Thursday, December 18, 2008

Anusim - Ashenazim more accepting

Aryeh wrote:

I am a Bnai Anusim, and it's been a struggle not only for my ancestors, but for me too. We faced hundreds of years of persecution by Catholics, only to have many modern day Jews reject us. There is a story of Moroccan Sephardi Jews coming back to Portugal in the 20th century and establishing a Sephardi synagogue. When the Anusim hiding in Portugal for hundreds of years came out and reached out to their Sephardic brothers they were rejected.

The Moroccan Jews felt remorseful that the Anusim's ancestors stayed behind in Portugal during the expulsion. When Polish Jews established an Ashkenazi synagogue in the same place, they accepted the Anusim. When the Ashkenazi Jews went out of their way to teach the Anusim about their unique Sephardi minhag, the Anusim wanted to learn only Ashkenazi traditions because it was the Sephardi Jews that rejected them.

Rabbi's in Israel estimate that there are up to 60 million people of Jewish descent in Latin America. They also estimate that 10% of the Portuguese population is of Jewish descent. These are people that want to be religiously Jewish, and I feel can be an answer to the problem of a declining world Jewish population.

My family left Portugal in the late 1700's/early 1800's. They kept Shabbat, they refused to eat blood, they would cover the mirror when someone dies, they were extremely weary of the evil eye, they would light candles every day instead of just on Friday nights to throw off the inquisitors and they would get together every thursday at sunset and pray in the basement, purposefully not praying on Friday at sunset so they wouldn't get caught.

Although I am a male, I have a purely matralineal line going back to these Portuguese ancestors yet I would be hard pressed to find any Orthodox Rabbi in the world willing to say I'm Jewish. Despite how hard we fought to remain so.

1 comment :

  1. I have never seen anyone who could document a matrilineal Jewish line rejected as a Jew.

    My father's mother's family left Portugal and returned to Judaism in 1610 in Amsterdam. The documents from the Beit Din are archived at Bevis Marks, London along with genealogy back to Pre-Expulsion Spain. Many Portuguese families who had left Portugal for Holland or Turkey kept genealogies on file for their relatives who were left behind in Portugal.

    When we met my maternal grandmother's Moreno cousin from Israel, he told us that his grandmother had kept genealogy records for the American cousins just in case any Jewish descendants got "lost" and ever wished to return. I was fascinated when the cousin who visited us called Israel and his mother read my maternal lineage back 5 generations! This is not uncommon among Sephardic families! Often it is not difficult to verify these names via civil documents which are often accepted as proof by the Rabbis.

    Phillip Abensur, the noted Sephardic genealogist in France has helped people document maternal Jewish lineage back as far as 25 generations and each of these individuals has been fully accepted by the Sephardic Batei Din.

    This past week we were notified of a family who has been separated from the Jewish community for hundreds of years. They documented their genealogy via civil documents to 17th century Cairo where it was a death penalty offense for a Jewish man to marry a non Jewish woman. This was sufficient to prove their Jewishness in the Syrian Sephardic community of Brooklyn and they were 100% accepted into the community. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also ruled that the family is Jewish.

    If you truly are able to document matralineal Jewish genealogy,there should be no problem in being accepted as a Jew in Brooklyn, Israel, London or anywhere else.

    You might also contact Rabbi Seth Farber of ITIM, Israel.


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