The Jewish World may actually be 5-10 million people bigger
Finding lost Jews has been one of the most tantalizing mysteries of Jewish history. Now the ‘crypto-Jews’ are beginning to reemerge.
By Raphael Poch
One of the more tantalizing mysteries of Jewish history is the possibility of the discovery of lost Jews.
Since the time of Sennacherib in the 7th century BCE, the question of lost Jews has been one that has received a lot of attention. Today, with the return of Jews from all over the world to the State of Israel, the subject has never been more relevant.
According to various genetic/DNA studies conducted over the past decade, 20% of men in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) have Jewish genetic ancestry. In Brazil, estimates are that 5-10 million people are descendants of so-called Bnei Anousim – descendants of Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity. This phenomenon spans the world, potentially reaching millions more.
Arutz Sheva spoke to both organizations about the work that they are doing to reconnect Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent to their Jewish roots.
Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit, has launched a new initiative to help Spanish and Portuguese descendants of Bnei Anousim reconnect with their Jewish Heritage, while Reconectar, which has an Israeli base but is mainly located in South and Central America, has an ongoing outreach liaison program with whom members of the community can contact in order to learn more about their heritage.
Michael Freund, Founder and Director of Shavei Israel, told Arutz Shevaabout the challenges of discovering who is a descendant of the Bnei Anousim.
“More than five centuries after Portuguese Jewry was compelled to convert to Catholicism, there are of course many challenges to identifying people with a Bnei Anousim background. There are some who have family trees stretching back over the centuries which prove that their ancestors only married among themselves down through the generations, but in most cases it involves more detective work.”
“There are a lot of clues that we need to uncover. People may not have a heritage stating that they were Jewish, but their name may signify it, and some of the customs they keep may point to it. We do not have a 100% answer yes or no, which is why if people want to fully return to Judaism, they have to undergo a conversion, but according to a response published by Rabbi Soloveitchik, they do not need to say a blessing on the conversion.”
In an effort to help those who may think that they are descended from Jewish ancestry, Shavei Israel has published an online book that will help people who think they are descendants, identify some of the tell-tale signs. The unprecedented 109-page guide is aimed at assisting the millions of people in Brazil, Portugal and elsewhere who may have a long-lost Jewish lineage reconnect to their roots.
According to press release by Shavei Israel “the book covers all the major questions someone at the beginning
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