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April 4, 2003

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 4, 2003 PAGE 15 500 years after the Inquisition, Spaniard find way back to Jerusalem By Jerome Soco|ovsky MADRID (JTA)--When Nuria Guasch's grandfather was on his deathbed, he called her over to tell her something he had never told anyone in his 88 years of life. "I want you to reflect on Your heritage - and think for Yourself," Guasch recalls him saying. "And then maybe you'll have the answer to all those questions you were asking." And then he had a final re- quest: Don't let the hospital's Roman Catholic priest into the room. As a child growing up in a village near Barcelona, Guasch had wondered about her family's unusual habits, like putting bread and salt on the table every Friday night. Since most everybody else in Spain was Roman Catholic, she just assumed they were bizarre customs from the Spanish island of Mallorca, where her family came from. But, as her grandfather had predicted, the answers did Come later. It turned out her grandpar- ents were from among the "Chuetas," or Maliorcans of Jewish origin accused of being Crypto-Jews - or Hidden Jews - for centuries after the expul- Sion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Many Chuetas married among themselves until the early 20th century because of Continued discrimination. Today, the 49-year-old School principal from Barcelona is ready to reclaim the faith of her forebears. In a few weeks, she says, she Will finalize her conversion to Judaism before a Belt Din, or Jewish court, in Israel. More than five centuries af- ter the expulsion of Jews by pthe monarchs of Spain and ortugai, descendants of those Who converted to Roman Ca- tholicism to escape the pun- Jews who returned from Mo- that"we are not a missionary ishment of death increasingly rocco in the last 50 years- are organization. are examining their roots, not open to Marrano descen- We'renotouttheretobring During the more than 100 dants, every one of them back." AI- years of pogroms that started "Sephardi Jews ought to be though Amishav's director in the late 14th century, more more sensitive to Marranos, prefers to talk about "return" than 100,000Jewsarebelieved but I'm not sure they are," he rather than conversion, the to have converted to Chris- said. organization still advises tianity. Reform Jewish leaders are Anousim to undergo an Or- But many continued prac- not the only ones reaching thodoxconversionto"remove ticingJewish rituals in secret, out to the Anousim. any doubts" about their In Spanish, the converted The Amishav Institute in Jewishness. Jews were known as Jerusalem was founded in the Spaniards in general are Conversos, or"thosewhocon- 1970s by Rabbi Eliyahu becoming increasinglyinter- verted." However, the secret Avichail, who embarked on a ested in their Jewish history, Jewswere known as Marranos, search for the Ten Lost Tribes despite a Iongtradition ofanti- or"accursed.'Althoughthere and who helped convert the Semitismandofficialdiscrimi- is some debate about whether now-famous Crypto-Jews of nation that lasted through the the label Marranos should be Belmonte, Portugal. 1939-1975church-backeddic- considered derogatory, some The organization recently tatorship of Gen. Francisco today prefer Anousim, the worked with the B'nai Franco. Hebrew term for"forced con- Menashe tribe in India- many There has been a surge of verts." Their descendants are of whom have since madeinterest in Israeli and Jewish found not only on the Iberian aliyah - and "Lost Jews" in culture since the establish- Peninsula, but also in former other parts of the world. Now mentoftieswith Israelin 1986. Spanish and Portuguese colo- it is turning its efforts back to And an increasing number nies in South and Central the Anousim in Spain. of Spaniards - though still a America and even in the "We the Jewish people have very small group consider Southwestern United States. a moral and historical obliga- themselves Jewish, or partly Brazilian-born Rabbi tion to these people," says the Jewish by virtue of their Jew- JacquesCukierkornoftheNew director of Amishav, Michael ish ancestry. ReformTempleinKansasCity, Freund, who was an aide to Several years ago, Pete Mo recalls that as a child his former Israeli Prime Minister Bonnin, a Barcelona writer of family had a servant from the Benjamin Netanyahu. Chueta origin, wrote "Sangre rural interior of Brazil. .Freund, who visited Judia," or "Jewish Blood," a One Friday night, she saw Mallorca and Iberia in recent book in which he compiled a them kindling Sabbath monthstotalktodescendants, list of 3,500 surnames of Jew- candles, andshesaid,"Oh, you estimates that up to 20,000 ish origin, using documents light candles too!" Later, at people in Mallorca alone are found in old Jewish neighbor- the Reform movement's He- identifiable as Chuetas, while hoodsandInquisitionarchives. brew Union College, hewrote hundreds of thousands of The book's first printing his thesis on the Crypto-Jew- people in the Iberfan penin- ish community in Brazil. sula and South America can "For every Jew in Brazil, be considered descendants of there may be potentially a Anousim. hundred peoplewho have Jew- However, Freund urges cau- ish blood, whoare descendants tion with his own estimates. of Marranos,"saidCukierkom, "Not all descendants of who has helped Marrano com- Anousim are necessarily munities in Brazil get orga- aware of their heritage," he nized, says. "And of those that are, Cukierkorn also has writ- not all of them are necessar- ten a guidebook to Judaism in ily interested in returning to Spanish and has traveled to Judaism. Some might be Spain to convert several Jews happy to remain Catholic here, partly because he feels while just finding out more that Jewish communities in about who their ancestors Spain- dominated bySephardi were." Freund is quick to add Bet Chaim dedicates new Torah photo by Richard H. Gleick L For the second time in five weeks, an Orlando synagogue has dedicateda new Torah. n February, it was Congregation Ahavas Yisrael; Congregation Bet Chaim followed photo courtesy of Shlomo Blass, Students attend a Spanish-language uipan in Jerusalem run by Amisha, an organization that seeks to help descen- dents of forced converts in Spain to return to Judaism. sold out within 15 days, he In the old Jewish quarter of says. Cordoba, near a statue of the But Bonnin says he told an great Jewish thinker Amishav rabbi that it's unreal- Maimonides, an old man istic to expect mass conver- guards the entrance to the sions on the scale of its Indian freshly restored synagogue. program, especially in HesayshissurnameisPeres Mallorca. Peres, which according to "You have to change your Spanish tradition means that whole way of life to do this, bothhisfatherandmotherwere and it's already difficult namedPeres. But he adds that enough" being a Chueta, the even his grandmothers were writer says. named Peres, "so actually I'm Nevertheless, he feels "cul- Peres'PeresPeresPeres."Asked turally Jewish" and passion- if there are many people in ately defends the State of Is- Cordobawhoareawareoftheir rael against its many detrac- Jewish roots, he says: "Half of tors in Spain. Cordoba is Jewishl" For Israeli :servist, keeping cit" informed and calm is key By Rachel Pomeranee manning phones - - answer- low Israel to intercept incom- ing civilian questions from ing missiles. NEWYORK(JTA)--Around how to protect their pets to Personal emergency equip- 9 o'clock Wednesday night what to do if their children ment also has been improved. (March 19), Jeff Kaye got a resist wearing gas masks - fi- That's due in part to funds phone call tapping him for nalizing contingency plans raised through the federation Israel's reserve duty. with hospitals, fire and police system's Israel Emergency The 43-year-old Scot, who brigades, and helping to for- Campaign, Kaye says, noting madealiyah22yearsago, asked rnulate policy, rotating beepers for the deaf his daughter Adi, 13, and son For his part, Kaye is corn- and gas masks for children. Eldan, 17, to help retrieve his posing public messages.For Kaye, who has been army uniform from its perch "The rumors and misinfor- working professionally with in the closet and pack his bag mationanddisinformationare the Israel Emergency Cam- for an early morning depar- all over," Kaye says. paign, it's "quite fitting that I ture. For example, there already should be here at this point as In a phone interview with have been several cases in part of the" Israel Defense JTAonMarch20fromhisarmy whichIsraelis, presumablyout Force, he says. base, Kayeadmitshisimmedi- of panic or confusion, prema- Meanwhile, among his ate reaction was a "sunken- turely injected themselves troop, "there's this spirit of hearted feeling." But soon af- with atropine, an antidote for camaraderie which comes ter, he said,"I realized that the chemical weapons that comes from the responsibility of the greatimportofwhatIhadtodo in Israelis' gas mask kits. tasks at hand," Kaye says. far outweighs my personal Atropine causes severe de- "When it's your job to deal comfort."Abig part of living in hydration, with a civilian population, you Israeliscontributingtoit, says It's up to Kaye's group to have to be composed" and Kaye, director of financial re- provide"the right information "speakwithauthorityandcon- source development for the at the right time," he says. fidence."Apparently that goes Jewish Agency for Israel, an The high sensitivity of the for personal business, too. overseas partner of the federa- Home Front Command's de- Members of his unit are fre- tionsystemthathandlesIsrael's tection equipment meansquently on their cell phones, immigration and absorption, those bases will be among the reassuring their children that "Whether at my desk" at the first to learn of any trouble, they'll be home soon. JewishAgencyor' .vearingthis That has created a sense of Kaye spoke March 20 with olive green uniform," he said, tension among Kaye's unit. his daughter - who was more pitchingin for the Jewish state "Everyone is very much on rattled than his son by Kaye's "is reallywhy I'm in this coun- high alert," he says. departure - asking about her try in the first place, why I But Kaye says Home Front first day toting her gas mask came here." Called up along Command is a "well-oiled toschool. with 12,000 other reserve sol- machine" with elaborate co- Adi said it was "a pain" to diers for various duties, Kaye ordination, carry the cumbersome card- is stationed in the army's "Allofthesoldiershavebeen board boxaround, Kaye says. Home Front command, briefedand know exactlywhat Yet"personal concerns and while he couldn't disclose their assignments are," he issues are not in the forefront his location for security rea- says."We seem to be very pre- of our thoughts at the mo- *uit on Friday, March 21 with a special Torah dedication service prior to the regular sons, he said he was near a pared for all likelihoods." In a ment," Kaye says. ing service, densely populated part of the conference call Friday with Rather, it, s"gettingthrough o-lJr" Ken Hanson, a ]unct professor at the University of Central Florida and a member leaders of the American Jew- the next night without Israel rrC ngregation Bet Chaim, had the honor of leading the weekly service and so was the country's center. "That's wherewe'reneeded ish federation system, Kaye being attacked, and future r?t to readaparsha from the new Torah. In celebration ofthe occasion Hanson invited most," he says, since popula- reiterated that point, night ." "Everybody wants to uu the members of the congregation, especially the children, onto the bimah and a# tion centers are likely targets. Kaye stressed the military be at home and be with their 'prOximately half of the attendees acted the invitation. The Home Front Command advances Israel has made since families, says Kaye, who does Steve Co ation Bet Cha:m satd followm the ceremon i I hn, president of Congreg " "," " g Y, is charged with telling civilians the 1991 Persian Gulf War. not yet know when he will be [ [ ] n~e re a small congregation and we were able to raise the money internally on short how to prepare for and respond "I think we're light years allowed to go home. v~lce It's" " n . . , a tribute to the commttment of our membersht ere due to Stdl ],] -" P- to an attack, and will serve as ahead of where we w,f there s a role to be I,I ~i~"/~.N HANSON is the first to read from Congregation Bet Chaim's newly- rescue squads if need be. the advaflced warning system played in a time of conflict, I ~cated To t bers of the con re ation follow the parsha v d bl "wantto | rahwhilemem g g " For now, Kaye's unit of a thatwouldbemadea a'a e. be where l can be use- . .