Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Descendants of Anusim IV /Nancy replies

Nancy replies to comments made a few months ago in Desendants of marranos anusim III

Dear Bloggers/Daas Torah,

I have not checked this site in a very long time and was surprised at the attention my story received and the comments left. They are interesting and thought provoking. I would like to leave a response to a couple of the comments that may clarify just a point or two for whatever it may (or may not be worth), in connection with differences in Catholic ritual and Marrano Jewish identity:

"Marrano" is a Spanish word. (Small point.) Everyone who speaks Spanish knows it. Even in the Sephardi Heritage (Orthodox) Program in Jerusalem we are taught in the seminary that this word was given to the Jews who refused to eat pig. I assume our rabbis and our Sephardi History teachers know the subject, for this is what they teach. Older Spanish people normally know about this. It's a fascinating point made but if it's Arabic, it still wouldn't change a thing.

And, I assume you know Spanish people have two names, father's and mother's, the mother's name is placed at the end. We DO follow the mother's line and pull the records of her mother, her mother's mother...etc. It takes a long time because the records are handwritten and mostly owned by the Church of Spain. It's a huge task and 8 generations is more than most Ashkenazim have available. People normally don't have to go back 20 generations. The Church of Spain kept their eyes on Jewish families. They recorded the names of the families. All branches of my family are recorded upon the census of the Jews from the Church of Spain. Since the list exists I was more concerned about marriage after their arrival in the Americas.

Much information is known from the region the family comes from. For instance, Majorca and the Canary Islands were typically where the Marranos fled while awaiting passage to the New World. It was often a long wait and generations were born there until money was raised for the passage. Ships usually stopped at the Canary Islands on their way out to the Caribbean. It is very, very probable that anyone coming from these particular islands are escaping Catholic persecution. This is historical.

The custom of touching the door is completely different than that of touching wood to symbolize the "cross"....especially since this family did not allow crosses in their homes! A blessing spoken while touching the door post is quite different than simply touching wood. A cross in a Spanish country is readily excepted everywhere ....except in a Jewish home! Had the idea been to "touch the wood of the cross"....why not just have a cross???

Our women wore The Star of David under their garments. (They could have worn a cross.) Our family was very proud of being Jewish even though it was not public.

Spanish countries do not immerse. Spanish countries fall under "The Pope of Rome", not Orthodox, as the blogger mentioned could be a reason for immersion. Protestants immerse. Roman Catholics (for centuries) have used the "insertion method"...they pour the water upon the forehead for baptism. This baptism is done ONCE IN YOUR LIFE, whether Catholic OR Protestant OR Orthodox...any Christian, ONLY ONCE...not monthly! Puerto Rico is strictly Roman Catholic...they do not immerse. Only Jews immerse regularly. Christians do not. Originally baptism for the "forgiveness of sin", as they say, was performed late in life, (after they had all their fun), because it could only be given once in your lifetime.

I neglected to mention that my family spoke a "different type of Spanish" referred to as Ladino. We called it "the old Spanish". It comes from not being exposed to mainstream Spanish. It died out in our village 2 generations back. My father and mother remember it. I think it is fair to say that anyone who speaks Ladino is Jewish.

Also, many rabbis have reviewed the documents and are convinced. I agree with the bloggers and Daas Torah that not everyone is an expert and there are many considerations in Jewish Law. It's a complicated situation. Some of these details don't really matter so much and not all Marrano families have as strong ties with their Jewish identities. We just happen to be ones that do and we were separated from the rest of the population. It is a little rare.

In the end, we all have to go to the mikveh anyways! The Marranos, the Ethiopians...the difference is whether your natural father's name is on the certificate or "Abraham's". There is a difference in the wording of the immersion ritual. (This small difference means a lot to a Jew.
A Jew is really not supposed to be "converted".) My family went to exile...we are not gentiles.

I often wonder if this influx of Marranos from all over the world since the birth of Israel is what the prophets spoke about in many books and in the morning when we recite..."we will be gathered from all the nations where we were dispersed, even if at the end of the heavens, from there He will gather us and bring us....etc". If this is from G-d what are we doing trying to stop them? Will we have to answer for that? If we are mistaken and are actually hindering Jews from coming home, isn't that ... "bad"? I don't think it's all an accident this is happening at this time in history! Perhaps the events the prophets spoke of are rushing in on us?

Thank you printing my story and all the meaningful feedback.


  1. Dear Nancy,

    I am Sephardic, I do speak Ladino as I attended Ladino school.

    You wrote :"Marrano" is a Spanish word. (Small point.) Everyone who speaks Spanish knows it."

    And those who study Spanish etymology also know that many Spanish words come from Arabic under the Moorish influence. Marrano comes from the Arabic word, Maharam and does indeed refer to those who eschew pork for religious reasons; both Jewish and Muslims. The word Marrano was used in Spain to refer to both Muslims and Jews.

    Much of the Spanish language and grammar, naturally comes from Arabic as Spain was under Moorish rule for hundreds of years. (The words "Moro, Moreno, etc" comes from "moor").

    "Majorca and the Canary Islands were typically where the Marranos fled while awaiting passage to the New World."

    DNA tests have shown that the Majorca community of "chuetas", those who claim Jewish descent are related to Moroccan and Libyan Jews. Tissue Antigens. 2002 Oct ;60 (4):282-91 12472657

    My own library of Jewish genealogical records (some back to the 1200s) documents many men from Moroccan Jewish communities who went to the Canary islands throughout the generations and intermarried with local, non Jewish women.

    The Moroccan Jewish communities kept records of men who intermarried and also of their descendants. A great number of the "chueta" community are accounted for. (I have in my library an extended Canary Island Levy family genealogy, none of whom are Jewish).

    When my parents traveled to Majorca in the 1970s and spoke with dozens of local people who had Sephardic surnames, my parents were told that many locals had Jewish blood and yet they knew they were not Jewish and did not want to practice Judaism. Twenty years later, many Majorcans became interested in Judaism and also in "reclaiming" their Jewish heritage.

    What changed was the prostelyzation campaigns of people like Michael Freund and Amishav who went to places such as Majorca to "sell" Judaism.

    "I neglected to mention that my family spoke a "different type of Spanish" referred to as Ladino. We called it "the old Spanish".

    People in the Canary Islands and Majorca do speak a different dialect of Spanish. But it is not Ladino or Haketia.

    "we will be gathered from all the nations where we were dispersed, even if at the end of the heavens, from there He will gather us and bring us....etc".

    According to our Sages, the ingathering does not occur until AFTER Moshiach has been revealed.

    We are still waiting.

    I wish you only the best. I hope that you will be able to have your conversion accepted in Israel if your desire is to join the Jewish people wholeheartedly and to accept the yoke of Torah upon yourself.

  2. Hi Jersey girl, good to see you are still around. You were so quiet recently. Hope you had a good rest. What was your reaction to the events at Bombay/Mumbia?

  3. Hi RaP, please bear with me, this is not a simple topic.

    This post is only meant to be a summary for those who hopefully will be inspired to do more research on their own. I have tried to keep it as brief as possible.

    The events in Mumbai are terribly tragic; all of the world is mourning and there are simply no words in response to this awful moment in human existence.

    Sadly, these terrorist cells and their activities are the creation of the United States which has funded and trained guerrillas in Pakistan for the past 30 years, originating with General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq who was in power 1977-1988.

    In 1987, 90% of all reported terrorist activities worldwide were located in Pakistan.

    Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, has played a role in major terrorist attacks across the world including the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, terrorism in Kashmir, Mumbai Train Bombings, London Bombings, Indian Parliament Attack, Varnasi bombings and the Hyderabad bombings. The ISI has also supported Taliban forces and recruited and trained mujahideen to fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

    Pakistan has always been a haven for terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Omar, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Sipah-e-Sahaba. Pakistan has sheltered and trained the Taliban in operations "which include soliciting funding for the Taliban, bankrolling Taliban operations, providing diplomatic support as the Taliban's virtual emissaries abroad, arranging training for Taliban fighters, recruiting skilled and unskilled manpower to serve in Taliban armies, planning and directing offensives, providing and facilitating shipments of ammunition and fuel, and on several occasions apparently directly providing combat support," according to Human Rights Watch.

    And yet, Pakistan has also long been seen as a most valued ally of the US.

    The United States which established diplomatic relations with Pakistan in 1949, provides BILLIONS of dollars of military aid to Pakistan each year, funding and training various guerrilla forces as a strategic weapon for the past 30 years. Pakistan has spent the bulk of this funding on weapons and guerrilla activities against India. (It is most likely the the US funded and trained the guerrillas who attacked Mumbai last week).

    The US-Pakistani military model was originally designed to be an "outsourcing" arrangement, where US would "outsource" the task of fighting terrorism to the Pakistani army, paying the Pakistani government under the American agreement to provide economic and military assistance to Pakistan(Baghdad Pact, CENTO and SEATO).

    But as one high ranking CIA official in Pakistan who spoke anonymously stated, "you can rent them, but you cannot buy them".

    The United States has paid Pakistan, about $5.56 billion in Coalition Support Funds (CSF) since 2002. This does not include undisclosed CIA operations in Pakistan, only direct Department of Defense reimbursement for costs incurred in direct support of U.S. military operations. Pakistan is the largest recipient of CSF, receiving 81 percent of CSF reimbursements. (See GAO report titled Combating Terrorism: Increased Oversight and Accountability Needed over Pakistan Reimbursement Claims for Coalition Support Funds, GAO-08-806 (Washington
    , D.C.: June 24, 2008)).

    It is also well known that the CIA funded and trained Bin Laden and his forces.

    "Osama bin Laden is no more a true representative of Islam than General Mladic, who commanded the Serbian forces, could be held up as an example of Christianity. After all, it is written in the Qur'an that we were made into different peoples not that we might despise each other, but that we might understand each other.

    Bin Laden was a product of a monumental miscalculation by Western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organization would turn its attention to the west. "
    London Guardian July 9.2005

    see also:
    "US Funds Terror Groups to Sow Chaos in Iran", 2/25/2007 UK Telegraph
    which details current US funding of terrorist activities in Iran , "America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme."

    The article quotes:

    "John Pike, the head of the influential Global Security think tank in Washington, who said: "The activities of the ethnic groups have hotted up over the last two years and it would be a scandal if that was not at least in part the result of CIA activity."


    ."......the military wing of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iraq-based Iranian opposition group with a long and bloody history of armed opposition to the Iranian regime.The group is currently listed by the US state department as terrorist organisation, but Mr Pike said: "A faction in the Defence Department wants to unleash them. They could never overthrow the current Iranian regime but they might cause a lot of damage."

    Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency program to arm the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, 1979 to 1989. Operation Cyclone is one of the longest and most expensive covert CIA operations ever undertaken; funding began with $20-30 million per year in 1980 and rose to $630 million per year in 1987.

    The program relied heavily on using the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as an intermediary for funds distribution, passing of weapons, military training and financial support to Afghan resistance groups. Along with funding from similar programs from Britain's MI6 and SAS, Saudi Arabia, and the People's Republic of China, the ISI armed and trained over 100,000 insurgents between 1978 and 1992. They encouraged the volunteers from the Arab states to join the Afghan resistance in its struggle against the Soviet troops based in Afghanistan.

    The U.S. government has been criticized for allowing Pakistan to channel a disproportionate amount of its funding to controversial Afghan resistance leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar has been criticized for killing other mujahideen and attacking civilian populations, including shelling Kabul with American-supplied weapons, causing 2,000 casualties. Hekmatyar was said to be friendly with Osama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda, who was running an operation for assisting "Afghan Arab" volunteers fighting in Afghanistan, called Maktab al-Khadamat.

  4. Rabbi Eidensohn,

    Have you discussed to any extent your views regarding the Bene Israel (India), Falasha (Ethiopia), and other similarly situated peoples claims to being Jewish. (And how to treat them without conversion; encouraging conversion; etc.)?

    I'd love to know your views on this, and if you could direct me to any discussion or comments you've made regarding it, I'd be most appreciative.

  5. I'd like to ask Jersey Girl a question. Just how certain are you that these people are not Jewish? If one of them married a Jewish woman in an orthodox ceremony, would you believe that they could separate without a Get? Would you say that the product of their labor on Shabbos could be used immediately after Shabbos, without waiting (in contrast to the labor of Jews performed on Shabbos)? Would you be willing to lend one of them money and charge interest?

  6. Nancy,
    Your explanation was beautifully done. It is exciting when family and community records and traditions are preserved.

    Interesting that your article was immediately countered by a nay-saying conversion enthusiast.

  7. Dear Joe in Australia,

    When in doubt (ie someone comes to the synagogue and says "I am Jewish", it is assumed they are Jewish and they are treated accordingly, which includes honors given to a guest. (I have seen aliyahs repeated).

    Many Sephardic synagogues are registered as not for profit "clubs" because of "anusim" coming to proselytize Christianity in the synagogues. (This is not new).

    People who wish to come to the synagogue on a regular basis, or receive services (ie brit, marriage, or funeral) fill out an application that includes genealogical information and references which are checked.

    To get married in the Sephardic community, you need a letter from the Beit Din.

    If there is a shaila regarding a person's Jewish status, then the Rabbis will ask the Posek for our community.

    A ketubbah from an Orthodox Rabbi is not sufficient to testify to Jewish status because it is well known that there are Rabbis who marry people whom they should not.

    With regard to the laws of Lo Amar Ha goy (as well as nearly everything else) - Our community holds differently than Ashkenazim with regard to benefiting from forbidden labor done on Shabbat and usually do not distinguish between forbidden labor done by a Jew vs. forbidden labor done by a Gentile on behalf of Jews on Shabbat.

    It makes it difficult to attend an Ashk Shabbat or Motzai Shabbat simcha,or eat in a restaurant under Ashk. hashgacha (at least in the US).

    I hope this answers your questions, obviously, I am not a Rav or a Posek and I do not speak on behalf of anyone.

    Rabbi Moshe Shammah is a great person to ask if you have questions about the Sephardic community. Rabbi Shammah is the Rabbi of Sephardic Institute 511 Ave. R Brooklyn, NY 11223 718-998-8171

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  9. The most important thing, in my honest opinion, is that bnai anusim recognize that they have to completely cut off all christianity from their lives, and they must enroll and make it their primary goal to be in Jewish education.

    I don't think there are as many opportunities for them as need be. In general, I see the Inquisition itself as the Sephardi "Holocaust". However, once one knows he/she is of Jewish ancestry, and decides to pursue this track, it is of vital importance

    to find a suitable and trustworthy Rav and to stick to him (Aseh L'cha Rav)

    to recognize that all your beliefs about marriage, intimate relationships, modesty, family, money, charity, culture, have been infiltrated and WARPED by Christianity. (There are Ashkenazim who would do well to remember that as well.)

    to recognize that while you are learning about Judaism, you might meet people who do things that you judge by the above - your Christian, western values. What they do might not be right according to Christianity, but it can very well be kosher Judaism.

    to make new friends and to distance yourself as much as possible from all Christianity, missionaries, and anything or anyone sympathetic to Christian messianism. It may be possible to later go back and reevaluate but while you are learning about Judaism, it is imperative to stay far away from this warped ideology of Christianity. It's the same warped thinking that caused the Inquisition that today has headlines across the world complaining that Israel not defend itself and turn yet another cheek! It's all part of the same UGLY octopus.

    to respect all rabbis who are orthodox, ashkenazi, sephardi, yemenite,- or whatever - if he is an orthodox rabbi, he deserves respect whether he belongs to your stream or not - and realize that because you are a learner, you might not understand why a rabbi - or a Beis Din- makes a decision that he does. (This is in cases of normalcy, not cases that involve explicit illegal acts such as embezzlement or child abuse, but rather decisions in matters of Jewish law.)

    to realize that there are many tribes in Israel and part of the process that brought you back to Judaism - call it hasgachah pratis - is also bringing other Jews home, even Jews you yourself don't like or agree with.

    Again, if a crypto Jew can't recognize that Christianity is the same stumbling block between them and the Jewish people that it was in 1492, then perhaps they are not yet ready to return really.


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