Our Mission to Reconnect Bnei Anousim and the Jewish World

On the 13th October, over 300 political, diplomatic, academic, religious and Jewish organizational leaders from Israel and abroad called for the State of Israel and the Jewish world to seek a reconnection with the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities (known as Bnei Anousim, Marranos, and Conversos) at an historic conference and the official launch of the Knesset Caucus for the Reconnection with the Descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Communities at the Israeli Parliament.

As the Director-General of the Caucus and President of Reconectar, an organization dedicated to strengthening our people by facilitating a reconnection between the Bnei Anousim and the Jewish world, I spoke after Member of Knesset Robert Ilatov, Chairman of the Caucus, had opened the event.

The author ddressing the Knesset Conference Photo: Jeffrey P. Worthington
The author addressing the Knesset Conference (Jeffrey P. Worthington)

I said the following:

Shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higyanu lazman hazeh  (Who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion).

 

It is highly appropriate to start with this blessing, because today is surely an historic moment.

 

For many in this room who are the descendants of those persecuted and forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal, we know that it would have been impossible for our ancestors to have even dreamed of this moment.

 

Here we are present in the Knesset of the reestablished Jewish State and talking about helping our brothers and sisters reconnect with their people.

 

This building and the state around it is a reminder that the Jewish People are indeed the ‘eternal nation’ and we never let historical circumstances prevent us from achieving the seemingly impossible.

 

As Theodore Herzl once wrote: “If you will it, it is no dream.”

Many people in this room and around the world may think that the mission which we set before us today, the reconnection with the Bnei Anusim, is a mere dream.

 

However, today, thanks to technological advances, like the Internet, DNA and Genealogical advances, we have a window of opportunity for this historic reconnection.

 

For us to succeed, we need to mobilize two communities to the existence and acceptance of each other.

 

Firstly, we need to place the reconnection with the Bnei Anusim on the agenda of the Jewish world and the State of Israel, which I hope we are beginning to do here today.

 

I am delighted to see so many representatives of Jewish organizations in the room.

 

And I hope that all of you will ensure that this issue stays on your agenda because it has so many positive ramifications, demographic, political, diplomatic and economic.

 

Secondly, we need to send a message to the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities, whether in the United States, Latin America or Europe, that if you seek a reconnection with the Jewish world, we will be there to help, guide and embrace you.

 

Our people were forcibly ripped apart many generations ago and now is the time to rectify this historic injustice.

 

It is a moral imperative and according to many rabbis throughout the ages, including Rav Yosef Caro, Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Aharon Soloveichik, also a halachic mandate.

In a few weeks, we will be launching the website of Reconectar, our organization.

 

The idea is that we will help facilitate the reconnection for any Bnei Anusim who seek it.

 

Once they say they would like to reconnect with the Jewish People, they will fill out a questionnaire and tell us the level of the reconnection they seek.

 

Today’s technology allows us to build a very specific response to each individual, according to their needs.

And this is what we intend to do with your help.

 

We hope that political, diplomatic, academic, religious and Jewish organizational leaders will join us in assisting this reconnection, as well as individual Jews around the world who are ready to extend their hand in fraternal welcome.

 

In the Yom Kippur Machzor of the Western Sephardim, minhag London, we say during a Mi Sheberach prayer immediately after Kol Nidre, for “A todos nossos Irmaos, prezos pela Inquisicao – (For our brothers and sisters held in the prisons of The Inquisition)

 

It can legitimately be asked why we still say this prayer even today almost two hundred years since the Inquisition was formally closed.

 

I believe that we still say this prayer because while the Inquisition may not be physically active, its effect carries on today with millions of people still cut off from their people.

 

Although we can not reverse the suffering endured under the Inquisition, or bring back those murdered by it, we can begin to free those still psychologically imprisoned by it because of the centuries of oppression felt by their ancestors.This is our mission and our goal.”

Knesset Conference for the Reconnection with the Descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Communities (Jeffrey P. Worthington)

I hope that in the coming weeks we will launch Reconectar, and it can become the focal point for a new global movement to facilitate this historic reconnection.

It will happen, and if we will it, it is no dream.

About the Author
Ashley Perry (Perez) is President of Reconectar and Director General of the Knesset Caucus for the Reconnection with the Descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Communities. He was adviser to Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs from April 2009 to January 2015. He has also worked with several other government ministers, Members of Knesset and many of the leading international Jewish, Zionist and Hasbara organizations.
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