Saturday, January 11, 2014

Marranos: Portuguese shul criticizes Shavei Israel and Michael Freund

El Jueves, 9 de enero, 2014 2:42 P.M., Info CIP escribió:

Dear Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn,


We present the following situation regarding an organization named Shavei Israel.
On 07.01.2014, the JTA published the following news: JTA
“Portuguese priest prompts protest with Jewish museum plan
 (JTA) — The rabbi of Porto urged the Catholic Church of Portugal to block a local priest’s plan to open a museum commemorating Jewish presence in the city. Rabbi Daniel Litvak made the appeal in a letter this week to the Patriarchate of Lisbon against a plan promoted by Father Agostinho Jardim Moreira to open The Center for Jewish Memory. “It would be improper and a travesty for a Catholic priest to try to distort history and possibly benefit financially from a museum in memory of the very people whom the church expelled,” Litvak told JTA on Tuesday. Porto, which has a Jewish community of several dozen, used to have tens of thousands of Jews before their 16th century expulsion and forced conversion into Christianity. Moreira wants to open the museum inside a building that once belonged to Jewish owners before its confiscation, Litvak said. “Porto has a Jewish community with Jews from 14 nations and if anyone should be running a museum, it should be that community,” he said.
But Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel — an Israeli NGO that runs a Jewish heritage center in Trancoso near Porto as part of its outreach to former Jews — offered a passionate defense of Moreira and condemned Litvak’s letter. Moreira’s project “is a welcome and long-overdue initiative, and it has won the support of Portuguese Jewry,” Freund said, adding it would help raise awareness to that community’s endurance and revival despite persecution. “It is disgraceful that Daniel Litvak has taken the inexcusable step of criticizing Father Moreira and this project, and I think his criticism is completely without merit,” Freund told JTA. (…)
After Freund planted, 1 year ago, completely false news in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), associating Shavei Israel and “marranos” to the 75th anniversary of the Oporto Synagogue -; after Freund planted false information on the internet, saying falsely that Rabbi Litvak is a Shavei Israel Rabbi -; after Freund planted false information in the Kashrus Magazine’s Kosher Supervision Guide, associating Shavei Israel to the Oporto kashrut (Please see attachment); after Freund, in face of so many forgeries, was prohibited from entering the Kadoorie Synagogue Mekor Haim; after all this, Freund’s new adventure is to support a Catholic priest who wants to create a Center for Jewish Memory probably to falsify history and make money from Jewish tourists and visitors. 
Of course the Center for Jewish Memory will disseminate the message that matters to Shavei Israel, which is that, even today, there are tens of thousands of marranos (crypto-Jews) in Portugal. There will also be the attempt to create, around the Center, an artificial community of false marranos, for massless conversions. 
We have already stated that it is the opinion of the Religious Committee of the Jewish Community of Oporto, as well as of reputable scholars, that there are no longer any marranos 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. 
In the time of Captain Barros Basto, the marranos came from families who, lost in the clouds of the centuries, separated for a long time from the entire Jewish culture, still elevated, in spirit and in truth, their praises and prayers to Hashem, practicing their ancestors’ religion in secret, at home, or in isolated places in the field and keeping Jewish matrilineal descent through the choice of spouses within the congeneric family settings. There were not mere individuals who claimed willingness to become Jews or claimed chances of having existed Jewish converts among their ancestors. 
Captain Barros Basto represented the last hope for the Portuguese marranos and died in 1961 at a time when, with the exception of the community of Belmonte, which kept the ritual traditions and the family spirit at weddings, the majority of the crypto-Jewish families from other latitudes witnessed the weakening of religious ties, the assimilation and the intermarriage with non-Jews, circumstances that were irreversibly aggravating during the following decades with the advent of the open society.
Freund knows perfectly that there are no marranos in Portugal. The last marranos were those of Belmonte. This fact contradicts his plans. But he insists. The Catholic priest is his new instrument. 
In July and August of 2013, the referred Catholic priest talked to the Jewish Community of Oporto and explained us his project to create the Center for Jewish Memory. At the time, the Community didn't know that Freund commanded the priest, so we expressed readiness to make a partnership with him, provided that the project complied with the historical and religious truth, to be protected by the Jewish Community of Oporto, by his Rabbi and his religious Committee. Faced with the negative response from the priest, the community opposed the project, as is our duty. 
It is obvious that if the intention of the Priest were the inter-religious dialogue, he would have not rejected the partnership with the Jewish Community of Oporto, nor would he be so eager to spend so much energy with the project. Today it is clear that all of this has to do with material and advertising interests on the part of Shavei Israel. 
The Jewish Community of Oporto hopes Shavei Israel finds many marranos, but in countries where they exist.

Rabbi Daniel Litvak
Religious Committee
Board of Directors
Jewish Community of Oporto

Below is the example of misrepresentation that Rabbi Litvak belongs to Shavei Israel


  1. There may be descendants of Marranos,and they may be halachically Jewish. Both in Portugal and Spain. The problem is in identifying who is who.

    1. It isn't possible to identify who is Jewish and who are gentiles. It's been too many centuries and there is no way to verify anyone outside the organized Jewish communities for the last 500 years, in fact, is Jewish via matrimonial decent for all those centuries.

      They have halachic presumptive status of being gentiles.

  2. Eddie, my wife is one of them.
    However, she had to convert. (her case was ruled on by R. Moshe Feinstein zatz"al in one of his last piskei din).

    1. She had to convert because there is no way to be certain that she was indeed Jewish by birth. After so long obviously that cannot be assumed.

  3. What he is doing in portugal is clearly wrong. Wow, siding w the catholic church over its Jewish victims? Insane and unjust.

    Perhaps I was wrong to doubt Rabbi E on his opinion regarding the shavei israel?

  4. This piece of research traces the origins of Ashkenazim through genetics, and it suggests something quite surprising -

  5. That scan of the Kashrut directory is something that is printed in America. Did Shavei advertise there? Did Litvak ever use the Shavei office in israel as a forwarding address?

    This "misrepresentation" could just be an error. occasionally, the UK Jewish newspapers misprint the the Shabbat times - does that mean that the Chief rabbi is somehow misrepresenting halacha, because he may have given an interview to that paper?

    You have to show more concret evidence.


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