12, 2013 at 4:34 AM

    Correction: "one third of humanity may have possible Jewish DNA that means that out of 7 billion humans on Earth, 1.7 Billion" -- should be 2.3 Billion

    ReplyDelete

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