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Similar issue, different approaches By David Ramírez


Conversos and Maskilím



Conversos and Maskilím: Similar issue, different approaches
A Short Survey and Report By David Ramírez I. INTRODUCTION The present article is on the subject of modern-day Conversos, that is, the descendents of Spanish and Portuguese Jews forced (physically or under circumstance) to convert to Christianity from 1391 to 1497. This article will attempt to (1) cover the identification of Conversos (that is who can be considered Jewish under the requirements of Jewish Law), (2) the challenges faced for their inclusion into the Jewish fold, and (3) the challenges for their further education within Jewish tradition to cement their identity and sense of selves. Numerically ever since the forced conversions, Conversos have remained the largest number of Jews in the Diaspora to the present day, perhaps being a four-fold to the current number of known Jews. Because of this number there have been large groups who have afforded to keep their Jewish lineage, independent to the fact that most are comfortable in their current cultural or religious identities, which may or may not relate to Judaism. As there has been an upsurge of general interest in Judaism among the Hispanic and Lusitan peoples, this article will also attempt to cover the issue of sefeqím (pron. se-feh-keem) and gerím (pron. ger-eem), that is persons whose Jewish lineage cannot be ascertained (safeq) and those who have no genealogical ties with the Jewish people but who sincerely wish adopt our Laws and customs and become converts (gerím). The features of this article will be helpful, as it clarifies certain things unknown to the public in regards to Jewish status, as well as a different view of Converso history processed via Sephardic tradition. II. DEFINING JEWRY World Jewry has gone through seismic changes for the past 200 years, and because of this the current landscape hardly resembles the world where Conversos were returning prior to that period. This development has limited the number of resources and solutions to the issue. The current circumstances necessitate new approaches, but we must first come to understand the Jewish world as it stands today, how it perceives itself, and from that point analyze the different roads and outcomes these particular circumstances may affect the development of decision-making for Conversos wishing to return. Although Jews belong to and come from different cultural and geographic backgrounds, Jewish populations can basically be described as Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi. Mostly originating from the Mediterranean basin, the non-Ashkenazi portion can be divided into Sephardim (Spanish-Portuguese Jews), Maghrebím (North-African Jews), Must‘arabím (Arab Jews), Mizrahím, (non-Arab Middle-Eastern Jews), Temaním (Yemenite Jews), Italki (Italian Jews) and Romaniote (Greek Jews). However, due to reasons of cultural preponderance by


the former, the latter have assimilated in a lesser or higher degree to any of the soon to be described situations in Ashkenazi Jewry. Up until the modernization of Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century, Ashkenazi tradition was basically divided between two different groups, namely the Hassidím (pron. hass-ee-deem) and Mitnagdím (pron. mit-nag-deem). As their Christian neighbors, Hassidím tended more to the more ascetic, mystical and exclusionary aspects of religion, and the Mitnagdím were more moderate and traditional in their approach while accepting a level of acculturation with its surroundings. The ideas of the Enlightenment in Europe created yet another divisions in Ashkenazi Jewry, which came to be referred as Maskilím (from the word “Haskaláh,” i.e. intellect, also loosely translated as “enlightenment” in modern Hebrew), and to which the Conservative, Reform and Secular blocks of Ashkenazi Jewry owe their roots. While Jews belonging to the Conservative and Reform movements reformulated and omitted certain principles of Rabbinic tradition, Secular Jewry represented a complete assimilation to the values and ideals of non-Jews, while remaining “Jews” only in name. From the latter part of the 19th c. until the present, the Hassidím and Mitnagdím became to be referred to as “Orthodox.” Yet, it is the obscurantist and dogmatic philosophies of the Hassidím that have become dominant in the contemporary environment of Orthodox Jewry, attempting to control the rest with an iron fist and curtailing the autonomic freedoms of Jewish communities worldwide. For reasons of simplicity and legality (halakháh), I shall keep the Ashkenazím grouped into “Orthodox” and Maskilím; the Orthodox being a variant of Rabbinic tradition to a lesser or higher degree, the Maskilím being a separation thereof. In non-Ashkenazi traditions, it is common to find the coexistence of observant and nonobservant individuals, while running the community within the frame of Rabbinic tradition. Neither Sephardic, Must‘arabí, Mizrahi, Maghrebí, Temaní, Italki, or Romaniote traditions suffered such divisions overall, and kept a homogenous stance toward Jewish intellect and spirituality. Until the latter part of the 19th century, the poles of influence were between Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions; the Ashkenazi being the point of reference for Eastern-European and Germanic Jewries, and the Sephardi being the point of reference for the rest. During the 20th century, because (1) much of the Sephardic rabbinical leadership made a conscious decision to integrate with Ashkenazi Orthodoxy (in any of its variants), (2) the loss of the historical communities due to migration or war, (3) the near-complete decimation of Sephardic Jewry in Western Europe and the Balkans by Nazi-Germany, (4) lack of organization and purpose, has eventually led to the near-disappearance of Sephardic scholarship and leadership. Today, most of the non-Ashkenazi traditions remain so in form, while running the entire gamut of religious and political existence through the ideologies and prerogatives created by the Ashkenazi Secular and Orthodox Jewries.


Until fairly recent, the subject of Conversos and its place within the Jewish community had remained under the realm and administration of Sephardic Jewry. However, since the disappearance of Sephardic leadership and the establishment of the “State of Israel” the issue has been relegated to the books of history, or forgotten by the general unawareness in regards to Sephardic history, in which the issue of Conversos had been an important component in the general culture and composition of Sephardim. In other words, while for Ashkenazi Jewry the subject of Conversos seems distant and in the past with no present implications, for Sephardim it had been an immediate and ever present reality. For sake of fluidity, and not to confuse things any further, the people for whom one will use the term “Conversos” are the ones one should refer to as halakhically Jewish in terms of lineage; otherwise, terms like “people who claim to be Conversos” or who “think are C” or “alleged/presumptive C” shall be ascribed. For the present article, I have purposefully chosen to use the term “Converso(s)” over the current more popular “’anús(ím),” as the former points more accurately to the group of Jews belonging to a specific period of history, while the latter is merely a legal status applicable to any Jew who is passively or actively coerced to live as non-Jews in any period of Jewish history. As it shall be demonstrated further down, the Maskilím can also belong to the status of ’anusím. What will be described as “Jewries” refers to the collective of Jews belonging to the different expressions of Judaic identities as perceived at present, independently of their commitment to Rabbinic tradition, the one defining determinant of Jewish status within the collective of Israel’s people-hood, otherwise referred to as ‘Kelal Israel.’ Both trends present different challenges and difficulties for halakhically responsible Jews, and the responses this elicits from the Conversos seeking to reassert their Jewish commitment in public. All these have been varied according to their interactions they have had with modern-day Jewries. III. THE CONVERSOS IN THE 21ST CENTURY After its establishment and during the Spanish Inquisition, Conversos developed in varied ways in response to the discriminatory policies adopted by the Church and the Spanish government. Professor and Rabbi José Faur has most expertly expressed this development in his paper “Four Classes of Conversos.1” This discrimination, besides the Jewish particularity against intermarriage, made possible to keep the groups of Conversos culturally homogenous and ethnically distinct from non-Jews. Since the disarticulation of the Spanish Inquisition, however, the Conversos left being an identifiable group within Hispanic and Lusitan societies, as Jews and Judaism left being a heretical concern in the eyes of the new governments both within Iberia and Iberoamérica. It must be noted too that the educational institutions of Spain, Portugal and Latin America sought to erase this dark chapter of the Inquisition period, the Spanish Inquisition being the


most far-reaching political body in the Modern Age. As a result the memory of it has nearly faded in the annals of current historical consciousness among the populace. Already through the 16th c. and hereon, the majority of Conversos belonged to the class that discretely mixed Christian and Jewish elements into their religious experience, some dropping Jewish practice partially or completely, and this has continued being so until the present century. They contributed to create a new kind of Catholic religiosity, one more socially oriented and less dogmatic than the former, with the added particularity that it carries an acute distaste for clerical hierarchy. According to recent scholars such as Faur and Yovel, Conversos were instrumental to harbinger the Modern Age, free from clerical societies. Being that Jewish persecution ceased to be a legal and social concern from circa 1834, when the Spanish Inquisition was officially abolished, Conversos ceased to be a distinct group in the eyes of Hispanic and Lusitan societies. As a result, the trends that have developed since is that we have groups of Conversos who may know of their Jewish identity, but having little or no recollection of Jewish practice; yet, another group who does not know about their Jewish identity and status, but having a strong recollection of Jewish practice; or anything in between. All in all, it would be safe to assume that the vast majority of Conversos ignore the fact that they are Jewish per halakhic standards of lineage, and the number of those who know to be Jews vary even within their own family clans. IV. THE ISSUE OF STATUS The attitude in Jewish Law about Jews who separate from the Jewish community through no fault of their own, and grow up in a different belief system other than Rabbinic Tradition, is as follows: But their children and grandchildren [of Jewish rebels], who, misguided by their parents . . . and trained in their views, are like children taken captive by the gentiles and raised in their laws and customs (weghidelúhu haGoyím `al dathám), whose status is that of an ’anús [one who abjures Jewish law under duress], who, although he later learns that he is a Jew, meets Jews, observes them practice their laws, is nevertheless to be regarded as an ’anús, since he was reared in the erroneous ways of his parents . . . Therefore efforts should be made to bring them back in repentance (LeFikakh rawí leHahzirán biTeshubáh), to draw them near by friendly relations, so that they may return to the strength-giving source, i.e., the Toráh – Mishnéh Toráh: Sefer Shofetím, Hilekhót Mumarím 3:3 Jewish Law describes different types of Jewish rebels, but also indicates and differentiates between intentional and unintentional transgressions, those who transgress the Toráh with foreknowledge of it, or not, or via a mistake. The key aspect to be considered a mumar (i.e. “rebel,” of which are many kinds) is that one has to transgress having foreknowledge of the Law. Based on this seminal understanding the children of Maskilím also enter the status of ’anusím.


Sephardic rabbis for the past 600 years since 1391 have written ample responsa (She‘elót wuTeshubót) regarding Conversos, always dealing with all ranges of Jewish issues touching upon the lives of these Sephardim under the yoke of Christendom. To my knowledge, no comparable rabbinic literature dealing with Maskilím has been written about Ashkenazi rebels and their children born and raised under their rebellion. It is of interest to note that the halakháh above as presented by the rabbinical erudite Moses ben Maimón (hereto referred as Maimónides) puts the Qara‘aím as example, a sect of Israelites whose central tenet denies the validity and existence of the Oral Toráh passed down from Moshé Rabbenu down to the last ordained judges of the Sanhedrín – much as what happens with the Maskilím of our day. This is of extreme importance because by the time Maimónides wrote these words (12th c.), he was dealing with cross-generational Qara‘ím, probably having passed about 20 to 30 generations since ‘Anan ben Dawid founded this parting Jewish sect (8th c.). The compassionate character of Maimónides words reflects an attitude that also accompanies the Sephardic responsa on Conversos, which is neither different how Ashkenazi Orthodoxy sometimes treat their own from the Maskilím. For all tense and purposes, the Sephardic rabbis for these past 600 years treated Conversos as Jews. Sometimes, the rabbis were harsher in their choice of words towards them, under the assumption that the Conversos were not doing enough to escape the Terras de Idolatría. The latest responsa from Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik z”l (one which the author of this article testifies was not written by him) and Rabbi Mordekhai Eliahu contain several anomalies, first in regards as what the nature of the responsa ought to be, and second the misdirection and inconsistencies these take in regards to normative halakhic minutiae. I have briefly dealt with these issues in my work Ba‘alé Teshubáh (pp. 38-40).2 With all due respect to them, neither one can be taken seriously. V. THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT TEBILÁH Though certainly the attitude of rabbis until recent memory has been to treat Conversos fully acknowledging their rights as born-Jews, there has been an unfortunate shift towards disowning this understanding, one due to Sephardic disenfranchisement, and on the other due to the lack of knowledge on the subject from the newer generations of rabbis. Also, in my estimate, the high rates of intermarriage with non-Jews in the Ashkenazi community have placed a negative spin in regards to the trust observant Jews ought to put with any given individual not belonging to an Orthodox community, the Haredím-Hassidím being more fastidious about this issue than any other Ashkenazi Orthodox movement. Largely through history, the issue of re-integrating Conversos had remained in hands of Sephardim. Personally, I know of a few historic Sephardic communities who have done so during the second half of the 20th century, and to a lesser extent I have come to know via my colleagues of at least a couple of Ashkenazi rabbis of a previous generation who have treated


Conversos as Jews. This opinion on affirming the Jewish status of Conversos has also being confirmed by Rabbi Yosef Qaffih, the former-Chief Rabbi of the Yemenite Jews in Israel, among others. Because the issue of modern-day Conversos has become more publicly known since the 1980s, led by individuals who are completely bereft from understanding the issue, the reception this has had in Orthodox circles has been largely negative. It opened a Pandora box, developing in divergent and bizarre ways, and creating situations that have brought great discredibility to the Jewish legitimacy of Conversos, whom invariably have been treated as Gentiles. However, and largely because of public pressure, the treatment of the Conversos has been eased somewhat; where once most Orthodox rabbis would give the unilateral option of conversion (giur Ssédeq), today it has “progressed” to be treated as a conversion-by-doubt (giur le’Humrá). The difference between the former and the latter is that with the latter (giur le’Humrá) nearly all strictures for conversion are dropped. However, as with the former (giur Ssédeq), the rights of a born-Jew are not conceded in toto. In both instances (ssédeq and le’Humrá), the use of tebiláh marks the transition from formerGentile/doubtful-Jew into – for the lack of a better word – “naturalized citizenship” within the Nation of Israel (not to be confused with Israeli citizenship). Even though this provides acceptance into the community, having either status of being a ger Ssédeq or a ger le’Humrá presents several barriers to the individual when it comes to positions of leadership within the community, and choices of marriage for women – not to mention possible social discrimination, feature that is common in most Orthodox communities, even though it is highly forbidden in Jewish Law to discriminate against a convert. Other apologia for the use of tebiláh, that is submersion into the ritual pool called miqwéh for uses of teshubáh (repentence/return), has been justified under a mere commentary from the RAMA (R. Moses Isserles, 1520-1571), a scion of Ashkenazi legal jurisconsults. As it shall be soon explained, the use tebiláh for such purposes does not possess the sanction from the Sanhedrín, thus it is not, it cannot be, a legal obligation for the Jew wishing to repent/return. This use encloses several inconsistencies, both halakhic and the way it is treated with other modern-day Jews who also qualify for the same status of ’anusím, particularly within Ashkenazi Jewry. The issue of pro-forma tebiláh (without berakháh) appears for the first time shortly after the Expulsion – only once; in this same generation all the rest of the opinions said the contrary. As far as I am aware, it does not reappear until the 18th c. in London, in a responsum written by Hakhám Mercado. Overall, it remains a tiny-minority opinion, and all evidence suggests that overall tebiláh was not enforced or even considered, as it is evident by the responsa written by Italian Sephardic Hakhamím in the 17th c. In retrospective, in my humble opinion the reason why tebiláh is mentioned in that ONE early responsum (16th c.) is purely for psychological reasons. When this responsum was 8

written the forced-Catholic conversions had been very recent, and many Sephardim considered the baptismal waters as a huge stain on themselves, so to reverse the psychological damage Catholic baptisms had ensued in the minds of Sephardim, submersion in the miqwéh (without berakháh) was suggested; one that can be performed even during Shabbat, which is not the case for uses of niddáh (woman’s ritual impurity) and gerut (conversion). I draw this conclusion because there are other responsa which also prescribe self-inflicted lashes to atone for the sins the repentant former-’anús committed while under the yoke of Christianity. Again, the lashes (maqát mardút) – which can only be declared by a Beth Din of semukhím (properly invested and ordained rabbis by the authority of the Sanhedrín) and effected by a court-appointed executioner; and not of hedyoth (lay rabbis with no real/official semikháh from the Sanhedrín) – are only pro-forma, that is symbolic, in order to alleviate the psychological stress of the former-’anús. In any case, neither one – tebiláh or maqát mardút – is an obligation or necessary to be accepted into the community. In reviewing more recent responsa regarding teshubáh, we find one written by R. Yaaqov Tzvi Hirsch, an Ashkenazi rabbi living during the 19th century: Observe in the responsum of RASHBA"SH (Rabbi Salomón ben Sémah Durán), simán 68, who wrote that those descendants of the uncircumcised mumarím (rebels) called ’anusím, at the moment they come back doing teshubáh, [one] is not to inform them about stringent or lenient misswót (commandments) and their consequent punishments and [one] is not to frighten him, rather (one) is to extend upon him mercy and immersion is not necessary . . . – Pithhé Teshubáh, Yoreh De`áh 268:10 In contrast, I beg the reader to observe what Hakhám Ibn Zimra (16th c. Egypt) in his collection of responsa said: It was written in the name of Rabénu Simháh, that ALL BA`ALÉ TESHUBÁH need tebiláh, however, the tebiláh does not hinder [this means, like the lack of indigo thread does not invalidate the white in the ssissiyót – any colour but the indigo –, so the teshubáh is not dependent on the immersion], but as soon as [the Jew] thinks about teshubáh, he is immediately an entire ssadíq (ssadíq gamúr), but needs to afflict himself [about the past].3 Bringing to fore the gloss from R. Moshe Isserels (the RAMA), one that is at center of this controversy, who commenting on an entry of R. Yosef Caro's Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 268, wrote the following: [An] Israel Mumár (rebel Jew) who did teshubáh (repent) is not required tebiláh (immersion). Only from [the authority of] the Sages (mideRabbanán) [it is,] and [he] must immerse himself and accept the instructions in front of three [Hakhamím].


Explanation in Brackets is from Hakhám Lópes for further understanding of the context.


In the particular where the RAMA’s footnote appears, Hakhám Yosef Caro (16th c.) is codifying that a ger (Gentile-Convert) who becomes mehalel Shabbat (Sabbath desecrator) still retains his Israelite status, and does not invalidate his conversion at all. Maimónides says the exact same thing in his codification, found in Hilekhót Mumarím. The background of this issue can be found in the Talmud, in the treatise where the discussion of whether an 'aral of Israel (uncircumcised Jew) needs tebiláh to partake of the sacrificial-lamb during Pesah. At the core of the subject, it has nothing to do with Jews who repent/return. Since there is no written, oral or Sanherínic-sanctioned source that indicates tebiláh for the born-Jew who repents, what the RAMA and R. Ibn Zimra bring is only a discussion that is not considered final by the MARAN (Caro) or Maimónides – and neither by the rest of the rabbis – regarding a ger who becomes mehalel Shabbat. And if one would side with the postRabbinic tiny minority who maintain tebiláh for ba'alé Teshubáh, then not only ’anusím, but every other kind of astray Jew (mumar, or meshumad) should be immersed when he/she does teshubáh (repents) to observe the Toráh, as clearly stated by R. Ibn Zimra's words. So where does that leave the situation? If rabbis of any stripe today were truly strict according to the RAMA’s opinion (which has no ground whatsoever), they literally would have to immerse millions upon millions of Jews in the miqwéh (after these have accepted to repent and agreed to observe the Toráh) in order for them to be considered kasher and functional within a Jewish community. Just to show one sample of modern-day Orthodox conceptual dysfunctions. In today’s Jewish world, open Jewish rebels (mumarím) and those born of rebels (’anusím / tinoq shenishbáh) live integrated lives in many Ashkenazi Orthodox and Sephardic communities without having to have gone through any type of process, as it was done with Conversos in centuries past – who even as practicing Catholics – kept bonds of brotherhood and coexistence with their openly practicing Jewish brethren. Some today, as it did in the past, became ba‘alé teshubáh as a result. Though the application of tebiláh – whether it was initially done under the assumption of conversion, safeq or pro-forma “teshubáh” – does not hinder the full-Jewish status of the individual, it certainly can send the wrong signal to someone not aware of the issue (meaning, he runs the danger to be considered a proselyte or a doubtful Jew by a neophyte fellow Jew who does not know the difference), and certain injustices and discrimination can proceed from this. In other words, it should be avoided because of issues of Lashón haRá (evil speech), one that has destructive repercussions in the communal and individual life of the former-’anús. Should the rabbi and his Beth Din realize their mistake, he should formally ask forgiveness to the former-’anús – and he in turn forgive them –and clarify before the community that he is not a convert, or a safeq Jew, or that pro-forma tebiláh was performed because of either case. Tebiláh for uses of teshubáh is the last stumbling block that needs to be removed in order to fully reestablish a sense of dignity and equality with the rest of the community owed to the Sephardim who lived under the yoke of Christendom. 10

VI. HAZAQÁH: FORCE OF TRADITION4 And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thy heart. And thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thy house an when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign (uQeshartám le’Ót) upon thy hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. The question of identifying the Jewish status of Conversos is one whose answer is mired with historical, socio-cultural and halakhic complexity. At the simplest level, Jews through history only depended on the mere statement from an individual that he/she is a Jew(ess). Post-Expulsion Sephardim, through its far-flung Diaspora from India to the American Hemisphere, from open practicing Jews to “hidden” Jews, generally depended on a simple and quick and informal survey, asking place of origin, surnames and Jewish customs. As in any period of persecution and dispersion in Jewish history, the loss of the Sephardic communities throughout Spain and Portugal brought the loss of external nominal elements for Jewish identification, such as Jewish marriage records (kettubót) and openly observant Jews to serve as witnesses to vouch for someone’s Jewish status. So how then could Sephardic communities reconstitute themselves from the great number of Conversos – who constituted and constitute the majority of Sephardim – coming from places where there was materially nothing to identify them as Jews? Either through the transmission of oral Tradition from harSinai (mide‘Oraitá) or by enactment by the Judges of Israel (mideRabbanán), Jewish Law has different strategies to deal with the aforementioned when there has been loss of records and the loss of openly observant Jews and communities in order to effect Jewish identification. These legal strategies are sometimes found in the responsa written about Conversos, which appear to be mere words, but happen to be highly Talmudic technical terms, and whose sources are only identifiable by the trained eye. I shall briefly expose two main features of such technical terms regulating the acceptance of Jews lacking immediate material evidence. The first one has to do with demographic density; the second one has to do testimony and Jewish behavior according to Jewish legal minutiae. The first general assumption that Sephardic rabbis make with Converso cases has been the understanding that Conversos married each other, thus maintaining their Jewish status (this fact is corroborated by Inquisition dossiers and modern genealogical studies regarding New Spain); and that most Conversos proceed from locus settlements where they happen to be

I am greatly indebted to Hakhám Oliveira and Hakhám Lópes for explaining these seminal halakhic themes.


the majority. The first one is obvious; the second key rule regulating the latter point is found in the Talmud as follows: “Kol qabu´a mekhissá keMekhissá damé” (TB Yomá 84b) – “Everything that is permanent, is seen as its half, half” – in other words, it is seen as a 50% of those who are found there. Hakhám Jacob haLeví de Oliveira, in a personal correspondence with the author of the present article, further explained the instrumental halakhic application of this statement:

Kol deFarísh merubá farísh.“Anyone/anything who/which becomes apart, comes from the majority”– what does this mean? While someone or something is found in a determined place, coming from such place you must believe that is about someone or something originating from the majority.
The second legal element regulating the identification of not only Jewish status, but also one that holds the entire apparatus of oral Toráh together, resides in the concept of hazaqáh, which means “force of tradition.” There are several sources within the official texts encoded by the Judges of Israel which indicate and display the hazaqáh and kol deFarísh merubá farísh concepts, of which a couple shall be hereto shown. The first one deals with issues of marriage, All families are by force of tradition to be of valid descent (Kol haMishpahot beHezqat kasherut), and it is permitted to intermarry with them in the first instance. Nevertheless, should you see two families continually striving with one another, or a family which is constantly engaged in quarrels and altercations, or an individual who is exceedingly contentious with everyone, or is excessively impudent, apprehension should be felt concerning them, and it is advisable to keep one's distance from them, for these traits are indicative of invalid descent (she’élu miné paslanut hem) – M"T Sefer Qedusháh, Hilekhót Isuré Bi'áh 19:17 The second one has to do with the validity of mutually corroborating statements coming from ‘anusím in regards to Kohen-priestly status, If one from the ’anusím testifies that one among them is muhzáq (has hazaqá, force of tradition) bikhehuná (of priesthood, that is, who is of the Kohaním), we raise him to read (first) the Toráh and we do not fear that his mother may be a ‘obédet kokhabím (gentile-idolater). – Shulhán ’Arukh, ‘Ében ha‘Ézer 3:3 Bringing more substance to the aforementioned, this halakháh is tied to yet another law, where the quality of the statement is assessed, . . . (13) whosoever comes forth and declares that he is a priest is not to be believed, and may not be elevated to the status of a priest on the strength of his own statement . . . (14) If, however, he speaks in all innocence, he is to be believed. 12

How so? It happened that a man said in all innocence, “I remember when I was a child and was borne on my father’s shoulder, that they took me out of school and removed my shirt and immersed me, so that I could eat of the heave offering that evening; and my companions kept their distance from me and called me “Johnathan, the eater of dough offering.” Thereupon the saintly Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi elevated him to the status of a priest on the sole basis of his own statement. – M”T Sefer Qedusháh, Isuré Bi‘áh 20:13,14 [Kettubót 2:8; TB Kettubót 26a; Baba Kama 114b] In summary, there are four key elements working in tandem to provide the benefit of the doubt that the individual is indeed Jewish: a) A demographic density that allows the presumption of intermarriage with other Jews (TB Yomá 84b). b) Which leads to the to the general assessment that all families are valid for marriage. (M”T Isuré Bi‘áh 19:17). c) An assessment of proper Jewish behavior (ibid.). d) And the quality and sincerity of testimony from the individual, one that also contains and shows specifics of Jewish legal minutiae in his/her behavior. (M”T Isuré Bi‘áh 20:13,14). It must be noted that according to the Laws of Evidence (Hilekhót ‘Edút) the individual cannot self-incriminate himself, in other words, he cannot say he is not Jewish or does not know he is Jewish, and the witness take this opportunity to invalidate him based on that statement; “they are not believed . . . for no man can incriminate himself” (M”T Sefer Shofetím, Hilekhót ‘Edút 3:7; TB Kettubót 18b, 19b). All elements of Jewish observance are part of the hazaqáh; these serve as signs (‘otot) that accompany the Jewish people through the ages and invariably set us apart from the rest of the nations. One of the many laws that establishes behavior as an indication of Israelite lineage is as follows: It is forbidden to walk according to gentile laws, as well as to assimilate with the gentiles . . . “And ye shall not walk in the laws of the gentiles (beHuqót haGoyím). . .” (Lev. 20:23) . . . but the Israelite should be separated from them and known for his manner of dress and for his actions, as he is already separated from them in his way of thinking and behavior. Thus it is written: and have set you apart from the peoples . . .” Lev. 20:26. – M”T Sefer haMaddá, Hilekhót ‘Abodáh Zará weHuqót haGoyím 11:1; TB Yomá 86a It is of utmost importance to note that the survival of Jewish observance among Conversos, who – unlike Qara‘ím or Maskilím – had to live under the 350-year-old-machinery of the Inquisition designed to erase these Jewish observances from the memory of these Conversos. This bespeaks volumes about the Toráh’s eternity and imprint on the Jewish people. To ignore such is short of heresy against our Laws, the Revelation at harSinai, and complete disbelief in the God of Israel!!


During the course of my research, and having heard modern-day rabbis not accepting the hazaqáh of modern-day Conversos, it has been disheartening to have heard and read of rabbis accepting the hazaqáh of the children of Ashkenazi mumarím at such base levels that do not compare to the hazaqáh of Conversos. While strong evidence of Jewish observance can be ascertained from modern-day Conversos, and at the same time being rejected by today’s rabbis, one may have equally heard and read of rabbis who have accepted the Jewish status of an individual – invariably with possible Ashkenaz background – based merely on names, non-Jewish records, or superficial customs that have nothing to with halakháh – like eating matzo-ball soup or braided bread, culinary features that are common among Eastern-Europeans, not necessarily exclusive to Jews!! Also, one may find Ashkenazi Jews coming from the Conservative or Reform movements who have integrated themselves into an Orthodox community based on their mere statements alone that they are Jews, without the rabbis having any concern whether these very Jews are descendents of proselytes among the Conservative or Reform, and whose conversions are not recognized under the auspices of Jewish Law. Likewise, the rabbis should have been equally concerned of any Jew who came out of the Holocaust without any paper trail to support their status. Yet, the very reason why we do no hear such rejection, as done to the Conversos today, it might be the very use of the halakhót we stated above, which in many ways can have a myriad of subjective applications. On the other side of the coin, one may also come to know Jews who have been fastidiously searched, particularly if they end up with the Hassidím. I have come to know of two particular cases, ironically one whose mother came from Turkish Sephardim, who after running out of choices to bring as proof before the rabbis, these have to go through giur le’Humrá. Usually these cases have been about individuals who are about to marry a Jew within a community that does not know about them. In her book Sephardic Jews in America (NYU Press, 2009), Professor Aviva Ben-Ur records first hand many instances of Ashkenazi disqualification on Ottoman Sephardim during the 20th c., and personally I have heard similar stories coming straight out of the mouths of older members from historic Sephardic communities in the United States. VII. ESTABLISHING THE HAZAQÁH OF CONVERSOS For reasons that will be stated in a section below, the hazaqáh of modern-day Conversos needs to be established through a careful examination of their statements and genealogies. It is my personal estimate that we can no longer go by a simple survey, though it always remains at the discretion of the Jewish witness to do so. These statements must contain evidence of Jewish practice per halakhic minutae in both maternal and paternal lines. The paternal line must carry its maternal evidence as well. Also, it is necessary to gather evidence of intermarriage within the clan via genealogical records, for at least seven generations if possible, or the marriage customs of the person’s family in question. The seven-generation “rule” – which I have to agree is completely arbitrary – is


recommended, because (1) that reaches in-around the time when the Spanish Inquisition was abolished, and (2) it allows for the verification of intermarriage within the clan. The paternal line is necessary, should there be indication of priestly lineage, whether Lewiím or Kohaním. If evidence is not sufficient, or incomplete but leading one to think that there might be something useful in the testimony, a cross-examination with other members of the family might be necessary. In a way too, the assessment from the gathered information can be highly subjective, and the Jew making the assessment will decide how much less or more signs (‘otót), in the way for misswót performance or indication thereof in his or her customs, will be satisfactory for the witness to find acceptable. For reasons of discretion and to avoid false testimony, one should not to indicate what are the types of misswót most prevalent among modern-day Conversos, and only make general questions that might lead to the answer. In my humble opinion, should there be a general answer that might lead to the particular, only then one should ask in a more specific way. It is for this reason that the Jew doing the interview must be knowledgeable of Jewish practice in all their fine details and sources, and be himself a practicing Jew. Furthermore, it would be useful to know other features for identification such as, 1) Culinary aspects of Sephardic cooking in and around the time of the Expulsion, in particular to food preparation and combinations, which are still common among Conversos. 2) The ethical behavior expected of Jews according to Hilekhót De‘ót, particularly those which cannot possibly be shared with the non-Jewish populations living around Conversos. 3) Features of Catholic practice as developed by Conversos, and wholly different from and against canon law and common custom among Old Christians, as well as other customs different from the native or migrant populations in the American Hemisphere. Thereby the interviewer will have ample things to work with, and further facilitate the interviewee’s search. Usually women make better subjects on Jewish behavior than men. Since it is mainly women who effect behaviors of kasheruth, Shabbat preparation, family purity and burial customs, the memory of them is better set among them than men. Men are useful to remember other things in regards to men-related activities such as slaughter and agriculture. Only after an examination of the available evidence, it will depend on the decision of the Jewish witness to confirm whether the individual is indeed Jewish or not, and be accorded due honor immediately. Should there not be enough convincing evidence via the maternal line, but an inkling of a possible Jewish descent, then such cases should be treated as safeq (of doubtful Jewish lineage), and the proper procedures in this regard put into practice. Only when there is no


evidence at all, the case is one of a non-Jew, and should he still want to join the people of Israel, the process of conversion should follow suit. If it is a case of a married couple, one having his or her hazaqáh confirmed, but the other not, then one should make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible to do either a giur Ssédeq or giur le’Humrá on the mate without hazaqáh, as the situation befits; a Jew and non-Jew couple cannot remain in conjugal relations, as this is a very serious transgression of illicit sexual unions. Though, according to what I have witnessed, cases of mixed marriages are still rare as Conversos generally marry with other people who share in their customs, where the Converso mother still plays a pivotal role in approving or disproving a possible mate. Conversos have had the customs to disown the son or daughter who marries out without the parent’s approval. Because of Globalization and Internationalization of culture, we live in a crucial age when the practice and memory of Jewish observance has begun to fade in the newer generations. Also, Conversos who have passed from Catholicism to Protestantism in the last couple generations have lost immensely many customs, as Protestant ideologies try to erase anything that they might perceive as “Catholic.” (Actually, Conversos generally think many of these Jewish customs to be “Catholic;” which is quite hilarious). In my personal estimate, in a couple generations Jewish halakhic customs may completely disappear from the Conversos, and we no longer be able to identify them – unless the Converso were to remain away from the big cities or “globalizing” influences, and within groups who share similar customs. On the fear the Conversos may completely assimilate, and we loose their trail, the Sephardic rabbis saw the rescue of Conversos as a most important directive, If the Anusím are to be considered as gentiles and those who return to Judaism as proselytes, their desire to return to the fold will weaken, so that finally they will assimilate among the gentiles, add crime to their sin, and even their name will be forgotten from Israel. – R. She’adyá ben Maimon ibn Danan, Khemdah Genuzáh 16b Through our sins the Jews who lived peacefully in Spain, Portugal, Sicily, Kalabrien and Apulien were forced into baptism by those kings, the villains. The Jews remained true believers. The king ordered some murdered, some were drowned, many of them were forced into baptism. They fled those countries and came here to return to Judaism. If we do not punish those who accuse them of sins, they will no longer come. – R. Benjamin Seeb b. Mathithyahu, responsa No. 28 VIII. INTER-ETHNIC CONVERSOS It is a safe estimate that the trends of Converso cultural homogeny and ethnic endogamy were kept constant until the beginning of the 20th century. However, the Iberian Peninsula and the regions in South and North America have suffered seismic social and cultural 16

changes from the first quarter of the 20th c. to today, prompting population shifts due to war and economic changes in certain regions, thus accelerating issues of assimilation and mixed marriages after the second quarter of the 20th century. Within the last two to three generations the system of endogamy has began to falter when the lack of suitable Converso partners became more difficult to ascertain in those regions where there were little, and in part too because of changing cultural perceptions spearheaded by Mexican intellectuals known as the “Cosmic Race.” This new cultural trend, which caught through Latin America via social and revolutionary movements, brought down barriers of class and “race” long held by the Spanish caste system, thus opening the doors to intermarriage or cohabitation among the distinct groups of Old Christians (i.e. Iberians with no Jewish lineage), Conversos, West-Africans Negroes and Amerindians. This trend of “racial” intermarriage, however, has remained more prevalent among the lower classes rather than the middle and upper and ruling classes of Latin America, and in areas where the non-Converso population is more prevalent. In Spain and Portugal, where we do not have much information about Conversos since the 18th century, we are not certain about the situation of intermarriage, although there is clear indication that the upper-classes of 14th and 15th c. Sephardim – who had recently converted to Christianity – intermarried quicker, albeit via arrangements of the Converso maiden’s betrothal to Old Christian noblemen. For example, though King Ferninand’s maternal family was three generations removed from their Jewish roots, being that his mother’s line came straight from Jews made Ferninand ‘El Católico’ – the one singing the letter of Expulsion – halakhically Jewish!! This is why a great portion of the Spanish nobility became suspect of having been “tainted” with Jewish “blood.” However, intermarriage was minimized after the promulgation of the Pureza de Sangre statues, racial laws that barred Conversos from equal access to society and put them directly under Inquisitorial suspicion, and as a result, reason for Old Christians to avoid marriage alliances with Conversos. These racial laws were active from 1501 to 1865. We do not possess much information about Peninsular Conversos since the 18th c., other than the Balearic Conversos, whom we know were kept segregated by Old Christians until the 20th c., and until the groups of Conversos in Belmonte and Oporto (Portugal) came to light, the history books were not aware of other insular groups of Conversos in recent times. By comparing the general culture and demeanor of both Spaniards and Latin Americans, there are remarkable differences that cannot be explained if they truly come from the same cultural and historical subset, as it happens with the English and Anglo-Americans who behave and think pretty much the same way. On the other hand there are striking similarities between the Sephardic and Latin American demeanors. This leads me to think that most Conversos left Spain well by the 18th c. to settle in the New World, and who became the leading political, cultural and educational forces in major cities through out Spanish America and Brazil. Rabbi José Faur has also shared this view regarding cultural similarities, further confirmed by a Spanish friend of mine who has observed these similarities upon meeting Sephardic Jews. The jury is still open with Portugal,


of which I know very little, though many people who have been to Portugal say the percentage of Portuguese with Jewish lineage is considerable. It would be harder to ascertain via the phenotypes (physical traits otherwise vulgarly known as “racial traits”) whether the person has Old Christian or Converso lineage via the maternal line. Old Christian Spaniards and Spanish Jews, as has been noted by contemporary accounts, were not different in their phenotypes or in their manner of dress. This is easier to differentiate with Latin Americans, as Amerindians, West African Negroes and Conversos are physically distinct from each other, yet one must take into account that since Jewish lineage is passed through the mother, the physical looks of the Converso serves as no halakhic grounds to disqualify the Jewish status of the Converso at hand. Most Conversos I have met still look Andalusian to this day (the area that had the biggest Iberian Jewish population), which means the issue of inter-ethnic Conversos has remained minimal. It is also of note that Sephardim in the last 500 years since the Expulsion have discretely assimilated members of other populations surrounding them via conversion, often in the form of marrying former-servants or slaves; this trend has also made the phenotypes of Sephardim very diverse. For example, through the lands of northern Europe and Anatolia, Sephardim may appear more Teutonic, while Sephardim in the Middle East and through North Africa can appear more Arab, while in the Dutch or English Caribbean some can appear Afro-Caribbean. Overall, Sephardim still look Hispanic – particularly sharing phenotypic traits from southern Spaniards. Generally, Sephardim do not hold racist attitudes towards the other from our brethren once it is establish the individual belongs to the Sephardic nation. Contemporary situations in regards to Jewish self-perception can complicate the matter further. Being that Ashkenazi Jewry mentally assimilated the rigid racial dichotomies prevalent in Western civilization, the issue of “looking Jewish” presents a roadblock for the acceptance and integration of Conversos who might not fit the stereotype. Even for Sephardim, as well as other non-Ashkenazi Jews, it has been a huge challenge to break the ceiling of acceptance in a world where neither one holds any type of major control and influence, and where many Jews remain mentally challenged by Jews who look different from them. The issue of “looking Jewish” has nothing to do with Jewish Law or the Bible, but with very basic idiocy. IX. CHALLENGES OF CONVERSO INTEGRATION In centuries past, Conversos made two choices to return to Judaism in the open. One, to travel where there was a Sephardic settlement already in place; two, to form their own community. During the 16th century, most decided to travel to the Ottoman Empire, North Africa or Italy where there were already established Sephardic communities. A few migrated to Teutonic lands and integrated into Ashkenazi communities. After the 17th c., and mainly because of better economic opportunities, most Conversos escaping the Inquisition decided to stay in the West and form their own communities. This is how the Sephardic communities of France, the Netherlands, Germany, England, North and South America and in some major Italian and North African cities, came into being during the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. 18

Today, because Sephardim have amalgamated into the Ashkenazi world – a world that holds many extreme prejudices to anything strange to their own tradition – the issue of integrating former-Conversos is fraught with difficulties, particularly in Latin America and the lands of Iberia where open Jewish communities happen to be mostly Ashkenazi, and who behave in a larger exclusionary fashion than the upper classes themselves. Traditionally too, Spanish & Portuguese Jews were instrumental for the foundation and support of new Sephardic communities. This is no longer the case, as all Spanish & Portuguese congregations are not Sephardic in their majority, which affects in major ways the prerogatives of the community, with the added difficulty that all of them face major economic difficulties to even maintain their own. Founding and running a Jewish community is a tasking and expensive enterprise, and furthermore, it needs a strong and knowledgeable leadership to effect all of its functions. Contrary to what happens in Ashkenazi communities, it is not the rabbi who sets the tone and direction of the Sephardic community, but the whole congregation and its lay elected government who are full participants in its leadership. Sephardic education is another issue that it is very difficult to attain in our days, as most material is not readily available to the public and the availability of capable Hakhamím to teach it is nearly non-existent. With the added difficulty that Sephardic education is highly intellectual and extremely demanding in regards to Rabbinic thought, the neophyte Jew may not necessarily identify with it for his immediate spiritual needs. Since Conversos have been immersed in Christian society, one needs also to give them special attention to their education and psychology, slowly blocking out any theological or conceptual misgivings coming from Christian thought, thus preventing the formation of any heresy within the Jewish community. The Spanish & Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam, being a majority of Converso stock, due to their own education and training were particularly successful in closely monitoring the behavior and activities of former-Christian Sephardim. In our days, the number of Jews who are knowledgeable of Christian thought, and able to counteract its teachings, is basically null, which represents a huge disadvantage. In the presence of an educational vacuum, which is even difficult to live with by conscious Sephardim, the Converso wanting to return will be dealing with a separation of sorts from his current society and universe, which affects his entire life and relations. Without having a place to go and integrate himself as a Jew, the experience can be psychologically unsettling to the point of neurosis, as he will find himself literally in Limbo, unable to belong to either his former Converso or desired-Jewish world. One of the biggest catastrophes in recent times has been the existence of organizations or individuals who have kindled the desire of alleged Conversos – inciting their interest – without having or offering any real alterative and respectful answer to their immediate needs, and without realizing the faltering web of Jewish existence today, particularly in regards to rabbinic-clerical politics.


On the other hand, movements such as the Reform or Conservatives in the United States of America have been moving forward in trying to assist alleged Conversos, usually through their own conversion process, actions which are certainly commendable, but ones that do not really resolve full integration within the praxis of Orthodox and Sephardic communities, therefore leaving the issue of Jewish status still unsolved, and perhaps complicating their lives in the long term. At present, the answers of integration have not yet been resolved. X. THE FALLACIES OF THE “BENE ANUSÍM” MOVEMENT What is often characterized as the “Bene Anusím” movement is a string of events in approximately the past twenty years, where the issue of Conversos has taken a new life in Jewish consciousness. Contrary to what is projected in the media and history books, Conversos have continuously reached out Jewish communities since the Expulsion and into our modern times. The biggest wave of retuning Conversos happened during the 16th and 17th centuries, and only few individuals or families ever since. The last major attempt to attract any great number of Conversos was with the foundation of Q”Q Mekor Hayyím (Portugal, circa 1930s), under the guidance of Captain Barros Bastos, and supported by the Spanish & Portuguese Jewish congregations of London and New York. Due to several unfortunate turns of events, this attempt was largely unsuccessful. However, the 1980s, and since, saw a renewed interest on the subject of Conversos through the academia and among some well-meant activists. The activists developed the subject in ways foreign to the classic understanding in Sephardic tradition, and these developments have spun the issue in innovative, but irresponsible, ways. Because there has been a dissemination of misinformation, there is a good number of LusoHispanics who for whatever reason have ended up thinking they might be descendants of Jews, without really being true. Two of my close colleagues, Professor Carlos Zarur and Rabbi Mordekhai Lópes, who have done plenty of field and ground research on identifying modern-day Conversos in several Luso-Hispanic countries, have related the high rate of incidence of fake-anusím among Hispanic and Lusitan peoples. One of the main sources of misinformation proceeds from portraying just about any Spanish or Portuguese surname as “Jewish,” simply because there were Sephardic Jews who bore such surnames. The issue of patronymic conventions among Conversos is not as easy as certain websites and pro-Converso enthusiasts make it appear. Also, the religious shifts through Latin America and the Southwestern U.S. have given chance to the increase of neo-millennial and philo-Judaic Protestant Churches, leading many Luso-Hispanics, most of whom are not of Converso stock, to have all sorts of infatuations for the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. The two last features combined have permitted certain predatory and immoral Jews, who by pandering the desires of these Evangelical Christians wishing to become Jewish, to profit via 20

unofficial or official conversions, or gain political ammunition at the expense of these innocent gentiles for ends that we are yet to foresee. Together with the insistence of “brokering” an arrangement with the rabbinical establishment, which invariable ends up being some sort of conversion, most pro-Converso activists have created an environment where the Jewish integrity of the Converso or an interest in recovering Sephardic tradition are the least of their concerns. As with most of the Jewish world today, living in the land of Israel or being accepted by the rest of the community have become prerogatives, ends to themselves; the means through which to obtain those ends have no historical or halakhic proper import for the activist or for the alleged-Converso in question. The Toráh, and whether things are done right or wrong, is of no value to them. This trend has created a series of trappings that complicate legitimate Conversos from asserting their case. It also has produced a subset of proselytes, who having come from Spanish or Portuguese background, become completely antithetical and unfriendly towards Conversos, thinking they too ought to convert and share in their destiny. In tandem, antiConverso rabbis and Jews press towards the opinion of conversion, supported by what the “majority” is already doing. XI. “PERVERTED JUSTICE:” JEWISH ON JEWISH DISCRIMINATION When hedonists multiplied, justice became perverted, conduct deteriorated and there is no satisfaction [to God] in the world . . . Their heart goeth after their gain, there multiplied they who call evil good and good evil . . . When there multiplied [judges] who said ‘I accept your favour’ and ‘I shall appreciate your favour’, there was an Increase of Every man did that which was right in his own eyes; – TB Sotáh 47b In all these years, one of the most displeasing aspects of this investigation has been to have heard and experienced first-hand all kinds of sordid behaviors coming from many Jews and rabbis, which not only include complete indifference and misunderstanding, but also denial, rudeness, abuse and the outright attempt to deny the existence of Conversos. Though one should conceptually think that the present rejection is motivated by a sincere fear of God in their protection of Jewish integrity, it is still inexcusable under the hubris of how Jews and rabbis ought to behave to the perceived stranger. Nothing in Jewish Law excuses sordid behavior. In the case of those activists who claim to help the Conversos, these happen to side with those who understand the issue the least, and adopt the attitude of “what’s the big deal” about conversion. Even more insidious and twisted is try to sell the idea of conversion as “return,” which has become commonplace. This implicates the transgression of leading the masses to sin, which is no small and forgiving matter: wekhol hamahtí et haRabím kime`at én maspiqín biyadó / all who induces the public (crowd, multitude etc.) to sin, will not be given the opportunity to repent (TB Yomá' 87a). 21

I am sure these very individuals promoting conversion on Iberian Anusím would also “agree” of what is the “big deal” to give an inch of Israel back to the Arabs, or side with anti-Semites who promote the idea that modern-day Jews are not the real descendants of those who left Judea 2,000 years ago. Right? This dishonest attitude becomes evident after understanding that the very things that antiConverso Jews throw at Conversos in order to disqualify them are the very things that these Jews, or their peers, lack. For example, 1) Maskilím, as Conversos, have been separated from the community of observant Jews. 2) Maskilím, as Conversos, lack any official proof in the form of Kettubah performed by Toráh-observant Jews. 3) Maskilím, as Conversos, have practiced a different religion, even though they call it “Jewish,” their religion still is a separation from Rabbinic tradition. 4) Most Maskilím, as Conversos, do not know other Toráh-observant Jews to vouch for their status. More often than not, when confronted with the aforementioned, the excuses to defend the Maskilím are spurious, full of facile generalization, and unfounded. In any case, when it comes to Conversos, the general tendency has been to disqualify. This attitude to disqualify perfectly exemplifies the attitude of Jews who might be themselves invalids or unfit to be considered Jews! Jewish Law has a rule against those Jews who reflect this debasing attitude: (I)f a man always casts aspersions upon other people's descent – for instance, if he alleges that certain families and individuals are of blemished descent and refers to them as being bastards – suspicion is justified that he himself may be a bastard. And if he says they are slaves, one may suspect that he himself is a slave, since whosoever blemishes others projects upon them his own blemish. – M"T Sefer Qedusháh, Hilekhót Isuré Bi'ah 19:17 The Talmudic source for the above injunction is haPosel bemumó A(t)smo posel (TB Eseré Yukhasín 70a, 70b), one which Maimónides praphrases as Shekhol haPosel, bemumó hu Posel, shown in bold above. The cultural tendency of disqualification, more common among the Ashkenazi Orthodoxy and one that even affects their own communities too, is one not only distressing Conversos, but every major aspect of Jewish life. In the last couple decades, we have seen an increase of this tendency, which also complicates the lives of rabbis and communities worldwide, not only of Conversos. Because the rabbis who have adopted this debasing tendency are the ones imposing their influence on everyone of their peers, and being that most Jews who support them – via proxy and silent consent – happen to be neophytes, the Converso finds himself in a Jewish world in conflict with itself, one that cannot be fixed overnight, and where well-meant and God22

fearing rabbis need to manage through with great care and finesse to protect themselves from those Jews who behave more like a female Praying Mantis ready to eat her copulating partner and her young, rather than being properly behaved, loving, and mutually respecting Jews. XII. BASIC CONCLUSIONS The present article has attempted to describe the complex scenario of Conversos and the Jewish world which with they try to make contact. Its basic conclusions are as follows: 1. Conversos share in the status parity, in equal footing, with Qara‘ím and Maskilím, thus Qara‘im ↔ Conversos ↔ Maskilím = ’anusím 2. Conversos, as any Jew present, past and future, have the capability of having their status confirmed via other halakhic methodologies besides material documentation, and which are not being honestly and universally applied at present. 3. The education of Conversos, as for any Sephardim, in the present age is full of difficulties. 4. Alleged pro-Converso activists have deformed the issue beyond any classical understanding, going after ends that directly violate not only the Jewish integrity and respectability of the Converso, but also the very integrity of Jewish Law and its application. 5. Jews disqualifying the Jewishness of Conversos, or any other Jew without due cause, is nothing else than projections of their own deep insecurities. In summary, the “Jewish” matrix working at present in this regard is not only and wholly Un-Real but thoroughly Sinful. The final purpose of this paper has been to identify the problem in order to create the solution. Abtalyon used to say, sages, be heedful in your words, lest ye condemn yourselves to exile to some place where the waters of learning are impure; then the disciples who follow you will drink and die and God’s name will be profaned. M. Abót 1:11 Where there is no men strive to be a man M. Abot 2:6 _______________________________ RECOMMENDED BIBLIOGRAPHY AND CONTRIBUTIONS - Quotes from R. Karo’s S”A, R. Ibn Zimra’s, RAMA’s and R. Hirsch responsa and their translations, courtesy of R. Mordekhai haLewí de Lópes. - Revision of Hebrew transliterations, H. Mordekhai haLewí de Lópes.


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