ערב שבת-קודש פרשת אחרי / שבת הגדול, י"ג בניסן ה'תשס"ח
מאת: אליעזר שולמן
מאת: אליעזר שולמן
The closure of our first semester could not be any better. The conference on Cabbala given by Rabbi Daniel Ginerman gathered a hundred people in Tarbut, a record for our institution.
The expectation raised by the Rabbi’s visit, the first one after 8 centuries, was supported by the amount of people who attended the conference on Cabbala. The Conference Hall at Fundació Viure i Conviure of Caixa de Catalunya in Lleida was too small for the public gathered, some of them had come from Barcelona, others from Valencia. For many of the attendants, it was the first occasion they had to listen to a Rabbi’s lessons. Others, pupils of Cabbala, enjoyed listening to him once more. The Rabbi came from Carmiel, in Galilea. Daniel Ginerman made a good impression on us. The audience left the hall praising the high standard the activities of our institution is gaining.
Our schedule of activities will be interrupted for the summer holidays although we will be keeping contact with our members and friends through e-mails and this web. This interval will be good to give an impulse to our Ambassadors’ section as well as to work on new ideas, suggestions and plans you would like to share with us.
The Rabbi’s visit is widely documented with images at the section Gallery of Photos of this web. More about his presence in Lleida is available in “Read more”…
A SHORT BUT INTENSE VISIT TO LLEIDA
The conference was only one of the Rabbi’s activities in Lleida. On his arrival, and after meeting a group of friends who came from Valencia, we wandered downtown. Our purpose was to visit Palau de la Paeria – the Town Hall building, especially the museum area, underground. We were eager to know the Rabbi’s opinion about some archaeological remains labelled as “banys andalusins” (Andalusian baths) which we suspect could have been a mikveh, the Jewish ritual baths. Not to forget the present Palau de la Paeria belonged once to the Sanahuja Jewish family, in the times previous to 1492. To certify this, we still need to study the case thoroughly – checking an external source of water and orientation - and contrast the information but, all the conditions fulfilled, the case would be dealt with the local authorities. The Rabbi affirmed the possibilities to have found a mikveh were high.
Back at Fundació Viure i Conviure of Caixa de Catalunya, in Lleida, Rabbi Daniel Ginerman gave his conference under the name of “Our days seen at the light of Cabbala and our role in Redemption”. It was Rossana Lara, founder of Orden de Cábala del Sendero Interior and specialist in Cabbala as well, who made his presentation. After her, it was Mario Saban who introduced him. The audience had the feeling that one hour was too short a time for such an interesting subject. The Rabbi was aware of how difficult it was to have people understand the principles of Cabbala and its multiple readings of past, present and future events in such a short time.
To close the conference, musician Jurgen van Win performed ”Entrance of Bride and Groom”, by Aaron Minsky, and “Adon Olam” with his new cello. The performance is a mere foretaste of what the Dutch musician living in Reus will be offering to the public in Lleida from now on. The evening was completed with a dinner in a restaurant where both genius delighted the attendants with their knowledge, one on Cabbala, the other to Jewish music.
from Aish.com, 2004
by Chana Afik
|Descendants of forced converts of the Inquisition are rediscovering Judaism.|
One bright spring day, the Inquisitors of Mexico caught Diego in the marketplace, hiding three matzos under his hat. In their torture chambers, he denied he was Jewish, insisting that unleavened bread placed under one's hat was a known cure for chronic headaches. Meanwhile, the local spies of the Inquisition, like their counterparts in Spain and Portugal, continued combing the marketplace, looking for anyone displaying a particular interest in purchasing bitter herbs or celery (used by many Spanish Jews as karpas) that day.
Behind locked doors and in hushed tones, the so-called "New Christians" fearfully passed on the Torah's commandments to their children. Obviously, under these conditions, the Jewish law was not understood, so that gradually, errors, omissions, and distortions became part of the tradition that was passed from generation to generation.
|Behind locked doors and in hushed tones, the so-called "New Christians" fearfully passed on the Torah's commandments to their children.|
In Belmonte, Portugal, for example, matzos are baked only on the 16th or 17th of Nisan - a vestige of the days when they had to fool the Inquisitors, and Pesach songs are sung in an undertone. Meanwhile, the women take their daughters out to lakes or rivers and there they teach them songs of the Exodus and the Splitting of the Sea of Reeds.
Professor Shulamit HaLevi, a genealogical investigator specializing in the Marranos and their descendants, told us that once when she gave a lecture at Chicago University, a man introduced himself to her as a Christian from Brazil. "I have a feeling we are descended from Marranos," he told her, "because our family has always insisted that the children marry their cousins.
"I put him through a quiz I've developed," says Professor HaLevi, "designed to check for Jewish customs in the family, and I uncovered no sign of Jewishness. I told him I was sorry, but I had no way of verifying that he was descended from Jews. Still, he insisted he had Jewish origins, and as proof, he brought his elderly mother to see me, who proceeded to recite Psalm 91 from Psalms in Hebrew, in full. She told me that in her family, the deceased are brought to burial while the mourners recite this psalm in a whisper. Then, while I was questioning her, she started leafing through my copy of Nachum Slouschz's book, The Secret Jews of Portugal, published in 1932, and suddenly she looked up in shock. The book contains 'Pesach prayers' of the Marranos, which were recited instead of the Haggada.
"'Who wrote these down?!' she demanded. 'My mother and grandmother told me that these poems were never, absolutely never, to be written down! They said I was only to pass them on by word of mouth!' Then she stood in the middle of the room, closed her eyes, and, with appropriate hand movements, recited the poems from beginning to end."
Professor HaLevi asked the lady to get more information directly from her family. Her three older brothers all admitted to her that they had been told, in secret, that they were descended from Marranos. She herself had only been taught various customs, with no reason specified. "The interesting thing," says HaLevi, "is that I have heard these poems recited in precisely the same form by descendants of Marranos from Portugal to Brazil."
The Deep Secret
Sylvia, a Catholic from Madrid, had been told by her grandfather about a top-secret hiding place in his house. She had pictured some strange, gloomy attic, perhaps featuring an ancient, dusty bottle from which a genie would emerge. Why would her grandfather, whom she knew to be an upstanding citizen, be harboring mysteries in his house?
"At that time, I had been married to Jose for 15 years," says Sylvia in Spanish, while Rabbi Daniel Ginerman provides simultaneous translation. Rabbi Ginerman, of the Banayich Tzion Kollel, engages, among other things, in teaching Torah, especially to Jews who are distant from tradition, and including the descendants of Marranos.
"We had children," Sylvia goes on, "and our life was going smoothly. We never anticipated the upheaval that would come out of Grandfather's hiding place. Trembling, I opened the concealed door built into an inner wall of his house, and there I found a seven-branched menorah, a worn-out piece of fabric I couldn't identify, and a crumbling book in a language that was unrecognizable to me. 'What are these things?' I asked him. 'These are things I inherited from my grandfather,' he told me, 'and he inherited them from his grandfather. They belonged to our Jewish ancestors who were forced to become Christians. You must pass these objects down to the next generation,' he said. 'These were my grandfather's orders, and now I am telling you to do the same.'"
Astonished, Sylvia went home and told her husband what had happened. "Then he started telling me all sorts of evidence that his ancestors, too, had kept Jewish customs. He went and questioned his relatives further, and came back with proofs that his entire family was descended from Jews! We went through a long conversion process and finally became part of the Jewish people according to the requirements of Jewish law. In Sivan 5763, 25 years after our wedding in a famous church in Madrid, we stood together under a chupa in Jerusalem. We left our identities as Jose and Sylvia behind in Madrid, and we became Yosef and Tzvia."
Another Link in the Chain
Maria, soon to become Miriam, is still deeply impressed by her first visit to the Western Wall. "Rabbi Ginerman took me there," she says, still obviously moved by the experience. "I stood there, against that holy Wall of stone, and I cried. I looked at all the Jewish women around me and said to myself, after 700 years of Inquisition that tried to butcher us, to burn us alive, to make us forget we were Jews, to make us just like all the Christians, here I am, a descendant of Don Juan, Don Agular, and all those who hid in the cellars and risked their lives for the Shabbos candles, for the matzos on Pesach. I'm standing here by the remains of the Holy Temple, praying for the Redemption!"
"The first wholesale massacres carried out by the Inquisition began in 1391. These are also known as the pogroms of 5151." So Sylvia Bina informs us, with Rabbi Ginerman interpreting. "And the persecutions began several decades before that."
Like most of the others who returned to their origins, Maria came to Judaism through her grandfather. "I was born and raised in a Catholic family in Barcelona," she says. "We were a warm, close family. We children all loved Grandpa, but if I may boast a bit, I enjoyed an extra-special relationship with him. Sometimes I would sleep over at his house when I was little, and he would hold me on his lap very early in the morning and show me the morning star shining before dawn. I can still hear his words ringing in my ears: 'Maria, do you see that star? It is the brightest star of all, and it shines before the sun rises.' Then his voice would drop, and he would sound mysterious as he said, 'Some day you'll understand why you, too, should be called by that star's name and shine as it does.'"
|"You, too, are descended from the Jewish people, Maria, and perhaps one day you will light up the darkness like the morning star." Those were his last words on this earth.|
Maria grew, and her grandfather grew old, too old to hold his grandchildren on his lap anymore. Still, his special affection for her remained. Eight years ago, he passed away. Knowing his time was coming, he asked Maria to come and see him. "Five hundred years ago," he told her, "our family was a Jewish family, living right here. Then Ferdinand and Isabella decided to expel every Jew who wouldn't convert to Christianity. Our ancestors chose not to pack their bags and go to Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa, but rather to keep the Jewish commandments in secret. From generation to generation they have passed on the word that we are Jews, and now I want to make another link in the chain. You, too, are descended from the Jewish people, Maria, and perhaps one day you will light up the darkness like the morning star. Now I can die in peace." Those were his last words on this earth.
Without delay, Maria began investigating the meaning of Jewishness. She soon learned that Judaism was fascinating and beautiful, and she, too, is scheduled for an Orthodox conversion in the near future. She says she is sure her grandfather and all her ancestors in the upper world are overjoyed.
It is no simple matter for a young Catholic woman from Barcelona to get up one morning, cast off her whole former life, and go into the desert like Abraham, our Forefather.
Most of the countless descendants of Marranos found all over the globe have to undergo formal Orthodox conversion if they wish to be reunited with the Jewish people. Stories of their grandmothers who apparently came from Marrano families, even maternal grandmothers, cannot guarantee that over a period of 500 years or more the family never assimilated. Marrano descendants in Majorca, Belmonte, and elsewhere, have a greater likelihood of being authentic Jews, since they have historically been very particular to marry only within the extended family. They have also been rejected, over hundreds of years, by their Catholic neighbors, who called them names like chuetos that discriminated between them and the rest of the population. Some families among them have distinctively Jewish names which were kept over the centuries. Nevertheless, anyone from these localities who wants to return to the Jewish fold has to go through an Orthodox Rabbi.
The Allure of Tehillim
It might have been difficult to believe some of the stories we heard from Rabbi Ginerman and Professor HaLevi if not for the fact that they included full names, addresses, pictures, and even living voices willing to come and tell us their tales in person.
The story of a girl named Chere, for example, contains all the elements of a rather sensational novel. Chere was born in S. Klaus, Bolivia, about 20 years ago. Her father had emigrated from Germany, and her mother was a native Bolivian. Both parents were university graduates, and Chere grew up in a comfortable environment. She first heard of the existence of Jews at the age of 15,, and she took an immediate interest in them, even though she personally knew no Jews, and knew of none living within a radius of a hundred miles from her home. It was as if she'd been infected by some inexplicable fever.
She kept asking her father and mother if they were sure they had no connection to Judaism, and they repeatedly assured here they had none. Chere herself couldn't say why she felt so interested in Judaism, of all religions in the world. She found a Spanish translation of Psalms, and read them hungrily. "I felt this tremendous sweetness every time I read that book," she would say afterwards. "I was drawn to the words as if under a spell."
For three years she continued her vague, confused search after she-knew-not-what. On graduating from high school, she decided, as the daughter of a German citizen, to study medicine in her father's native land. Her parents willingly made all the arrangements for her. The night before her flight to Frankfurt, she brought up that nagging question again: "Is our family connected in any way to the Jews?"
Her parents sat facing her, perplexed, until her father broke the silence and said, "I am a Jew. My whole family perished in the Holocaust. I survived. I was a little refugee boy. When I grew up, I decided I would run away as far as I could, tell no one I was Jewish, forget I ever was Jewish, and assimilate. I wanted to escape from everything that had happened to my family."
|They had spent over 20 years together, and he'd never told her he was a Jew.|
Chere was stunned. She could hardly take in the revelation. Then she noticed that her mother had turned pale and was lying back in her chair. For her, too, this was news. They had spent over 20 years together, and he'd never told her he was a Jew. Taking a sip of water to keep from fainting, choked with emotion, she announced, "It looks like this is a night for revealing family secrets! I have a secret to tell you, too. I am probably Jewish myself! My grandmother on my mother's side told me before she died that we are descended from Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity. I never told this to anyone, not even to you," she said, turning to her husband. Then she began telling all the stories she had heard from her grandmother, who had cautioned her that this was a family secret, which must be passed on secretly to every generation to come.
So now the mystery was solved. Now Chere knew why she was so drawn to Judaism. Two powerful magnets had been pulling her in that direction all along. All that night, she sat up, crying over the fate of her ancestors and over her own unknown fate. After a sleepless night for the whole family, her parents drove her to the airport and said goodbye. She had a flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to connect with her plane to Frankfurt. Feeling lost and confused, she wandered around the huge airport. Suddenly she noticed a strange sight. A bearded man, dressed in black, with a large velvet yarmulke on his head, was standing in line waiting to check in. This was none other than Rabbi Daniel Ginerman, on his way to teach Torah in Frankfurt as part of the program of his Kollel in Givat Ze'ev.
"Suddenly a girl came running up to me," he says. "She was almost overcome with emotion. She burst right out and asked me, 'Are you a Jew?' I said I was, and she almost shouted for joy, 'What a story I have to tell you! I just found out a few hours ago that my parents are Jewish, and you are the first real Jew I've ever met in my life!' For the next ten hours she asked me questions about Jews and Judaism. I have never seen such eagerness, coupled with such a thirst for knowledge and wisdom. She never rested for a moment, and never seemed tired. She wanted to hear more and more. The essence of being Jewish, the mitzvot, the history of the Jewish people, their destiny, where are all the Jews today, and what did she have to do to become a proper, observant Jew according to Jewish Law. I glanced out the plane window at the cloudy sky and thought to myself that somewhere out there in Heaven, Chere's ancestors must be cheering her on."
Rabbi Ginerman had to hurry straight to his work in Frankfurt, so he put Chere in touch with one of the leading rabbis in the Jewish community there, and with another rabbi in Berlin. Today, Chere is studying Judaism in preparation for an Orthodox conversion (due to her mother's uncertain status), and she can hardly wait to return to the nation of her forbears. She talks all the time about her Heavenly-ordained meeting with Rabbi Ginerman, who was sent to the airport that day not only by his kollel, but by a guiding Hand from above.
Lighting Candles in the Closet
Many other people, living in South American countries or in Spain, have similar stories to tell of grandparents who revealed to them, on their deathbeds, that they were descended from forcibly converted Jews. Some of these people even perform mitzvot, without knowing what their actions signify. Fernando's family knows, without knowing why, that before they eat lettuce they must hold each leaf up to the light and look at it. Any observant Jew can tell you that this is how lettuce is examined for infestation. But to Fernando's family it is some inexplicable mystic rite that they could never consider abandoning.
Fernando's grandmother, who was well-known for her excellent baking, had another odd custom, too: she would cut a piece off of every dough she made and burn it. The reason she did so was unclear, even to her. But she knew that her own grandmother had followed this custom and that it wasn't to be questioned.
Alfonso's grandmother used to light candles every Friday afternoon in a large closet, which she closed tightly immediately afterwards. The whole family took care that the flames should not leave scorch marks on the closet walls. Sylvia, who became Tzvia, tells us that at family meals, her grandfather would cut the bread, dip each slice in salt, and hand the pieces out to everyone at the table, never knowing the source of this custom.
"Yes, That's Us"
Why don't the Crypto-Jewish families just come out and say that the Inquisition is a thing of the past, no one is being burned at the stake, and it's time to take the menorahs out of the closet and use them openly again?
"This is a psychological issue," Rabbi Ginerman explains. "Many of these people see secrecy as an inseparable element of the tradition they've received. Many are ashamed to admit their Jewish ancestry, because the foreign culture in which they grew up has drilled into their heads that the Jews are a loathsome people who killed their messiah. Some still believe that Jews are guilty of using Christian children's blood in matzos. It is hard for them to face a world that stereotypes them like this, and openly declare that they belong to the Jewish People and converted only 'for show.' About a year and a half ago I organized an online forum of several dozen Crypto-Jews. One of the participants stipulated that I must not publicize her email address. She wouldn't even let me give it to other Crypto-Jews participating in the forum - some of whom were her own relatives. She didn't want them to know she was getting interested in Judaism."
Why didn't the early Marranos return to practicing Judaism openly as soon as the Inquisition ended?
Professor HaLevi points out, in answer to this question, that the Inquisition was officially ended in Mexico only in 1821. The last auto-da-fe, or public burning, took place in 1826, and only in 1834 was the Inquisition formally rescinded in Spain, 550 years after it was officially begun, in the year 1280. This was rather a long time in the eyes of the Inquisition's victims, the forced converts, and their descendants.
"Since the end of the Inquisition, the Crypto-Jews have disappeared from public awareness," says Proessor HaLevi, "and at that point, even if a grandparent whispered to them, 'You are descended from the Jews!' this had little meaning for them. They didn't know any Jews, except perhaps from sermons they heard in Church. They may have been told they were 'Judeos' or 'Sefaradites,' but these were just words; they didn't know where to go from there. To this day, politicians and magnates from Brazil, Spain, and elsewhere come to me wanting to talk over in strict secrecy the fact that they are Crypto-Jews. They won't take any drastic steps, because they don't want to disrupt their lives. One well-known politician who represents the Latino community in America told me that he knows for sure that he is a Crypto-Jew, but it's hard for him to make the decision to convert. He prefers not even to mention the fact, because it would mean losing the next election. But when his mother passed away, he called me and asked me to send him Jewish prayers, in Hebrew, that he could say for her.
"Another Crypto-Jew in northern Mexico, who was the youngest child in his family, told me of a childhood memory. When he was about six, a great-aunt of his passed away. The men sat shiva for her in one room, the women in another. He was hanging around in the women's room and he heard them saying that the whole family was Jewish. He ran to his grandfather and asked him if this was true. His grandfather said it was, and the boy then demanded to know, 'So why do we say we're Catholic?'
"'Because we can't say we're Jewish,' was the answer. Six years later, the boy was viewing a news program that showed the death camps in Europe. He asked his grandfather: 'Those Jews - are they what we are?' 'Yes,' his grandfather said sadly. 'That's us.'"
This article originally appeared in ©Mishpacha Magazine 2004
(25) daniEl I. Ginerman, 26/8/2004
To anyone wishing to contact Us
Our blessings from Guivat Zeev!
First of all, I want to thank Aish for the publication of this note.
In second term, I want to invite anyone interested in our work of "spreading the wealth" and getting back the Torah light to those that feel the "sacred thirst", to visit us at http://www.banayichzion.com/ (in english), http://www.ieshivah.net/ (in spanish) and http://amisrael.net/vaiomer/ (in hebrew). We also run an Internet-Radio station broadcasting Torah lessons in spanish and hebrew at http://www.koltorah.net/.
Please, get to us also by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, write to us, and if it's in your hands' don't hesitate to support our Torah job and to join this greatfull mission of rekindling the Jewish way towards Redemption by all available means.
Blessing you with Birkat haTorah,
daniEl I. Ginerman
(24) steven william leak, 26/7/2004
a joyful story
Iam often easially brought to tears as was the case in reading this story,but they were joy filled tears.
(23) Alexander Huzau, 23/7/2004
Feeling like Chere...
I grew up in Satu Mare, a romanian city, once famous about his jewish community. Already as a child, I've had heavy interest on judaism, I've had many jewish friends and I was always fascinated of them.
Now, at age of 54, living in Germany - but keeping strong relations to my hometown and to my jewish friends - I am more than ever fascinated about beeing jew. As the years passed, I am more and more drawn to judaism!
Maybe I have jewish ancestors, too...
Reading this heart-touching article, I decided to convert myself to judaism.
Can somebody help me?
(22) Manjit Singh Rana, 23/7/2004
All communities have a glorious past, we need to dicover.
I like the way the societies have evolved and I take deep interest in the passage of the time and the story of the time. I am more interested to read on the subject of God being ''a verve''if you could tailor something on the subject for me, thanks!
Manjit Singh Rana
(20) Shahadat Saddique, 21/7/2004
My Father in pakistan and grandfathers in India were Jews
My grand mother told me all when i was small,That my grand fathers were Jews.They died 5 years before India was divided into Two countries.In order to save her life and her kids from Muslims in Pakistan she convert into Catholic first and then Full Gospel Christians.In the Family my father only was not been baptized as christian until his death which was two years ago.
1992-94 I have been hunted by the muslims in Pakistan when they learned that I have Jewish background.the Almighty God helped me mirculusly and I escaped from Pakistan by the help of my parents and church.Now I'm in Philippines and have my own family.I want to return back to my origins. I want someone to help me.
(19) Mr. Carroll Peterson, 20/7/2004
My father told us that his family was descended from German Jews that lived in Denmark. My grandfather looked like he was Israel. Many Jewish people in our community traded at my father's dry cleaners, because he looked Jewish.
I am interested in exploring these roots, and am proud to know that I am descended from Abraham.
Thank you for your site.
(18) Anonymous, 19/7/2004
well,i have to admit that i cried when i read this article,my story is very close to that of the bolivian girl :chere...its been 4 years now,that i feel that fire in my heart when i read the psalms,when i dream myself in front of the Kotel,i saw myself twice in death camps,twice in a jewish Khupa,once asking orthodox rabbis ( i had repeated dreams of it)and i still wonder if my ancestors were jewish...God only knows it...and as long as i live,i know ill keep in my soul this question:am i a jewish?, as i keep the burning love and fire for jewish people and Israel.
(17) Laura, 19/7/2004
I am sure I am a Chilean Crypto-Jew
Reading this article was one of the signs I was expecting to continue my research process about my family's real origins. I have always known I am Jewish, but lots of obstacles are risen between me and my conversion, one of them being my fiancée... I hope G-d will help me find the way to do so.
(16) Marjorie, 19/7/2004
I truly enjoyed reading this. So many times I wonder about my own heritage since my geneology shows that my great great grandfather was born in Brazil, but all my family is from Portugal. I am Christian but feel so very Jewish in my soul.I am leaving in Sept for my 4th trip to Israel and I am always overcome at the Western Wall. I always feel like I have come home when the plane lands.
(15) David, 19/7/2004
What a powerful faith we have, that
transmits itself over centuries in
the face of oppression!
I had heard a piece on NPR years ago about The Hidden Jews of New Mexico,
whose ancestors fled the Inquisition, only to have it follow them. Bless them all and let them all find their way
back along with the Jews of Egypt and Syria to bow down at the holy mountain
as it says in the High Holiday prayers.
(14) Helene, 19/7/2004
Very moving and inspirational
(13) Daniel M. Perez, 19/7/2004
Excellent article. Though I myself cannot prove any Jewish link in my maternal line (yet, though I am still feverishly researching), I know, deep in my heart, that the reason why suddenly one day, after being raised Catholic (even if I was not practicing anymore), after living 25 years with no knowledge of Judaism at all, upon hearing just a few words of Torah, a spark was kindled within me. That spark has only increased, and with the help of Hashem, my wife and I will soon undergo our conversions. Maybe one day I will find that link in my mother's family line, maybe I won't; I know, however, that it is there, for there is no other way to explain the allure, the calling, the sense of Home that I have found in Judaism. May this be the beginning of a wonderful time in our history, and may more and more bene anusim, the sons and daughters of the forced converts on old, return to the traditions of their forefathers, and to the arms of the people of Israel.
(12) Gretchen Sporleder Orr, 19/7/2004
I am a more recent "returnee"
I have known about the conversos for many years. Chere's story resonates in my life, albeit in a much more recent time. My parents raised me and my siblings virtually withourt religion, except for a stint at vacation bible school for me around 11 years old. (Now thirty years ago) I was powerfully drawn to the Old Testament stories, and continually questioned the teachers about New Testament teachings. The interpretations of Jesus' teachings made no sense to me, and I made at least one of my teachers very angry and frustrated with my questions. I attended church sporadically for years, always leaving Jesus out of it in my mind. I noticed family cousins had Jewish last names, and asked my family if we had any Jewish ancestry. I was never answered. I began to research Judaism on my own, and felt as though I had come home- and was finding the answers. When I went to college on the East Coast, I met practicing Jews for the first time, and was thrilled. When I came home for vacation, I attended Rosh Hashana services at the temple in nearby Trinidad Colorado, where the nearly ninety year old president of the congregation welcomed me saying that my great-grandfather had been a founding member of the temple! I went back to ask my elderly great aunt, his last surviving child if she could tell me more, and she became extremely offended and exclaimed that her father had been a "fine upstanding Christian." I continued to study and learn on my own for years, and found a cousin who was also drawn to Judaism. Together we found, from her father and another cousin, that our families are indeed Jewish, but that during WWII, it had been hidden and denied in fear. Germans were being discriminated against here in Southern Colorado, and to be both of German ancestry AND Jewish was too much. To date, I continue to study. I found an understanding and supportive husband who is allowing me to raise our children as Jews.
(11) Monica Yizhar, 19/7/2004
For Judy Arroyo and all the people out there asking questions about their roots, please contact: Jewishgen.org, or more specific: email@example.com
(10) Gill, 19/7/2004
English descendant of Sephardim
This was very moving to read. I'm a descendant myself of Sephardic Jews directly on my father's side who came to England, from several generations back. Though I can't relate personally to any Jewish customs coming down the family as they were Jewish too long ago, I have instinctively always been very cagey when asked where my non-English surname came from, would mutter it might be Portuguese and try and change the subject. It felt like a betrayal of the family to mention that my surname could possibly be Jewish in origin.
In the past couple of years or so I've been very drawn towards Jerusalem and Judaism and now I'm planning to come to Israel very shortly to convert to Orthodox Judaism. So even with assimilation some way back, largely Anglo-Saxon forebears and a long personal familiarity with a different previous religion, something very real that I didn't know was there seems to have come down the generations from my Jewish ancestors, been reconnected and sparked into life and now grown into an irresistible desire to be part of the Jewish people.
(9) Anonymous, 19/7/2004
Attention: Leonor Bonilla
First, thanks to aish for another wonderful and inspiring article.
Second, Leonor - you asked if your name Rebbentum has any Jewish origin. I would suggest that it definitely does. I would say that it comes from Rabbainu Tam - who was the grandson of Rashi (a commentator on the Chumash) and a very great Rabbi himself. He lived in the 1200's. He also wrote a commentary on the Chumash as well as he completed the comentary of his grandfather Rashi after Rashi's death. I would suggest that you find out from an Othodox Rabbi more information.
Wishing you all the best!
(8) Christine Sepulveda, 18/7/2004
Seriously, Returning Sephardim
Today, I am the owner of the only wholesale Kosher bakery in Pueblo, Colorado. My research is leading directly to being Jewish. Words cannot describe the pain of separation I have felt all of my life. There were many clues in spite of the fact that we attended Catholic Schools, lived on the same block as the Priests/Nuns and Church bldg. I was in my mid-20's the secretary of a Catholic priest. All of it is behind me now.I have made a conscientious effort to forget it, so much so that this past year when an auntie died, I was asked to say the blessing for the bread and wine, I stated honestly, "I only know it in Hebrew", I was given permission by the alter leader, so I said it. I can't describe the looks and the power of those words in that building. I know you may think even, that it was wrong, but it was a spontaneous moment of owning for my family, who we really are. And in the very entity from where it was taken. My family respects my returning and all of the elders support me totally. They are proud of my asserting my return. My mother passed on in 1991. She knew kosher cooking and even worked in a little restaurant that served kosher. She taught me well. Just last week I found a picture of her carving a holiday roast, and next to it...challah! Many of us, have such a deep need to be once again, embraced by our own people, to support Israel with all of our hearts, and supplication, to love our people and be loved by them. To return, as in days of old. I am in the process of changing to my middle name...
SEPPY's Tastey Breads, Inc.
(7) Anonymous, 18/7/2004
Very interesting topic
I'm a Sephardic Jew (unbroken Jewish line, thank G-d my family was never forced to convert) but the topic of crypto-Jews is extremely interesting to me. I'd like to read more on the subject.
(6) Isabek Cristina Calahorrano Revelo, 18/7/2004
I'm very interested about this article..throug internet I discovered that my last name Calahorrano was adopted by a jew in Spain the city of Calahorra and adopted its lastname after the inquisition. So there is not a lot of Calahorrano in Ecuador or Southamerica. But I found in the jew comunity in La Rioja in Spain my last name was there .. So, that's is one of the reasons that i always had interested by the people of Israel. I did'nt udndersant why, but now I understand. So, I live now in Montreal, and I found a treasure to know the jews origins of my lastname... now I want to know more about the judaism, if you want to communicate with me it will be a pleasure.
(5) Leonor Bonilla, 18/7/2004
...I'm redescoverying my roots too. In the fewest words: About a year ago, I started an investigation (as part of my job) on the Inquisition in México, for a theatre play; by the same time I was studying Torah, and an unstoppable fire started in my heart. I went on deeper with the research, I'm still at it; meanwhile...I´m back. By the way, my grandmother's last name is Rebbentum, can anyone tell me if that is hebrew? Thank you.
(4) Anonymous, 18/7/2004
Yes, it is true.
I liked your article very much.
I live in northern Mexico and since I was 9 years old I have been interested in jews and Judaism .Not knowing what that meant I even thought myself to be one, until I was told I wasn't. My family is not a very religious one, but my grandparents were .It is certainly something very strange. I have only met 2 jewish people in my life. And the first time I met them -not having even known what they were- I felt very,very strongly that I needed to help them,that I wanted to help them. The same feeling I felt the first time I learnt about Holocaust. My city is said to have been founded by Jewish people although historians have denied vehemently that this is not true.However many people talk about this as a real fact.
Thank you for sharing such interesting articles .
(3) Anonymous, 18/7/2004
Jewish roots in a family?
How does one fine out if there are Jewish roots in a family? Strange customs that may be of Jewish origin? Some families may know they are Jews, but some may have forgotten. The more I read about anusim the more I see my family, but my mom says - so what" Maybe you "abuela" or "tatara-abuela" pick-up up these things as a custom from someone else. I believe she doesn't know and all the older generation is gone. So how does one begin to search these things out?
My DH too has strange customs. He is a dark skinned [with white facial features], and just discovered his grandmothers line is from Bohemia and Hungary. The name Cofresi at one time was Kupferschein. How does one fine out?
(2) Alan, 18/7/2004
BEAUTIFUL ARTICLE BUT........
PLEASE REFRAIN FROM USING THE SLANG, DEROGATORY "MARRANOS" IN FURURE ARTICLES. IT MEANS/INTIMATES "PIG-LIKE" IN SPANISH/CASTILLIANO. PLEASE USE ONLY "CONVERSOS" AS IT IS MORE APPROPRIATE AND NEUTRAL.A TREMENDOUSLY TOUCHING AND BEAUTIFUL ARTICLE REPLETE WITH THE ETERNAL FAITH OF ERETZ YISRAEL, WHEREVER AND WHOMEVER THEY ARE. I PRAY THAT OUR CONVERSOS COUSINS, WITH HASHEM'S HELP(AS ALWAYS), WILL GIVE THESE BRAVE, INDOMITABLE PEOPLE THE FURTHER STRENGTH TO "GO ALL THE WAY" BACK TO THEIR GREAT ROOTS AND STRENGHTEN AM YISRAEL IN THE PROCESS. WE MUST ALL CONTINUE TO EMBRACE OUR COUSINS AND LOVE THEM--REGARDLESS OF CULTURE OR COLOR. THESE BRAVE CONVERSOS REINFORCE IN ME THE EVERLASTING OMNIPOTENCE OF HASHEM IN THIS UNIVERSE. THE LORD OF HOSTS, THE ALMIGHTY IS INDEED NUMBER ONE AND THE ONLY ONE. BARUCH HASHEM.
(1) Ana, 18/7/2004
Being from a Anusim(the ones forced to convert)family I could relate deeply to this article. I live in Brazil and come from a region where a large part of the white population is made up of Jewish descendents. The Northeastern part of the country was home for a large number of Portuguese families that ran away from the inquisition in the Iberian peninsula. Both os my parents´ families are Anusim (the ones who were forced to convert). I prefer this term instead of Marranos which means Pig in Spanish. In any event, I went thru the conversion process and became returned to my true faith, one that my soul always longed for. The Jewsih soul is strong and always finds its way back home.
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