Sunday, July 26, 2009

Aish HaTorah & Anusim

Aish HaTorah has published yet another article indicating the anusim or marranos are somehow Jews.

From my family I am the only one who "returned" to embrace Judaism. But I choose to focus on the positive things my ancestors did accomplish. I feel the very reason I am today a Jew must be because ultimately they did something right. I have no doubt that it was because of the merit of my ancestors dying "al Kiddush Hashem," sanctifying God's name, that I have the privilege to become a full-fledged Jew.


  1. I don't understand the complaint.

    The article makes clear that they're not Jewish, and need conversion. The author didn't dispute the need for conversion, and in fact referred to her conversion as a point of pride.

    At the same time, there's no debate among Rabbonim or historians that a lot of goyim have Jewish blood, through paternal sides, which make them non-Jewish but with a family connection to Judaism. To push such people to convert has halachic problems. But for a person to seek out conversion and to convert with kabalas ol ha'mitzvos, out of a true desire to be Jewish, what could possibly be the problem?

    I think that your campaign against illegitimate conversions will be watered down if you start faulting true converts.

  2. observer said...

    I don't understand the complaint.
    This has been discussed in the past. The whole point of the article is that the desendents of marranos are in some sense Jews - just not halachic Jews and it is a mere technicality that halacha requires conversion. By converting to Judaism she has fulfilled her destiny and avenged her ancestors.

    Not sure what the basis in Judaism for such statements.

    Halacha is not a side point or an aspect - it defines ones existence.

    This is not nitpicking. There are organizations which travel the world - and try and interest people that they should convert because of the romantic idea of Jewish spark.

    It is not helpful for Judaism to proselytize these people nor is it helpful for converts who believe that they are really Jews. Such converts are liable to be lenient on things such as serving as dayanim or marrying cohanim - because after all they are really Jews just not halachic ones.

  3. The same "observer"July 27, 2009 at 5:01 PM

    But if you read the article objectively, I think you'll find the following:

    1. She refers to her conversion as "becoming Jewish." Not as a technicality.

    2. She refers to her Marano past as being what motivated her emotionally, but not as having halachic status.

    3. She sought out Judaism, and was not prostelytised, and did not promote anyone else's conversion.

    I remember I once met a woman who was the great-granddaughter of a very famous European Yeshiva Gadol whose name everyone recognized. She was a Giyoret. Her grandfather had started assimilating, her father had intermarried, and she felt a pull to Judaism. She sought it out and learned and converted through a very respectable Bais Din in the USA. Knowing that she was non-Jewish at birth and that her conversion was what made her Jewish didn't stop her from believing that her great-grandfather would be proud to have a descendent that was a frum Jew after a whole generation of descendents were lost to yiddishkeit.

    Again, if you quote and respond to an article that discusses prostelytising or discusses conversion as a "formality," I'll be the first "observer" on line to agree. But it doesn't help your cause to read your agenda into other articles.

    If other "observers" care to comment, maybe I'm wrong, I'm curious what others think.

  4. Observer - I don't doubt your sincerity but you have walked into the middle of a discussion and have no idea the context.

    Please type in the word anusim in the search box at the top of the blog. There you will see that this concern for Jewish ancestry is not just a interesting angle but rather part of a campaign. In the non-orthodox world it is taken as a fact that these are Jews or are part of the Jewish heritage. You might want to research Michael Freund , Gary Dubin & R' Manny Vinas.

    It is something which we have had a lot of discussion.

  5. I've been following this blog for a while, and I'm aware of the very legitimate concern regarding efforts expended on outreach toward "anousim" and other crypto-"Jews" by groups like Shavei Israel. Still, I agree with Observer's take on this particular post.

    The first article published on dealing with non-Jewish descendants of Spanish anusim converting to Judaism, to which you refer in your post, is admittedly written by Michael Freund, founder of Shavei Israel ( However, that article was published in May 2003. The recent article by Ms. Simnegar, as far as I can tell, was just published, i.e. in July 2009. In my mind, a total of two articles on the same subject that are published six years apart from each other does not constitute a trend.

    Additionally, Ms. Simnegar happens to be a friend of mine. It's been quite a while since we've lived in the same community (I've known her for more than a decade at this point), but I would be quite surprised if she shares Michael Freund's activist attitude toward facilitating the "return" of descendants of anusim and other groups of questionable Jewish status en masse . Knowing her, I'm certain that she will be quite hurt that someone of your stature has decided to present her essay in such a strongly negative light. For that reason, I do not plan to inform Ms. Simnegar about the existence of this post.

    I agree that the statement of hers that you quote from the article is somewhat problematic for the reasons you state. However, in my judgement as someone who knows the author personally, it should not be taken as being anything other than the thoughts of a sincere Jew striving to find a spiritual significance to her family's history, which, I'm sure even you will agree, is fascinating.

    You state in your comments that "... this concern for Jewish ancestry is not just a interesting angle but rather part of a campaign." Sometimes, and I think it is for this instance, it is in fact nothing more than an interesting angle. Should have considered that, perhaps, their publishing this article may inadvertently aid in furthering an agenda of questionable validity? Perhaps. But I think that such a lack of foresight is about the strongest critique that you can lay on Aish in this particular case.

  6. Someone close to me is a Ger of Spanish descent, and though I have reason for suspicion that such is in their family - their decision was based on Torah - not on sentiments about completing oneself as a cryptojew, not on gilgulim - on Torah, the merits of Torah, believe that it is true in more ways than any family history is true. That being said, I have spent the great amount of my time as a Jew surrounded by Charedim who find these stories of Anusim and gilgulim and whatnot of FAR MORE significance than a personal decision based on the merits of Torah (though BTs make personal decisions, A BT is not a ger; a BT *affirms* a fundamental aspect of themselves, gerim CAST AWAY *MANY* fundamental aspects of themselves). These are same people who esteem yichus in shidduchim, the same people who, this person is a Ger will presume to match them with a Georet (despite the clear, obvious fact - clear obvious facts often escape people of this disposition - that there are as many kinds of gerim as there are kinds of goyim - and you don't as randomly set up jews). There is obscuring of the BT origins of some of the Gedolim, revisionism of the accounts of peoples individual lives - which should be more esteemed for evidencing their own life *individual* decisions than the stories we THINK we would like to hear about them (which I say to R. Schwab's claims). I understand! Transformation, decision to change ones life is a threatening thing; many fervently orthodox people would obviously NOT want their children to make drastic life changes. Better to stand on yichus, on The SY Takkanah!...such will buttress our purity...many gerim want to see themselves as "already jews who just needed a few things cleared up" for similar reasons, i believe. They forget they come from a world filled with religions founded by, run by and reliant on transformation (and many of them rely on the Transformations of the Avot and Emahot, whose origins we seem to have forgotten). Transformation is clearly valued by HKBH. But to our generation the yichus of Avraham Avinu is not enough - even to many gerim.


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