Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bnei Anusim identity

The following letter appeared in The Jerusalem Post on Sept. 24, 2012:
I read with interest the article "Crisis of identity" (Frontlines Sept 21) and would like to point out that the State of Israel uses the criteria under the Law of Return that anyone who is one quarter Jewish (i.e. has one Jewish grandparent) or who is married legally to a Jew can be considered Jewish for the purpose of aliyah. 
There is currently a problem in relation to the Bnei Anusim (Marranos or Secret Jews) who are "coming out of the closet" in many areas of the Spanish-Portuguese speaking world.  Many still regard themselves as Jews and want to reunite with their people, but are not accepted as Jews by the Rabbinate and consequently are denied residence in Israel under the Law of Return. 
This is a terrible inconsistency, some of these people have adhered to their Jewish identity for 500 years under the most oppressive of circumstances.  We owe it to them that they be allowed to make aliyah at least under the same conditions as the residents of the former Soviet Union and other minority groups such as the Bnei Israel from India, Ethiopian Jews and the Falash Mura. 
Jack Cohen

The following letter appeared in The Jerusalem Post Magazine, Sept. 28, 2012:
We would like to congratulate Rabbi Stewart Weiss (In plain language, Sept 14, 2012) for addressing the issue of the Marranos.
In his piece he makes the statement that "Columbus set sail for the New World, declaring on his triumphal exit that none of the lands he would discover were to be used for the Jew or the non-believer."  In fact, there is much evidence to the contrary, to indicate that Columbus himself was a Marrano or Secret Jew. 
There is no space here to go into all the evidence here, but consider this; 1. In his letters to his family and friends he wrote a small design in the top corner of the letters which puzzled his biographers, but has been found to be a Hebrew abbreviation for Baruch hashem (God's blessing) used by Marranos to communicate between themselves; 2.  He made mistakes in the Spanish that have been attributed to his Genoese (Italian) origin, but in fact have been shown by linguists to be of Catalan origin; 3. Can it be coincidence that he sailed in 1492, the very same year of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and that many Secret Jews indeed were able to escape Spain and the Inquisition as a result of his discovery of the New World. 
In fact, there is an exhibition pointing out the Jewish connections of Columbus (Christobal Colon) that was assembled by Elie Schalit and that was opened in Madrid by the King and Queen of Spain in 1992 on the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and toured to five other Spanish cities.
Casa Shalom, the Institute for Marrano-Anusim Studies, has donated its extensive library on this subject to Netanya Academic College to form the basis of the International Institute for the Study of Secret Jews (Anusim).  Elie Schalit has also donated his Columbus Exhibition to the College and the College is planning to construct a Columbus Center on land donated by the Netanya Municipality.  As part of this development it is also proposed to establish a Collection of Sephardic and Anusim Music. If any readers are interested in assisting these programs please contact the College or Casa Shalom via their respective websites.
Yours sincerely
Jack Cohen, Netanya and Neil Davis, Herzliya (London) Members of Boards of Casa Shalom and the IISSJ


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