Twenty Bnai Anousim hailing from Spain, Portugal and Brazil have been touring Israel on a solidarity visit. The tour was arranged by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel, which assists lost Jews seeking to return to the Jewish people.
Bnai Anousim is the Hebrew term for people whose ancestors were forcibly converted to Catholicism over five centuries ago, during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Historians have often referred to them by the derogatory term Marranos.
The group, which includes a professor, three doctors, a psychiatrist and two psychologists, saw the sights in Tiberias, Haifa, the Golan and Tel Aviv, and spent the Sabbath in Jerusalem, where they paid an emotional visit to the Western Wall.
They also took part in the opening of a new museum-style exhibition organized by Shavei Israel at Heichal Shlomo in Jerusalem which outlines the past, present and future of the Bnai Anousim. Arrangements are already being made for the exhibition to be displayed next year at various universities, community centers and museums across Europe.
There is a real awakening taking place among the Bnai Anousim, many of whom feel a strong and enduring connection to their Jewish heritage, said Shavei Israel founder and Chairman Michael Freund. I believe it is our responsibility to reach out to them, embrace them, and welcome them back home.
For Sarah Quinones, aged 16 from Barcelona, spending time in the land of her forefathers was a profoundly moving experience. It is difficult for me to explain, but my visiting Israel has helped me to better understand my Jewish identity. Now, I would like to continue on this spiritual search that I have begun.
Shavei Israel does not proselytize to descendants of Jews, rather the organization responds to personal expressions of desire to return to Judaism. The initial spark may result from a desire to recover a lost heritage, or from an intense need to understand various inherited customs and family traditions.
According to Freund, Shavei Israel supports, guides and provides assistance for these personal journeys however varied they may be. The groups work is in complete accordance with Jewish Law and under the ongoing supervision of the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel.
A professor, 3 doctors, a psychiatrist, and 2 psychologists! Why are Jews in the Diaspora usually well-educated? Well, they could take our land, our possessions, and anything we owned, but they couldnt take what was in our brains!!!