Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Latin American visit to NAC

On Tues 6 September, the Netanya Academic College (NAC) hosted Ambassadors and Diplomatic Attaches of the Central and South American countries (Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and Chile). This was a very important visit because in most of those countries there is a community of secret Jews or "anusim" (Hebrew for "forced") and this was an opportunity to find cultural bridges between Israeli Jews and those countries.

Rabbi Moshe Pinchuk, Head of the Jewish Heritage Center at NAC, welcomed the visitors and gave some introductory remarks. He then introduced Prof. Michael Corinaldi, Head of the new “International Institute for the Study of Secret Jews (Anusim)”, who spoke briefly about the subject of the “Secret Jews,” formerly referred to as “marranos.” Prof. Corinaldi pointed out that the terms "marrano", and "chueta" used on the Balearic Islands, are derogatory terms and urged those present to stop using these terms to refer to the descendents of conversos, those Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholic Christianity in Spain and Portugal. The term "anusim" is preferred. Many of the descendents of these former Jews spread around the world, particularly in what were then Spanish and Portuguese colonies, including the countries represented there.

Mrs. Gloria Mound, Senior Advisor to the Head of the Inst., spoke briefly about her experiences starting 37 years ago visiting the Balearic Islands, where she subsequently did ground-breaking research on the descendents of the Secret Jews living there. She gave an example of a Brazilian girl who wished to marry in the UK a Cohen, normally forbidden to marry a convert, and Mrs. Mound was able to prove to the Rabbinic authorities that she was Jewish according to their criteria. Another case is pending of a girl from New Mexico who is a descendent of a converso family from Formentera (one of the smallest Balearic Islands) who wishes to marry an Israeli. These are only two examples of hundreds of such cases that Mrs. Mound has handled over the years.

Rabbi Pinchuck then presented the program of the Jewish Heritage Center and his specific course that is designed to familiarize diplomatic staff that serve in Israel with Jewish practices.

Following a reception the representatives were taken on a tour of the NAC and of the City of Netanya.

The Facebook page of the Inst. for Studies of Secret Jews is at:
Please feel free to visit the page and add anything of relevance, particularly if you can write in Spanish or Portuguese.


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