web analytics
July 2, 2015 / 15 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Welcoming Anusim Back Into The Family


For the past several years I have been involved with the modern-day miracle of the return of Jews to their ancient heritage following 500 years of exile. The people I refer to are known in Hebrew as anusim, a more positive term than the one often used – Marranos.

We encounter the Hebrew term anus (anusim in the plural) in the Haggadah, when we read of Jacob’s descent into Egypt from his home in Canaan against his will but at the determination of the Almighty. The word therefore refers to being forced to do something other than one’s own desire or plan.

History records the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and the Inquisition by the Catholic Church, first in Europe and then across the Atlantic Ocean into South America and Mexico.

Thanks to my involvement with modern-day anusim, I often ask myself how I would have acted if fate had placed me there 500 years ago. Would I have given up my Jewish traditions and accepted another religion in order to save my life? Would I have been strong enough in my commitment to Judaism to totally refuse the faith being forced on me? Or would I have lived a dual life, Christian on the outside and Jewish on the inside, in constant fear of exposure and subsequent torture at the hands of the Inquisition? Would I have sought refuge by fleeing to another country, hoping it would prove a haven of safety?

Those were the decisions that had to be made in each individual case by the ancestors of today’s anusim.

In a remarkable turn of events, people today – primarily in South American countries and in the Southwest United States – are discovering they are the descendants of Jewish families who lived in the Iberian Peninsula 500 years ago.

Stop a moment and consider how you would react if one morning, on your way to minyan, you somehow received information that you really were not Jewish at all, but that your ancestors had hidden from you the fact that your were descended from crypto Jews who assumed the identity of Jews only to save their lives. And now, living in a free society, you have the opportunity to return to the religion and traditions of your ancestors who had no real interest in becoming Jews those hundred of years ago but did so only to survive.

That is exactly the situation faced by anusim. Somehow they learn of their ancestors in Spain some 500 years ago. It is hard for me to understand the dynamics of this discovery. I have no idea why their parents had not shared this secret with them. Consider that for 500 years, succeeding generations had known they were anusim – until it was decided that the information was now to be kept hidden from this modern generation.

And yet, in many different and even strange ways, the younger generation has been learning the secret. Just in time, too – because if the truth had not started coming out, this chapter of Jewish history in their families likely would have been lost forever.

Imagine you are one of these young people making such a potentially life-changing discovery. In many cases, it’s a trip to Israel, often taken as a “good Christian to visit sites in the Holy Land” during which a feeling of “returning home” overcomes you and upon your return you share that feeling with your elderly parent who finally reveals the truth to you.

You now face quite a predicament. In most cases the decision made is not to abandon the faith of one’s upbringing but rather to take an interest in learning some things about those Jewish ancestors of yours.

Based on my experiences, I would estimate that about 10 percent of those who discover they are anusim decide to embrace Judaism – a return from a 500-year exile.

Doing so, however, is far from a simple matter.

First, one must begin the difficult process of studying what it means to be a Jew. An entirely new way of life looms. A complete changeover will be anticipated. And if such a decision is made, the “fun” really starts:

You face concern from other family members that you’ve “gone crazy.” You are hardly given an encouraging welcome into the Jewish world. You are told you must undergo a full conversion and that it will take a long time. And then you learn about Jewry’s many streams and movements – some of them ready to embrace you, others more likely to push you away.

I continue to meet with and guide those anusim who sincerely wish to return to their ancestral faith. Many of my colleagues try to dissuade me from dedicating myself to this cause. And I’ll admit there are times I entertain the idea of giving up.

But whenever I feel myself about to succumb to discouragement, I ask myself how I could not continue to be a part of the miracle taking place before my very eyes.

There is hope for the future of sincere anusim. They shall return to us and we shall be the stronger for that.

Rabbi Simcha Green, a musmachof Yeshiva University, is a pulpit rabbi and Jewish educator who is presently working on a book on Rav Yosef Soloveitchik’s explanation of the blessing “shelo asani isha.” He can be contacted at rabbi.green@yahoo.com.

About the Author: Rabbi Simcha Green, a musmachof Yeshiva University, is a pulpit rabbi and Jewish educator who is presently working on a book on Rav Yosef Soloveitchik's explanation of the blessing "shelo asani isha." He can be contacted at rabbi.green@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Welcoming Anusim Back Into The Family”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
ISIS leads captured Egyptian Copts in death march.
Analysis: ISIS Will Go Down to Defeat in Egypt
Latest Indepth Stories
wedding cake

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

ISIS leads captured Egyptian Copts in death march.

Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.

Dr. Michael J. Salamon

Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly

Gerstenfeld-070315

What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?

Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach

The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi

The president described the attack as “an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…”

“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.

And whereas at the outset the plan was that Iran would have to surrender most of its centrifuges, it will now be able to retain several thousand.

Now oil independent, US no longer needs its former strategic alliances with Gulf States-or Israel

In addition to the palace’s tremendous size it was home to the “hanging gardens,” which were counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Rather than asserting Jewish rights on Temple Mount or protecting Jewish lives Israel chooses soccer

Nothing in the NEW Paris Proposal differs much from what was offered by Olmert and rejected by Abbas

No longer will delegitimization efforts go unchallenged. That’s a silence we will continue to break.

More Articles from Rabbi Simcha Green

For the past several years I have been involved with the modern-day miracle of the return of Jews to their ancient heritage following 500 years of exile. The people I refer to are known in Hebrew as anusim, a more positive term than the one often used – Marranos.

When I was asked to assume a pulpit in San Jose, California, about a year ago, I was not quite aware of the many new experiences I would find here.

Different minhagim have already been established and I leave it to each community to follow the lead and guidance of its teachers.

As the reader can see, there’s plenty to keep us busy here. But Portland has a long and rich Jewish history.

No longer would I have my choice of dozens of shiurim each week at tens of locations, morning, noon, and evening. If I desired such a class I would have to attend the one that I was going to give.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/welcoming-anusim-back-into-the-family/2010/12/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: