Bnei Anusim



Bnei Anusim in Spain

In the early Middle Ages, Spanish Jewry was one of the oldest and most successful Diaspora Jewish communities. But from 1391 onwards, a series of terrible disturbances and great tribulations befell the Jews of Iberia, resulting in unprecedented waves of expulsion, persecution and forced conversions. These tragic events culminated in 1492, when the remaining Jews were formally expelled by Spanish monarchs. Many of those who had been compelled to convert to Catholicism – known by the Hebrew term Bnei Anousim – remained behind, where they nonetheless continued to preserve their Jewish identity and to practice Jewish tradition covertly, away from the prying eyes of the Inquisition and its enforcers. One of the most famous example was the converted Jews from Palma de Mallorca know until today by the name “chuetas”(pig).

Bnei Anusim in Portugal

In 1497, the Portuguese king presented the Jews living in his realm with a dastardly choice: convert or die. Some chose death, but most of Portuguese Jewry was dragged to the baptismal font and compelled to accept Catholicism against their will. But many of these "New Christians" did their utmost to remain loyal to their Jewish roots, passing down the faith and practices of their ancestors across the generations. And while many were made to pay a heavy price by the Inquisition for their continued fidelity to Judaism, many others somehow succeeded in preserving their Jewish identity. Perhaps the most famous example was the community of Belmonte, in northern Portugal, where some 150 Bnei Anusim were formally restored to the Jewish people two decades ago by a rabbinical court sent from Israel.

Bnei Anusim in Brazil

When the doors of the New World swung open in the 16th and 17th centuries, Brazil came to play an important role for the Bnei Anusim. Seeking to distance themselves from Iberia, where the hand of the Inquisition was heaviest, the Bnei Anusim actively participated in the colonization and development of the new continent. Brazil offered the possibility of a new life, and the hope of one day returning to the faith of their ancestors. But the long arm of the Inquisition reached across the Atlantic, and continued to pursue the Bnei Anousim, hunting down those accused of secretly practicing Judaism and remaining faithful to the laws of Moses. But even the heartless cruelty and ruthless efficiency of the Inquisitors could not extinguish the flame of Judaism, and countless thousands of families, especially in the interior of northern Brazil, continued to preserve Jewish rituals and traditions. This flame is still very much alive today, and in cities such as Recife, Fortaleza and Natal, the descendants of Brazil's Bnei Anousim are once again clamoring to rejoin their people, the nation of Israel.

In recent years, throughout Spain, Portugal and South America, a growing number of their descendants are emerging from the shadows of history, looking to reconnect with the Jewish people and return to the faith which was so cruelly taken away from their forefathers five centuries ago.

On a Personal Note

In May 10th, 1981 after a long of investigations and in light of the evidence before the Rabbinical Court the Av Beit Bin ( Head of the Rabbinical Court) of Tel Aviv HaDayan Rav Yossef Nadav ( Now a sit as Dayan at High Rabbinical Court for Appeals ) , sitting in judgment with the Dayan Rav H.S. Rosenthal and Dayan Rav S. Popovitz issued for the first time in the modern State of Israel a Pasak Din (Judgment) in which Beit Din recognized ( Baron Camilo Agasim-Pereira of Fulwood and Dirleton) Camilo Pereira ben Elio and Maria Miriam as Jew. The full judgment can be read here. This personal struggle open the way for the return today of thousand of Anusim to way of Ancestors of blessed memories. The struggles continues when so many are Rabbis the lack knowledge needed to deal with the issue, any many totally ignores the fact that there will be not redemption until such time as the Exiled and dispersed of Israel are gather. As it is stated in the 10th bless of Amidah Prayer:

 "..Sound the great shofar for our freedom,
raise the ensign to gather our exiles, and
gather us from the four corners of the earth.
Blessed are You, O Lord, who gathers the
dispersed of his people Israel. 

Who are those exiles and dispersed on the four corner of the world??? The Jews sitting on Tel-Aviv, Aventura, Miami Beach or Monsey, certainly not! Exile is defined as: "the state or a period of forced absence from one's country or home". The Book of Prophet Obadiah verses 20 said the following:

"And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel,
that are among the Canaanites, even unto Tzarphath* (France),
and the captivity of Jerusalem, that is in Sepharad* (Spain),
shall possess the cities of the Negev."

Let us help our exiles brothers and sisters who genunie wants to return to Torah and mitzvoth return to the ways of Avotenu. The Prophet could see and feel then the plight and pain of the Anusim, he even promise on behalf of HaShem a portion of Israel to them. Can you image what a extra 2 million Jews could do in term of populating the Negev?


* Clear the Prophet was speaking of a larger geographic area then just the present day Spain and France.