Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rabbi Manny Vinas - part of movement that encourages converts

Rabbi Manny Vinas is also a research fellow of "the Institute for Jewish and Community Research" headed by Dr. Gary Tobin who recently wrote an article Stop keeping out non-Jews.

In Rabbi Vinas' biographical sketch on their website it mentions "Rabbi Manny Viñas is a first generation Cuban American. He was born and raised in Miami, Florida after his parents had emigrated to the United States as part of the large Cuban exile in 1960 following Castro's revolution. Manny's family was of converso background, practicing in Cuba many of the Jewish traditions that had been "secretly" handed down from generation to generation. In Miami, the family rediscovered its Jewish roots and formally returned to Judaism [i.e, they converted]."

Which means that Rabbi Vinas is himself a ger or the children of gerim. It also mentions "His mission is to provide a home for Latinos to engage in Jewish life by serving as a congregation for prayer and learning and as a resource for those of converso (anusim) background who wish to return to Judaism." In other words to convert non-Jews who have hispanic ancestry and might have a patrilinear connection to Judaism.

Based on the description of "Institute for Jewish and Community Research" he obviously has his sights set on more than converting just non-Jews from marrano or hispanic backgrounds.


The Institute continues to conduct research and write about conversion. As discussed in Opening the Gates: How Proactive Conversion Can Revitalize the Jewish Community , proactive conversion is the positive process of welcoming those who are interested into Judaism. Proactive conversion requires Jews to open the ideological and intellectual gates and help non-Jews walk through them into Jewish life. Being proactive means encouraging rather than discouraging non-Jews to consider Judaism. This will require changing ideology, practices, and institutional structure to better facilitate conversion to Judaism. If the Jewish community were to lower its barriers to conversion — barriers that it claims it does not have — it might find many people open to the message of Judaism.

Perceptions of stability and growth or decline can lead to self-fulfilling prophesies, in either direction. A community that is seen to be vibrant is likely to retain its members and attract others. On the other hand, a community that ages without replacing its numbers and attracting people from outside is likely to fulfill the image of being in decline. Communities that believe they are in decline can abandon institutions, cut services and plan for a more limited future, which in turn is defined through limited vision of what might be. Communities that plan for growth can often achieve that goal.

Concerning intermarriage:

Most Jews in the United States behave like other Americans: they value their freedom of choice. However, when Jews exercise their freedom of choice with regard to their spouse or partner (if that spouse or partner is not Jewish) they may find themselves at odds with what many feel are Jewish values. Do Jewish values differ from American values?

Nearly all Jews have an opinion and all Jews have a stake concerning intermarriage. Most Jews understand that they individually represent a small part of a tiny religious minority, both in the United States and the world as a whole. Already diminished by the extermination wrought by the Holocaust, Jews worry about group survival.

People who marry out of Judaism can be pessimistically viewed as defectors who are the cause of Judaism's self-destruction. Or, optimistically, we believe they can be the renewers of the faith — those who will bolster Jewish numbers and strength by bringing in newcomers and building the Jewish community. Intermarriage requires creative programming and investment, not condemnation and rejection.

Regarding the desirability of converting non-Jews to increase the number of Jews and to create a more diverse ethnic and racial Jewish people

The Potential to Grow the Jewish People
In addition to over 6 million Jews, IJCR also found some 4.2 million adults in the United States with Jewish heritage: those with a Jewish grandparent or great-grandparent, or more distant Jewish ancestor. Of these 4.2 million, there are 700,000 people with diverse backgrounds who are not currently Jewish, but are aware of a Jewish ancestor. When asked, they claim their Jewish heritage as part of their ethnic or religious identity, even if they do not answer Jewish when asked about their current primary identity. Of course, these numbers would be much larger if more people knew more about their Jewish ancestry. Many who are not currently Jewish have historical ties to Judaism but do not know about their ethnic origins. Ethnic histories over the centuries are quite complex and are lost to many. Millions of people have Jewish ancestors, especially those of Portuguese, Spanish, and African descent, but are unaware of it.

We also found an even larger population of some 6.7 million adults who are not Jewish, but who have a connection to Judaism or the Jewish community. This includes some who are married to Jews and feel identified with the community and others who have an affinity with Judaism or Jews based on intellectual or emotional identification. They are entwined in the Jewish community but are not self-defined as Jews. This group includes some 600,000 individuals — “connected non-Jews” — of diverse backgrounds who are connected to the Jewish people through marriage, friendship, extended family, community, or personal interest.

Some of these individuals are on the path to conversion; they may even be living as Jews in terms of synagogue attendance or ritual observance but have not yet formally become Jews through a conversion or affirmation process. Some may practice Judaism and another religion but have not yet decided to practice only Judaism. Some are so entwined within the Jewish community that they feel Jewish, according to their own self-assessment. They participate in Jewish life and may be raising their children as Jews. (See Table 2)


  1. Rabbi Vinas appears to want to

    1)actively proselytize

    2)to intermarried people and/or

    3)their children

    and all three activities, according to the Bedatz statement of a few months ago, are against Halacha.

    What would make a well educated Rabbi adopt as a Jewish agenda something that is against Jewish law?

    Where do these ideas come from?

    His entire paragraph on conversion is replete with misrepresentations and statements that essentially negate Jewish law.

    "Proactive conversion" - I guess he thinks we should rip up everything in Gemara about conversion.

    "Changing ideology, practices, and institutional structure to better facilitate conversion to Judaism." What is our religion other than ideology, practices and institutional structure? I remember reading about a guy named Jesus who wanted to do this too.

    "a community that ages without replacing its numbers and attracting people from outside is likely to fulfill the image of being in decline."

    Here he is clearly talking about "replacement theology." In case you don't know what that is, read this:


    "Replacement Theology essentially teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. Adherents of Replacement Theology believe the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel. All the different views of the relationship between the church and Israel can be divided into two camps: either the Church is a continuation of Israel (Replacement Theology / Covenant Theology), or the Church is completely different and distinct from Israel (Dispensationalism / Premillennialism)."

    After all, if the best way to keep Judaism alive is to seek out and recruit Christian replacements, isn't this what we get?

  2. Rabbi Vinas has declared traditional Halacha obsolete in his statement!

    He is ignoring Halacha, and making the statement that the rest of Judaism ought to follow his lead if they want to save the religion.

    As a Ger Tzedek, shouldn't Rabbi Vinas be following halacha rather than reinventing it?

    The changes he wants to make to halacha more closely resemble the religion he was born into than the one he joined.

    Considering that he has brought this non-Jewish ideology into the Jewish people, and into the Rabbinate, I can't help but wonder how properly his conversion was supervised.

    I also wonder how much of an influence he has had on his neighbors and colleagues, Rabbi Avi Weis and Rabbi Mark Angel, both of whom have taken some rather remarkable position on conversion during the last few years.

  3. it would be funny how little the comments have to do with what R' Viñas actually said if it wasn't so sad that people are so paranoid that they read their own absurd fears into someone else's statements.

    Besides which, the idea that a rav has to agree with a pesaq issued only a few months ago by authorities who are not authorities over the communities he's a part of is nonsense.

  4. what i'm calling paranoid is the claim that R' Viñas is some kind of crypto-Christian who is trying to absorb Christian ideologies, practices, and communities into Judaism.

    He just wants to make it easier for people like him — descendents of anusím who struggled for hundreds of years under persecution to preserve some kind of shred of Jewish memory — to come home.

    For instance, R' Viñas suggests that welcoming these people has the additional benefit of replacing lost numbers. He's obviously talking about the problems of people going "off the derekh" and leaving Judaism combined with many Jewish communitites' low birth rates. But because he uses the verb 'replace', somehow "Bright Eyes" gets the bright idea that he's talking about 'Replacement Theology'.

    I guess that means that every time a rabbi uses the word "original" they're talking about 'Original Sin'.

  5. Thank you for taking so much time to review my holy work of returning the Anusim to Judaism, and thank you for recognizing me as "a well educated Rabbi." You are correct I am involved in helping people of Anusim background return to Judaism. I do so knowing that it is clearly expressed in one of the Takanot de Rabenu Gershom that encourages the Jewish community to outreach to individuals who were forcibly converted out of Judaism to return to the ways of the Torah. "Anusim" is the halachic term for people commonly referred to by ignorant people as "marranos" which means pigs in Spanish an insult for Jews by our enemies. These were Jews who were forcibly converted by the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions to Catholicism but maintained secret Jewish practices for centuries, and sought return to Judaism whenever possible. In fact this takanah was actually carried out by the Rabbanut of the Amsterdam Jewish Community during the 1650's. The great Rav Menashe ben Israel and Aboab de Fonseca spent much of their time seeking out people of anusim background to help educate them and return them to the ways of the Torah. It is called pidyon shvuim by these two great Rabanim. Rav Menashe Ben Israel was the Rav who negotiated with Oliver Cromwell to allow Jews to return to live openly in England in 1654. He also published many books in both Portuguese and Spanish to educate anusim and return them to Torah observant lives. Rav Menashe Ben Israel was one of the Banai Anusim who returned to Jewish life as soon as his family was able to escape to the safety of Holland. He never forgot the many Jews who were left behind however. FYI The attempt by Rav Yaakov Berab to reestablish the Sanhedrin was intimately linked to the desire of these people to return to Judaism - they were seeking makot for having pretended to practice avodah zarah. Hoping to have kaparah in this world rather than in shamayim. There are many teshuvot and halachot dealing with this phenomenon throughout the past five hundred years. In modern times, Rav Mordechai Eliahu has teshuvot that support the return of the anusim and created a document of return for anusim that formalize their return by means of milah and tevilah, he calls it a "teudah lashuv darchei avotav." Rav Aharon Soloveitchik also penned a letter expressing that Anusim are to be considered Jewish, counted for the minyan, given aliyot even prior to conversion/ or return. He says that when they wish to marry they should undergo some form of giur. Many Ashkenazik Rabbanim that perform giur for people of anusim background including Rav Belsky who worked with a family that I had hashpaa on in their return to Judaism - called it a giur lechumra or even offers letters of recognition as fully Jewish by birth whenever possible. When a person of anusim background approaches me I embrace them and encourage them to observe the mitzvot, from the beginning. The reason is simple - following the idea of safek deoraita lechumra - we pasken that since there is the possibility that these individuals might halachically be Jewish deoraita since many of them only married individuals that their grandmothers insisted were the only ones permitted to them as was the case in my family - I can not in good conscience tell them to be mehalel shabbat or discourage them from being Jewish since by doing so might be over an issur deoraita of causing Jews not to observe the Torah.

    My family is descendants of the anusim of Cuba. I am not ashamed of this fact. Rather, I am proud that we were ale to hold onto Jewish practice for so long under threat and that at the first opportuinty to do so we returned to full Jewish life here in America. I am an Orthodox Rabbi, I went to yeshivot all of my life. For Elementary School I went to Chabad Lubavitch of Miami Beach then I went to higher yeshivot. First I went to Rabbi Yochanan Zweig's Mesivta and Yeshiva in Miami Beach, then to Touro College NYC, then to Yeshiva University where I learned sofrut from Rav Shmuel Schneid of Monsey New York. Then I learned with Rav Aharon Zeigler of Boro Park Brooklyn and he gave me smicha.

    I am not ashamed of my "yeshivishe" background. I am proud that I was able to learn and continue my learning to this day. I am dedicated to Torah and dedicated to following the teachings of chazal and the gedolim. I am a Sfardi and follow Sefardic halacha and I am very familiar with Ashkenazik poskim as well since I learned primarily in Litvishe Yeshivot. Are you familiar with ours beyond the Ben Ish Hai?

    The articles quoted are not my own. They are the work of Dr. Gary Tobin who organizes the Institute you mentioned. Dr. Tobin is a secular scholar his opinions are his own. I am not the only Orthodox Rabbi that he consults in his studies, he lists me in that context as a consultant. If you had looked further on the page of the Institute you would have seen another Orthodox Rabbi who is a Lubavitcher who also serves as a consultant. I'm not a paid employee, I am a respected scholarly colleague and try to provide as much guidance as possible to the Institute regarding halachic issues. I am proud of my work with them and there are many things that I disagree with and many things I do agree with.

    Regarding "actively proselytizing" I have never encouraged non-Jews to convert to Judaism only people of anusim background to return to Judaism. The Kiruv rehokim movement make take offense to your casting their work as proselytizing since they see it as encouraging teshuvah. I encourage return to Judaism for anusim. It is the same thing if you wish to call it "giur" or "giur lechumra" or as Mordechai Eliahu (sefardi posek I am sefardi) calls it "Lashuv darchei avotav" it involves milah, tevilah in a mikvah ksherah and most importantly Kabbalat ol malchut shamayim and kabalat hamitzvot. I am confident in sharing with you that all who have returned or are in the process of returning to Torah lifestyles with me are living observant lives and I am very proud of being involved with them. In fact my entire reason for engaging in this process is my emunah shelemah that the only means for full and unquestionable return is through halacha and its processes. And those who seek me out for help also believe this or they would have long ago sought to be part of Reform or Conservative Communities rather than having to live a life of belonging to a community of people (frum people) where blogs like this could threaten them at any moment with writing about their ancestry or raising questions about them when their actions are leshem shamayim. If we do this to each other -cast doubts about each other, launch witch hunts and in the process violate the Torah prohibition not to remind the ger that he is a ger - how will we be able to attract Rabbanim who will act boldly and without fear to help other Jews. Chevrah - instead of being suspicious of anusim lets celebrate that my ancestors loved Torah so much that they held onto as much as possible even at the risk of their lives in the interior of a Caribbean Island (Cuba) and that the Torah is so strong that after 500 years I was able to learn from such great lamdanim and return and help others return. Please be more sensitive - making it appear that I am continuing some sort of christian replacement theology or any other christian framework is insulting and is clearly an issur deoraita of reminding the ger of his past to cast doubts about him and the 33 other places where the Torah warns us about treating the ger with love and respect. Also the Tshuvot of the Rambam regarding love of the ger specifically siman 448 (new edition), also see psukim Shmot 22:20, Vayikra 19:33,34 sefer hachinuch mitzvah 63. Might wish to see Bava Metzia 59b.

    Again: The article quoted is not my own. It is the work of Dr. Gary Tobin. Either you read it wrong by mistake or on purpose to somehow discredit my work either way I deserve an apology.

  6. O Rabino Menny Vinas.É sem sombra de dúvidas um sábio.A Tora fora dada a MOSHE não para guardá-la ou escondê-l.Mas transmetir ao Mundo. JOSUÉ o profeta de Deus que substituiu MOSHÉ casou com quem? Casou com RAAB aquela cortesão que dera guarida aos espiões.Muitos gentios que procuram as sinagogas com firme vontade e lealdade de conversão ao Judaismo e lhe fecham as portas.Eu sou descendente de judeus sefaradis.Por parte mãe e árabe ´por parte de pai. ABDALAH PEREIRA RAHAL


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