Wednesday, 22 June 2011


I strongly recommend that you research a fascinating and tragic period of Jewish history that stretched for more than three hundred years yet is little known.
The story of the Anusim, the Secret Jews, is a valuable and significant, yet rarely discovered, Jewish event that, in its world range, the numbers of Jews killed or affected by it for centuries can be called the longest genocide in world history.
I refer to the fate of the Spanish and Portugese Jews at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition.

The campaign of the Catholic Church to eliminate the Jews went beyond the borders of Spain and Portugal. The plague of Antisemitism swept through north Africa, across the Atlantic to South and Central America, and to the Caribbean in pursuit of the Jews.
Under threat of deportation, torture, and death by being burnt alive at the stake many Jews adopted an overt Christian image while covertly maintaining their Jewish rituals and prayers.

I attended "The Worldwide Awakening of the Descendents of the Secret Jews: Conference . This major conference marked the launch of a new international institute for the study of Anusim (the Secret Jews) at the Netanya Academic College.
Gloria Mound, an impressive English lady who has just moved to Netanya to be close to the college, has researched this subject for decades compiling an impressive two thousand five hundred books and over five thousands documents and files that record a cruel oppression of the Jews that outstrips in time and range anything seen in human history. Her archives will be a precious addition to the research centre but, as one important speakers at the conference pointed out, research is insufficient if it is not linked to practical application. This should apply to the Anusim who should be encouraged to openly adopt their heritage to the extent of making Aliyah to Israel. Early research reveals a startling statistic that as many as six million Portugese were descended from Anusim (Secret Jews).

Even today many thousands of Spanish speakers on three continents are fearful or wary of announcing their Jewish heritage. Others are not aware that they have Jewish blood in their veins as this part of their history has been kept from them for generations out of fear, and out of shame.
The Spanish Government is loath to open its official archives to researchers of this horrendous period in Spanish history. The Vatican, similarly, keep documents and records secreted away in the Vatican vaults.

Increasingly, though, Anusim people are making their way to Israel to fulfill a new life that had been forbidden for hundreds of years to their family. And here lies another problem. Israeli authorities do not know how to receive these people. Are they truly Jewish and welcome in the Jewish state under the Law of Return? Or are they, as they publicly claimed, really Catholics?  The feeling at the conference was that Israel should welcome these people home with open arms. They have suffered centuries of persecution for holding secretly to their faith and it should not be down to local politicians or bureaucrats to question the ambition of these people to come and live as free Jews in a state of their own.

I knew about the Spanish Inquisition but never fully appreciated the scope and size of the persecution of the Jews. I read a book tantilisingly called "The Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean" when I was on vacation that opened my eyes to this episode of history. Now this conference revealed more amazing stories and detail.
Please research this rich and dramatic story and be prepared to be moved by the human tragedies, tales of ingenuity, and learn about a period of Jewish history long forgotten but slowly being discovered. The effect of its telling will affect Israel, the Jewish people, and Christian conscience.

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