In order to achieve our vision JHA (Jewish Heritage Alliance) is developing a unique platform intended to explore and promote the history and consequences of Sefarad (Jews of the Iberian Peninsula). To accomplish this mission, we are developing strategic alliances and partnering with a variety of organizations, institutions, and individuals, covering the private and public sectors, including religious, secular, historic, academia and governments.Together we are creating a dynamic portal that will detail the saga of the Jews of Sefarad from inception to inquisition, pogroms, massacres, forced conversions, expulsion and beyond.
The strategic alliance concept is intrinsic to JHA doctrine of delivering the Sefarad saga, with all its complexities and effects, to the public at large (Public Domain). Most of our strategic partners operate unilaterally, independent of one another. Jewish Heritage Alliance, as the name suggests, brings these autonomous organization and their respective work to a central platform, thereby providing (a greater) impact of the collective.
Netanya, a Mediterranean resort city in central Israel, well-known for its sandy beaches, is also home to Netanya Academic College, a learning center that provided higher education to the million residents of the Sharon and periphery, including thousands of immigrants as well as native-born Israelis. The college is accredited by the Council for Higher Education to award Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in a wide range of subjects, such as Law, Business Administration, Computer Science and Mathematics, Behavioral Sciences, Communications, Insurance, and Banking & Finance. The College faculty consists of professors and scientists of renown who hold Ph.D. degrees from leading universities worldwide.
During 2011, in response to the extraordinary phenomenon of contemporary descendants of the Anousim (forced converts from the Iberian Peninsula) to reclaim their Hispano-Jewish heritage, Netanya Academic College introduced an adjunct project creating the Institute for Sefardi and Anousim Studies (ISAS). The Institute is intended to serve as the leading global research institution dedicated to the history and culture of Sefardi Jewry, with a specific focus on the history of the Anousim, including the study of the motives and processes of the desire of contemporary individuals of Hispanic descent to connect on some level with their Sefardi roots and heritage. The project’s logo features the fabled phoenix, the bird which emerges renewed from the flames. The phoenix was a symbol adopted by the Spanish-Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam as early as the 17th century.
The Institute’s aims include:
• Conduct historical research of Sefardi Jewry and its cultural legacy with special emphasis on the history of the Iberian Anousim, their Diaspora, and those who claim to be their modern descendants.
• Collect data on the Anousim Diaspora, and provide genealogical research services to individuals.
• Educate youth about Sefardi heritage and increase awareness of the contemporary search for Ibero-Jewish roots and identity throughout the Western Hemisphere.
The Institute activities include:
• Research, workshops, seminars, lectures, cultural and artistic events in Ladino, adult and youth educational seminars, academic publications.
• An annual international academic conference.
• Competitive research grants.
• A Genealogical Research Unit for general research and as a service to individuals seeking their Iberian-Jewish roots.
• Youth cultural trips to Spain and Portugal.
• Expansion of our unique scholarly library containing thousands of books and rare documents.
Past international conferences:
- RECONNECTING 2016: Reinvigorating Shared Latino-Jewish Roots and Heritage, 7-8 September 2016.
- The Anousim Diaspora Today: Jewish Challenge and Hope, following the inaugural session of the Knesset Caucus for the Reconnection with the Descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Communities, 13 October 2015.
- Mapping the Anousim Diaspora: Six Centuries of Pushing Borders, 23-24 March 2015
All of the Institute’s activities and resources can be viewed on our website, http://sefardi-anousim.org.il, which is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese language versions.
21 February - 8 March 2017
: The First two week Seminar for Lay Leaders of Bnei Anousim communities in Brazil celebrated at the Institute. The seminar focusses on strengthening the skills and knowledge of lay leaders, who will return to their fledgling communities renewed in purpose and commitment.
Objectives of this first gathering:
- Create a leadership core for Bnei Anousim communities and groups o Strengthen the Jewish identity that is awakening in these men and women, following many years of clandestine life, restraint, and fear.
- Create an infrastructure capable of bringing together different groups of Bnei Anousim.
- Legitimize the Bnei Anousim cause in the eyes of our public institutions through meetings with rabbis and other institutions in Israel, increasing their visibility.
November 28-30, 2108: RECIFE- Brazil The First Brazilian Encounter on Crypto-Judaism ISAS in Recife (Brasil)
This was the first conference of its kind in Brazil, and it attracted many important participants, including researchers, historians, writers, anthropologists, representatives from local and international organizations, the Consul General of Israel in São Paulo, Dori Goren, and representatives from Anousim communities from the northeast and other areas of Brazil.
The conference culminated in a moving reading of the "Recife Declaration", a document written at the conference asking the communal authorities to be more receptive to the situation of these emerging Anousim communities in Brazil.
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: RECONNECTING 2016
The ISAS’s international conference for 2016 was RECONNECTING 2016: Reinvigorating Shared Latino-Jewish Roots and Heritage which took place on 7-8 September in Miami, Florida. The ISAS is grateful to the conference’s main benefactor, Mr. Michael Dezer, owner of the Trump International Beach Resort, where the conference was held.
The ground-breaking conference was intended to enhance Jewish-Latino relations and emphasize shared historical and cultural roots among Latinos and Jews, and enlarge the network of community, social, and religious groups working to advance their common heritage and values. The conference also raised awareness in the Latino world regarding the widespread phenomenon of Bnei Anousim in their communities today.
During the two-day conference, over three hundred participants enjoyed a historic coalition of speakers from five continents, including:
• Leading Israeli diplomats, including Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul-General of the State of Israel in New York and Lior Haiat, Consul to Florida and Puerto Ric
• Internationally known experts in the field, including Prof. Anita Waingort Novinsky (Brazil); Prof. David Gitlitz (Mexico/USA); Prof. Nathan Wachtel (France); Prof. Sergio DellaPergola (Israel); and Seth Kunin (Australia)
• Representatives of Latino and Jewish organizations, including Betty Ehrenberg, Executive Director, World Jewish Congress-USA; Rabbi Stephen Leon, Anousim Center, El Paso, TX; Bonita Nathan Sussman, Kulanu; Pastor Mario Bramnick, Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition; and David E.R. Dangoor, American Sephardi Federation
• Pastor Dr. John Hagee was the keynote speaker for the conference Gala Dinner
CONFERENCE REVEALS TRUE STORIES OF THE BNEI ANUSIM (CONVERSOS)
Fabio Franciolly Fonseca, Dr. Joseph Maldonado, and Lisette Valdez Valle were the three speakers at the "Personal Stories" session in the RECONNECTING 2016 conference on September 7-8, 2016 in Miami, FL. All three were born as Christians but each found that they were descendants of Bnei Anusim (Conversos), and each had very moving story about their journeys back to their Jewish heritage. Please listen to these compelling, life-changing stories, a testament to the existence of the perpetual Jewish Soul.
Fabio Franciolly Fonseca at RECONNECTING 2016
Lisette Valdez Valle at RECONNECTING 2016
Miami Florida, USA
Joseph Maldonado at RECONNECTING 2016
Upstate New York, USA
Rabbi Gilberto (Emanuel in Hebrew) Ventura of Sao Paulo Brazil is a special and unique human being, or as we say in Hebrew, a real Tzadik, a righteous man set on a selfless mission to help his fellow man, and not just any fellowman, but especially the plight of the weary lost souls of the Conversos or Marranos, both terms applied to the descendants of the Jews of Spain and Portugal that were forced to convert to Christianity. The prevailing wisdom suggests that there are over 55 million Conversos worldwide, a staggering number when considering that the entire Jewish population hovers at approximately 14 to 16 million worldwide. It seems that the lion share of the Conversos reside in several regions of Brazil, a country larger than continental USA.
As he explains in his video (below), Rabbi Ventura almost singlehandedly has created the outreach platform to assist these amazing Conversos or "Bnei Anusim" (Children of Jews forced to Convert during the Inquisition Periods). Appropriately named "Sinagoga Sem Fronteiras" (Synagogue Without Borders), the brainchild of Rabbi Ventura who traverses the expanse of Brazil's landmass to visit the Converso communities wherever they reside, teaching them about Judaism and way of the Torah; answering the many complex questions regarding Jewish traditions and conversion requirements; ultimately assisting many to return home and covert back to being the Jews that their ancestors were before the forced conversion of the Spanish Inquisition some 500 years ago.
Brazil embodies the Saga of Sefarad and the Converso (Bnei Anusim) phenomenon more than any other place on earth. While this narrative is 530 years in the making, it’s only now that the existence and plight of the Conversos is coming to light. We invite you to experience, firsthand, the amazing and incredible work and commitment of one person that had no fear and singlehandedly reached out to thousands, if not millions, of Conversos desperate to come back home.
Rabbi Ariel Yeshurun
Jewish Community Learning Center
In 2010 Rabbi Ariel Yeshurun, his wife, Ruhama, and family moved to Bay Harbor Islands in Florida where they quickly got involved with the local Jewish communities. Being a community activist and a friend of Israel, Rabbi Yeshurun set on a course that would shed light on Jewish issues and concerns. This included the launch of adult education programs that would disseminate Jewish learning by creating a Jewish Community Learning Center (JCLC) that among others, would provide adult education opportunities for Jews from all walks of life.
Being a visionary, Rabbi Yeshurun set the course of JCLC as an open structure platform that would embrace multi-faceted projects and institutions catering to the complex and diverse needs of a modern Jewish community. Rabbi Yeshurun boasts over a decade of ardent outreach and community work drawing on unique experience including work with remote congregations. He understands the sensitive dynamic of community life, relates well to the challenges facing Jewish Communities with special attention to teens and young adults extending a lending hand and at the ready to teach, guide and inspire.
On the education side JCLC current student body hovers at approximately 150, all of whom have been impacted profoundly by Rabbi Yeshurun style of teaching, influencing their Jewish connection and senses of community.
Jewish Heritage Group is proud to partner with Rabbi Yeshurun and the JCLC on a host of projects. As a progressive, forward thinking group, JHG welcomes this trail blazing young Rabbi and his amazing work with JCLC. Together we spearhead many “outside the box” projects that enhance Jewish Heritage in many forms throughout the globe.
JHG joins JCLC in its objectives in creating a dynamic, multi-faceted association that can cater to the many different needs of heterogeneous Jewish communities both locally and abroad, creating events and offering important and relevant information, past and present, with opportunities to learn and grow coupled with recreational and cultural programs.
Rabbi Ariel Yeshurun
Rabbi Stephen A. Leon was born in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Colombia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, receiving his ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion. Rabbi Leon was the dean of the Academy for Jewish Religion from 1974 through 1986. He also was an instructor in Homiletics, Practical Rabbinics, and Cantillations. At the same time, Rabbi Leon served as the rabbi of Elmwood Park Jewish Center in New Jersey from 1971 through 1986.
From 1986 to the present, Rabbi Leon has been the spiritual leader of Congregation B'nai Zion in El Paso, Texas. In addition to leading services, overseeing Talmud Torah, and providing adult education courses, Rabbi Leon has presided over countless life cycle events for El Paso families. He served on the boards of the bioethics committee of Providence Hospital, El Paso Hospice, the Jewish Federation, and the Holocaust Museum.
But what truly distinguishes Rabbi Stephen Leon from most other Rabbis is a unique calling foreordained for him to serve a higher cause than most have the opportunity to serve… assisting the perplexed lost souls of the local Conversos adrift amid bewilderment of their true identity. Having arrived in this southwestern region of the United States, Rabbi Leon found himself confronting a subject and reality that he neither studied nor was prepared to handle. Slowly but steadily Rabbi Leon was introduced to, and confronted with, the story of the Conversos or in Hebrew the Bnei Anusim, the descendants of the Jews that were forced to convert during the inquisitions of the 15th century that took place on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and points beyond. Rabbi Leon found his calling by extending a helping hand to bring many descendants of Sephardic Jews back to their Jewish roots.
We invite you to learn and experience the amazing lifelong work of Rabbi Stephen Leon, a teacher, a rabbi and facilitator of Bnei Anusim (Descendants of Jews forced to convert to Christianity), providing heartfelt guidance back to their roots and the Jewish faith. Click here to view his good work, presentations and his recently published book “The Third Commandment and RETURN of the Anusim"
The Center for Latino–Jewish Relations and Crypto-Jewish Studies was founded by Rabbi Peter Tarlow, Executive Director of the center, and Mr. Jacob "Jake" Monty, Chairman of the Board, and a major player in Texas politics and a successful lawyer in Houston. The center for Latino–Jewish Relations and Crypto-Jewish Studies serves as a foundation for Crypto-Jewish life in Texas. In addition to academic conferences, we are a living memorial for people from the Sephardic world who do not want their family histories to be forgotten.
The mission of the Center for Latino-Jewish Relations and Crypto-Jewish Studies is to educate the Hispanic and Jewish communities about their shared history and lineage in order to facilitate a better understanding of the past, build bridges in the present, and provide a better future for all who are part of this legacy.
The Center for Crypto-Jewish Studies and Hispanic-Jewish relations seeks to unite both the glories and agonies of the past with the hopes of a brighter tomorrow through a dynamic present.
The center seeks to unite two peoples who share a common heritage and histories and whose roots run deep into the soil of the Iberian Peninsula. As such the center seeks to explore the historic, linguistic and cultural roots that bind thousands of Mexican and Jewish Americans together. It seeks to use their joint historic journey as a paradigm for Texans from many cultures. The center seeks to accomplish these goals through a wide variety of lectures and programs. Among these programs are:
• The collection and display of Inquisitional documents from colonial Mexico
• A historical understanding of the common roots that bind many Mexicans to their Jewish heritage
• Conferences on Crypto-Jewish and Sephardic culture
• Trips to both Spain and Portugal as a means of reuniting the Hispanic and Jewish populations with their Iberian roots
• A dialogue series where Jews and Hispanic citizens can discuss common problems and seek common solutions
• The promotion of Iberian Jewish and Hispanic cultural heritage within Texas and the United States
• The development of bilingual texts about both Texas-Mexican and Jewish-Mexican culture and history
• Receiving of official visitations from other centers of Iberian Jewish and Mexican culture.
The Center is non-political it will serve as a platform for dialogue in which peoples from these two communities can seek commonalities of purpose and the promotion of common goals.
Trás-os-Montes is a historical province of Portugal located in the northeastern corner of the country. Vast plateaus, river valleys, mountains, and castles abound. This is the Center for Jewish Studies in Trás-os-Montes. The center is engaged in a myriad of historic and cultural initiatives intended to bring to life the robust Jewish history of Portugal.
Below are some of the efforts undertaken by the group:
1- A synthesis of the Jewish Studies Center of Trás-os-Montes (CEJTM) between 1998 and 2008 and the bridge to a new phase started in 2017. (Ruth Calvão)
2- Economic resurrection through the creation and implementation of historical, cultural and gastronomic Tourist Routes in the region; including a line of local food products with kosher certification. (André Quiroga and Filomena Marques)
3 – Continued studies and research regarding Jewish presence in the region. (Avraham Gross and Elvira Mea)
CEJTM was officially established in 2002, although an informal group of citizens of different nationalities, creeds and professions had been meeting in Chaves since 1998 under the core theme of Judaism in Trás-os-Montes and the mechanisms to preserve its memory throughout the ages.
Upon its establishment it was assumed that the memory of the Jewish People's history plays a fundamental role in the construction of its identity. It is no coincidence that the pages of the Torah are filled with verbs in the imperative that guide and stimulate remembrance. The relationship with the past in Judaism is related to its meaning and legacy, and is not a mere record of events in itself.
Accordingly, memory plays a crucial role in giving meaning to history. It also fuses elements of Israel's identity and faith. Thus, Jewish rituals work like memorials intended to keep memory alive throughout the generations and have survived to this day. The Hebrew expression zikkarôn is defined as an object or act which reminds one of something, or represents something. As such, it can be a "memorial," a "remembrance," an "historical record," or a physical "souvenir" which triggers remembrance. This word was and is also the thread that brought us to 2017. Recovering and preserving the memory, the Zikkarôn.
Between 2002 and 2006 CEJTM operated from the municipal building located at Rua Júlio Martins, 7, in Chaves, Portugal. It offered a vast cultural and educational annual plan including learning Hebrew to a group of about 20 interested people with the support of USAF (Chaves Rotary University for Seniors), our partner. History of Jewish Art was also taught for three school years.
Between 2002-2006 CEJTM chose to limit the objects of investigation and initially tried to carry out a systematized general overview of what had been studied so far in the Jewish context of the region. The second planned and achieved step was to disseminate it among the general public inside and outside Trás-os-Montes through events, workshops, exhibitions, conferences, colloquia and other means. This process directly brought about 7000 people to the municipality of Chaves and the region in general, and there were numerous participations of members of the Center in public events organized by the municipalities of Lisbon and Oporto as well as in Israel, Brazil, France, Spain and the USA. Both national and foreign media coverage was excellent, extensive and continued in writing, digital, TV and radio.
We have always been strongly supported by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Portuguese tourist and cultural authorities which granted us the status of "entity of higher cultural interest" in 2003, and the municipalities of Lisbon and Oporto.
In this period we counted on three technicians from the Chaves City Hall and the magnificent support of Major Antero Afonso, Prof. Dr. Judith Cohen, Paulo Ranito, Dr. Pimenta de Castro, among others in the collection of material and immaterial remains of the Jewish presence in 101 villages of the Chaves municipality and in places of notorious Jewish incidence like Rebordelo, Argozelo, Lebução. The intersection between the purpose of investigating the mechanisms of preservation of Jewish memory and the cultural relevance that such narrative has for Jews and the general public was a concern. In the course of this process, we realized there is still a very rich gastronomic, personal and collective, Jewish history and memory, ritual and conscience "zikkarôn". Historian Mircea Eliade discusses issues relating to time according to traditional societies, that is, "all societies up to the modern world" (Eliade 1969: 91). Taking this aspect as a reference we tried to - understand the reason why in the history of the Jews from Trás-os-Montes some things must be remembered and others not; - understand which paradigm defines what should be reminded to each generation; - understand the mechanisms of preservation of the Jewish memory; - and assess the importance of such preservation for the new generations.
The primary source for analysis was the collection of oral testimonies of recipes, traditions, laws and rituals related to food preparation in the above-mentioned region and places. Several authors and books on food were checked and studied beginning with a first approach and then a deeper one in order to develop the research. At the second stage we inferred from previous readings that memory fuses elements of the identity and faith of Israel, and from there we selected material relating to the Feasts of the Torah, as evidence of this conception. As an example, every time that Easter is celebrated, an archetype is repeated, that is, an exemplary model is followed. Thus, the same way that the ancestors celebrated the Pessar deliverance from Egypt's enslavement, the future generations should do the same, lest they forget that "For with a strong hand the Lord brought thee out of Egypt" (Exodus 13:9). In Trás-os-Montes, this pedagogical function is registered in the DNA, this legacy has not lost its strength in itself although it is in the process of extinction due to external circumstances such as globalization, desertification of the interior and, especially in the villages, aging, etc., a well-known reality.
It is up to us to rescue the past for future generations who will be educated according to the continuous process of this memory preservation. Thus, (and up to 2008) texts in different formats were published by CEJTM such as the book "Jewish flavors from Trás-os-Montes, a magazine on the Kosher Laws in Portuguese and Spanish, as well as short stories based on the oral testimonies collected. Author José Ruy's cartoon book on the story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes was translated into and published in Hebrew as a joint initiative of the Israeli Embassy, CEJTM and the Portugal-Israel Cultural Association. This publication was then offered to YAD VASHEM to be disseminated in schools. Translation of Major Afonso's book on the Rebordelo Manuscript is underway. Two documentaries were made in 2008 resulting from all this work, one for an Israeli channel and the other one for Portuguese RTP 2.
Three courses/ workshops were held on kashrut and Sephardic gastronomy for lay people and professionals with the support of several entities. Children's Gastronomic Days were also held with the support of the Ministry for Education and several Portuguese municipalities as part of the "Chefs for Peace" project at the Lisbon and Oporto Sheraton Hotels.
Last but not least in this summary, CEJTM brought to Chaves the Inter-Ajuda pilot project based on social ideas already implemented in Israel where communitarianism was recovered through systematic chain-aids in response to the needs of populations. EMET Association was founded, a charity that never requested Social Security funds and, among other activities, it established the first Mobile Health Unit in Portugal in 2003. This involvement of the Study Center members in the community has been creating fundamental links aiming motivation and commitment to everyone's participation in this project.
Year 2017 - In view of the enormous success of the Center's activities between 2000 and 2008, the positive changes in the tourism sector in Portugal and the current conditions of transportation, the issue of sustainability should be re-evaluated. In 2017, the necessary conditions for re-launching CEJTM were met, and the project was adapted to the new digital formats of dissemination and new inputs from local research groups and enthusiasts of crypto-Judaism.
We have broadened our scope of action by including items two and three of this summary, which are critical to a project which seeks to be self-sustainable. We maintain the ambitious initial goal of creating an Archive, and this also requires a long-term action that can only be achieved through a network of local and international strategic partnerships.
About Ruth Calvão
Born in Lisbon, Portugal, Ms. Ruth Calvão started out as a student of anthropology which was a conduit to investigating her curiosity in Jewish traditions and way of life. Ms. Calvao is uniquely qualified as an expert on the subject of Sefarad. Born a Christian, like many of her fellow Conversos, Ruth embarked on a special journey in search of her Jewish identity. Ruth made Aliya and moved to Israel in 1977 where she married and raised children in a Jewish environment.
These days Ruth commutes between Portugal and Israel. Ruth is a founding member and President of the Project Development and Outreach of the Centro de Estudos Judaicos de Trás -os- Montes, Rotas Históricas e Culturais Ibéricas (Center for Jewish Studies in Trás-os-Montes, Iberian Historical and Cultural Routes). Ruth has 35 year hands-on experience coordinating projects and budgets; both with governmental and private organizations, including endless voluntary work during this period. She pioneered many innovative initiatives assisting individual and community how to organize and frame their story using tools such as community theatre and arts to implement social change.
Ruth has extensive experience working with the EU, Israeli Institutions and Government bodies, in both, national and local representatives, NGOs and Philanthropic Institutes in Europe and the Middle East. She is a recognized, and well-respected authority on Jewish history in Portugal and surroundings.
About Filomena Marques
Filomena Marques is VP of Center for Jewish Studies in Trás-os-Montes -- Iberian Historical and Cultural Routes is an entrepreneur, manager and a business consultant who graduated from the University of Lisbon in Educational Sciences, where she worked as a researcher, completing her post-graduate training in Organizational Development at ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management. In recent years she has been working as a university professor in the multimedia and storytelling areas that are the base of the PHD that she is pursuing. As a consultant se implements improvement performance processes in the companies she advises in the areas of strategy and internationalization. Besides teaching and the business activity she has cooperated with cultural and social responsibility projects with particular focus on contemporary art where she stands as a collector.
About D. André de Quiroga
D. André de Quiroga heir to a European aristocratic tradition dating back to the 8th century, with ancestors in Austria, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Russia, is the son of a USA citizen, an expat of Portuguese origin that worked at the Voice of America. Bibliophile, gastronome, curator and contemporary art collector, former Rádio Difusão Portuguesa journalist and collaborator with the press in the 90s, has a professional trajectory in sectors like media consultancy, business communication and politics. Consultant for some of the biggest Portuguese companies in the agro-food and construction sectors, he excelled in the organization of electoral campaigns and as an advisor to members of parliament and mayors. He distinguished himself since 2000 organizing international projects that promote a connections between the universes of contemporary art and gastronomy as a platform for touristic promotion and the integrated development of peripheral rural areas.
Located within the Tel Aviv University campus, Beit Hatfutsot connects Jewish people to their roots and strengthens their personal and collective Jewish identity. Simultaneously, Beit Hatfutsot conveys to the world the fascinating narrative of the Jewish people and the essence of the Jewish culture, faith, purpose and deed while presenting the contribution of world Jewry to humanity. The museums story-telling rather than artifact-exhibit approach was an innovation in its day, and museums worldwide have emulated this model.
• To present and display the unique and ongoing 4,000-year-old story of the Jewish people – past, present and future.
• To nurture a sense of belonging among Jewish visitors and to strengthen Jewish identity.
• To serve as the central address for Jewish discourse, engagement and learning for Jewish individuals, families, communities and organizations from Israel and around the world.
Beit Hatfutsot opened in 1978 thanks to the vision of Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress 1954-1977. In 2005, the Israeli Knesset passed the Beit Hatfutsot Law that defines Beit Hatfutsot as “the National Center for Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.
Caminos De Sefarad
The Red de Juderías de España, Caminos de Sefarad
Welcome to the Red de Juderías de España
The Red de Juderías de España, Caminos de Sefarad, is a network of Jewish Quarters that once thrived in ancient Spain. Jewish history in Spain dates to biblical times. Some associate the country of Tarshish with a locale in southern Spain. More substantial evidence of Jews in Spain goes back to the time of the Romans (2nd Century C.E.), and by the Middle Ages, Spain was the center of the Jewish world.
In the 8th century, the Berber Muslims (Moors) conquered much of the Iberian Peninsula. This ushered in the “Golden Age” when Jews were generally accepted and Jewish religious, cultural, and economic life was at its best. The Jewish communities flourished in business and in the fields of astronomy, philosophy, math, science, medicine, and religious study. The same period also witnessed a resurgence of Hebrew poetry and literature from a traditional and liturgical language to a living language able to be used to describe everyday life. Among the early Hebraists of the time were Yehudah HaLevi who became known as one of the first great Hebrew poets, and Menahem ben Saruq who compiled the first ever Hebrew dictionary.
The Golden Age of Spain came to a terrible end at the period of the Reconquista when Christian Spain began to recapture territory from the Moors. As the Christians reconquered Spain, a dark cloud gradually spread over Jewish society. Jews were increasingly subjected to religious intolerance: they were forced to live in ghettos (juderías), prohibited from practicing many professions, and were victims of pogroms, blood libels and forced conversions culminating in the expulsion order of 1492.
The Red de Juderías de España, Caminos de Sefarad assembled a network of Jewish quarters in Spain offering a journey in time through Jewish Spain. The Routes of Sefarad are a suggested journey through the most notable Jewish quarters. The Network of Jewish quarters in Spain offers the traveler an abundance of information.
The members of the Network act jointly in defense of the historical heritage and Jewish legacy promoting cultural, tourist and academic projects and carrying out a policy of exchange of national and international experiences that contribute to the mutual knowledge and respect of peoples, cultures and traditions.
Ávila, Barcelona, Cáceres, Calahorra, Córdoba, Estella-Lizarra, Hervás, Jaén, León, Lucena, Monforte de Lemos, Oviedo, Plasencia, Ribadavia, Segovia, Tarazona, Toledo and Tudela have been recovering their jewelries for 20 years, investing time and resources in the rehabilitation of houses, streets, palaces and how many buildings can be saved from oblivion and recover the knowledge of the lives of Jewish families of all backgrounds and conditions. Hidden story revealed after five hundred thirty years now recovered.
The footprint of the Jews in Spain extends over a thousand years. Explore their stories in the cities of the Juderías Network and do your own searches with our interactive map and schedule.
Thanks to Google technology, visitors can explore layers of information about maps and schedules about Jewish history, culture and heritage on the peninsula in a unique web environment on the Internet. Caminos de Sefarad offers an interactive experience about the historical wealth and tangible and intangible Sephardic heritage of the member cities of the Network.
Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region and the second largest city in Spain, a city known for its art and architecture. The Jews of Barcelona trace their history back to the 9th Century. Towns and villages in the surrounding rural areas became home to many Jewish communities throughout the centuries. The cities of Girona and Barcelona evolved into the most famous centers of Jewish learning under the guidance of the Chachmei Sepharad such as the Rambam and the Rashba, Hasdai Crescas. Jews of the region became influential as doctors, philosophers, merchants, moneylenders and craftsmen.
In its heyday Spanish Jewry was one of the largest, most prosperous and cultivated Jewish communities in the world. Despite centuries of unrivaled Jewish success, this “Golden Age” came to an end with pogrom and massacre of 1391, one of the Middle Ages' largest attacks on the Jews, who were ultimately expelled from the in 1492 with the promulgation of the “Alhambra Decree,” which presented the Jews with the options of conversion to Catholicism, exile or death. The Jewish community of Barcelona could not recover and by the end of the century the last few families move to other cities.
Sephardi and Askenazi Jews start moving to Spain at the onset of the 20th century. They arrived from Eastern Europe, Turkey (the old Ottoman Empire) and during WWII and from Morocco. From 1976 through the 90’s we see a revival of the Jewish population in Spain when a group of young adults, including locals and immigrants from South America decided to develop egalitarian-style Judaism bringing about the ATID Congregation established in 1992 promoting Jewish life and its cultural, educational, social and religious values. ATID welcomes those who explore returning to their Jewish roots. Since its creation, ATID was committed to promoting Jewish life both in Barcelona and throughout Spain, offering religious services and a wide range of activities to interested Jews and the public at large with interest in Jewish Culture.
This community continues to grow on the basis that leadership will be passed on to the younger generations and promoting members of the community to take new roles based on equality and respect for diversity.
Porto Jewish Community
Porto Jewish Community
The contribution of Portuguese Jews to world history is enormous and its history is inseparable from the Jewish presence in Portugal between the 5th and the 15th centuries. In the northern region of the country are villages, cities and small towns where important Jewish communities once thrived. It would be difficult to trace the first arrival of Jews in Porto. We do know that there were Jews in Porto during the High Medieval Ages. Although Porto tolerated its Jewish community and even tried to protect it for many years, the expulsion of the Jews from the country following the infamous Inquisition destroyed its Jewish Heritage.
Porto is Portugal's second largest city, home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the country that was spared by the earthquake of 1755 that destroyed much of Lisbon but left Porto intact, including the streets of the former Jewish quarter, narrow streets and balconied houses, with street names such as "Rua Monte Judeus," "Escadinhas do Monte dos Judeus," and Pátio das Escadinhas do Monte dos Judeus." The main synagogue stood on the Escadas da Vitória, a place still locally called "Escadas da Esnoga," meaning "stairway to the synagogue." There is a plaque that marks this site.
Nearby, there is an ancient Jewish cemetery at Passeio das Virtudes. It was there that the largest numbers of Conversos (also known as Marranos), descendants of Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition but secretly practicing Judaism, lived Porto's first synagogue stood in what is today known as Rua de Santana and, as the city developed, the Jewish community spread towards the river. Walk along that route and go to Praça da Ribeira and its adjacent streets where, in those days, the important Jews lived: physicists, goldsmiths, great merchants. If you need to regain your strength, relax at one of the esplanades facing the river and see the D. Luís I Bridge and the landscape of the warehouses and Port wine cellars on the south bank of the Douro River.
Located in the civil parish of Lordelo do Ouro e Massarelos, the municipality of Porto the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue serves the Jewish community of Porto. The "Kadoorie" synagogue was built on property bought and donated by Baron Edmond de Rothschild of Paris.
In the 1920s, Captain Arthur Carlos de Barros Basto, a decorated Portuguese WW1 veteran who survived gas attacks in Flanders, began a quasi-messianic movement in northern Portugal to "out" Marranos and bring them back to Judaism. Basto, a free mason and Republican was informed of his family's Marrano heritage by his grandfather who announced on his deathbed that he wished to die as a Jew. Basto honored his grandfather's message for the rest of his life. He taught himself Hebrew, becoming so proficient that he later taught it at the faculty of Arts at the University of Porto where he also conducted original research into Portuguese medieval Jewish history. Basto eventually underwent a conversion to Judaism. Returning to Lisbon, he married the daughter of a prominent Jewish family of that community which initially had rejected him. He then settled down in Porto, near Amarante, his place of birth, to raise a family and start his building his dream. Visiting isolated villages and towns, sometime by foot and donkey, the charismatic Captain, dressed in full regalia, convinced thousands of Marranos to give up their syncretism and return openly to the faith of their ancestors. He led the revival of normative rituals and established synagogues in several towns and cities, despite protests from the Catholic Church.
False charges were brought against the Captain and he was court-martialed, stripped of his rank. But he left behind a small community almost entirely descended from Conversos and the magnificent Kadoorie Synagogue, the largest active synagogue in Iberia.
Jewish community of Lisbon
The Jewish presence in the Iberian Peninsula has existed long before Portugal itself became a country. The contribution of Portuguese Jews to the arts, philosophy, commerce and sciences helped create this nation’s rich cultural heritage. Portugal’s Jewish community, with a cultural and religious legacy dating back to antiquity.
The center of the Lisbon Jewish Community is the historical Shaare Tikvah (Doors of Hope) Synagogue, inaugurated in 1904 and located in the civil parish of Santo António, in the municipality of Lisbon.
The current Hebrew community of Lisbon originates from the groups of Sephardic Jews who settled in Portugal in the beginning of the 19th century. These were mostly marketers, from Gibraltar and Morocco (Tangier, Tetouan and Mogador) and some of their names still expressed the connection with their places of origin in the Iberian Peninsula, before the expulsion period.
Such is the case of Conqui (from Cuenca, Cuenca Province) or Cardoso (from Cardoso, district of Viseu). They were people with an above average cultural level, knowing how to read , write and speak beyond the liturgical Hebrew, Arabic or English, including the Haketia, Jewish-Hispanic-Moroccan dialect. They were internationally networked due to their commercial activities, as well as family ties worldwide. These factors explain the fast economic and cultural growth both Jews from Lisbon and of the groups that were installing in Faro and Azores in that first half of the 19th century.
Ashley Perry (Perez)
Reconectar Founder & President
Around the early part of the last millennium, almost 90% of world Jewry lived in the Iberian Peninsula, a community which led to some of the greatest figures of Jewish history. As a result of forced conversions, expulsions and persecution by The Inquisition, many hundreds of thousands of Jews were brutally and forcibly cut off from their people, many escaping to the Americas.
These Bnei Anusim, (lit. “Children [of the] coerced [converted] Spanish [Jews]), are the contemporary descendants of those Jews who were forcibly converted beginning in the 14th Century. After the forced or coerced conversions of their Sephardic Jewish ancestors, a group of descendants of Jews from Spain and Portugal remained ever since as Crypto-Jews (Jews in secret). They needed to remain in secret because of the gestapo-like presence for the proceeding centuries of The Inquisition which would watch every facet of the Anusim’s life for secret ‘Judaizing’ which would in turn frequently result in unspeakable torture with the possibility of being burnt alive at the stake, sometimes along with other members of the family.
Due to the almost impossibility of escape or flight, the Anusim had not been able to return to the Jewish people over the last five centuries, although increasing numbers have begun emerging publicly in modern times, especially over the last two decades. Many remarkably still adhere to Jewish customs and traditions which had been retained as family traditions, frequently in secret, like lighting Shabbat candles, not eating bread around Pesach and not mixing meat and milk, to give just three of many examples.
Today’s technology, chiefly, internet, genealogy and DNA advances have generated massive interest in discovering Jewish roots. Many are undertaking simple Google searches which demonstrate that their definitive family customs are indicative of Jewish ties.
Thousands are discovering their Jewish roots all the time and would like to reconnect with the Jewish People.
Reconectar’s mission is to help and assist those who wish to reconnect by giving them the personalized tools do so according to their individual requests and requirements.We also give organizations, communities and individuals the opportunity to assist in this long-overdue reconnection.
Those who wish to reconnect will be provided with information and support. Registration at the website is a symbolic act and does not constitute any formal recognition by any government, Jewish organizational institutions or rabbinical courts.
ABOUT THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF RECONECTAR
Ashley Perry (Perez) is from the Spanish and Portuguese (Sephardic) Jewish community. Brought up in London from one of the oldest Jewish families in the UK, Perry made Aliyah (immigrated) to Israel in 2001.
He was adviser to Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister from April 2009 until May 2015.
Perry also worked with Israel’s Ministers of Tourism, National Infrastructure and Water, Agriculture, Internal Security, Immigrant Absorption and the Deputy Ministers of the Interior and Foreign Affairs, as well as with the Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and in the Prime Minister’s Office.
He holds a BA Honors in History from University College London (UK) and an MA in Government from the IDC Herzliya (Israel).
Perry is also Director-General of the official Knesset Caucus for the Reconnection with the Descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Communities.
Combat Anti-Semitism (CAS) is a non-partisan, global grassroots movement of individuals and organizations, across all religions and faiths, united around the goal of ending anti-Semitism. CAS supports and highlights the work of its many partner organizations and the efforts of governments and other bodies trying to fight anti-Semitism around the world.
Through its programs, CAS attempts to educate about anti-Semitism, report on its various manifestations, give a platform for people to tell their personal stories, thank those making a difference, and most of all, activate people to make a difference with unique campaigns initiated by CAS and those of its partners.
CAS recognizes anti-Semitism on all sides of the ideological spectrum, including the effort to deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland, Israel and to delegitimize the profound historic, religious, and ethnic connection of the Jewish people to Israel, an integral pillar of Jewish identity.
Since its launching in February 2019, over 210 organizations and 190,000 individuals have joined the movement by signing our campaign’s pledge. The CAS Pledge draws upon the IHRA international definition of anti-Semitism and its list of specific behaviors used to discriminate against the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.
The movement was launched by several individuals with the support and encouragement of its many partner organizations. The movement is intended to be non-partisan. Individuals and organizations from all backgrounds and interests passionate about eradicating anti-Semitism in the world are encouraged to join the campaign.
There is no financial requirement for an organization to join the coalition. All we request is a high-resolution logo and an effort to inform your membership about the campaign to help us grow the people involved in our movement. One of the main goals of the movement is to help enhance the important work of the many organizations in this country and around the world, engaged in the fight against anti-Semitism.
Humanity flourishes when religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity is respected and we hope to encourage understanding and set an example through our work. Anti-Semitism is the oldest form of bigotry and by working to eliminate it, we hope tragedies like the holocaust or any incidents of hate inspired speech or violence perpetrated against the Jewish people, Israel, or any discriminated group are reduced significantly.
Please contact us if you are interested to join the Movement at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Foundation for Jewish Heritage
The Jewish people have produced a vast cultural heritage; a remarkable visual chronicle across the ages. It is an irreplaceable inheritance, a precious legacy for those to come – and it is in danger.
The Foundation for Jewish Heritage is dedicated exclusively to the preservation of Jewish architectural sites, working internationally to ensure a future for historic synagogues, Jewish monuments and places of cultural significance.
Mapping the Historic Synagogues of Europe
The Foundation commissioned unprecedented research, undertaken by the Center for Jewish Art of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to create an inventory of the historic synagogues that exist today across the whole of Europe, categorizing each synagogue building according to its (i) significance and (ii) condition.
The research identified over 3,300 sites, of which under a quarter are currently functioning synagogues.
This mapping was undertaken to enable the Foundation to be comprehensive and strategic in its approach to its preservation agenda, with the ability to identify which are the most important synagogue sites most at risk, and it is now working to help save and bring back into meaningful use a prioritized number.
Medieval Synagogue in Hijar Spain
In the medieval period, there was a significant Jewish community in Hijar in Aragon which pioneered the early Hebrew printing press.
With the expulsion of the Jewish community in 1492, the main synagogue in the former Jewish quarter of Hijar was taken over by the Church becoming the Church of San Anton de Hijar. In recent years, there has been growing interest in the Sephardic heritage in Aragon and the Government of Aragon has been developing a Strategic Plan "Aragon Sefarad: legado y memoria", which aims at recovering the material and immaterial heritage of around 30 former Jewish quarters in the region.
As a result, attention is once again being paid to the former synagogue building in Hijar which represents the only example of a synagogue archaeologically remaining anywhere in Aragon.
The building is owned by the Archbishopry of the Zaragoza Church. However, because it is not the main Church in Hijar, it is only used for services once a year and as a result has been poorly maintained. There was a recent partial collapse of the roof which has accelerated its deterioration.
Subsequent works were carried out to prevent further damage and the building was recently recognised formally as a Site of Cultural Importance (Bien de Interés Cultural) so the efforts of stabilisation are being monitored. However, there are no moves towards undertaking a full restoration of the monument, nor any strategy for its future use.
In 2017, an archaeological excavation was carried out in the Church of San Anton. As a result, various elements belonging to the ancient synagogue from the fifteenth century have been documented, including the remains of the bimah. These findings constitute extraordinary material testimony of the Spanish synagogues that existed in the medieval period.
The plan is to conduct further documentary study and archaeological research to fully establish what remains from the original synagogue.
Given the Aragon Government initiative to recover the lost heritage of its once Jewish community, the longer term plan is that the building be taken over by the town of Hijar and used as an educational and tourist hub for the developing programme on the Sephardic heritage of the region.
Etz Hayim Synagogue in Izmir Turkey
The Etz Hayim Synagogue is an ancient building – the oldest synagogue in Izmir (formerly Smyrna) - that dates back to the time of the Romaniot Jews who settled in Asia Minor during the Byzantine period. It was later rebuilt by Sephardic Jews who had been expelled from Spain and were welcomed by the Ottoman Empire.
The Etz Hayim therefore is a mix of architectural styles including both Spanish and Ottoman elements and this mixing is also reflected in the impressive frescoes that are another special feature of the building added over the centuries. This confluence of influences that the building represents is unique to Izmir.
The synagogue forms part of a group of nine historic Synagogues; a unique complex in the old city of Izmir which is itself a designated conservation zone.
The problems faced by the Etz Hayim Synagogue are ones of decay over time, past city-wide disasters including fires and earthquakes, and a declining Jewish community that lacks the means to maintain the building. At one point, the building’s very future was in doubt, but urgent works have been carried out to repair the roof and stabilise the floor that was sinking. However, the building remains in a precarious situation.
The project to restore the Etz Haim synagogue is part of a larger effort to save all the historic synagogues of the old quarter being led by the Israeli-based Kiriaty Foundation, working in cooperation with the Izmir Municipality, the Jewish community of Izmir, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey.
The vision is to save the Etz Haim and integrate the site into a wider presentation of all the synagogues in the Old Quarter of Izmir turning the whole complex into a unique Jewish Museum that will make the buildings available to a wider public and tell the story of the Jews of the region, its history, values and traditions and the distinct Sephardi heritage that was introduced in the 15th century. A further key aspect will be to present - and celebrate - the story of co-existence that has been a feature of Jewish-Muslim relations in the region, the intercultural influences and shared values, and the contribution that the Jewish community has made.
Fundación HispanoJudía exists to represent an accurate, compelling, and transformative introduction to Sephardic history and modern-day culture. By committing itself to both historic and contemporary exchanges of ideas between Jewish people and their neighbors and colleagues, the foundation works to:
- increase awareness of Jewish identity
- foster opportunities for historical and academic exchange
- expand public understanding of the Jewish people across global communities
As a nonprofit organization, Fundación HispanoJudía was created to build bridges, promote knowledge, and strengthen the relationship of the Spanish-speaking world. Its signature initiative is the establishment of a world-class museum and cultural center in Madrid that is dedicated to empowering modern Spain to expand their conception of “Spain’s Jewish culture.” The foundation is developing content that recognizes and celebrates the role Jews played in Spanish, European, Latin American, and North American culture, and is promoting intercultural dialogue and the exchange of cultural diversity.
Committed to creating an environment that will invite people of diverse backgrounds to gather and learn, Fundación HispanoJudía proudly presents Museo HispanoJudío.
The long and varied history of Sephardic Jewry is often flattened into its most notorious rupture—the expulsion of practicing Jews in Spain in 1492—once home to the largest Jewish community in the world. The significance of the expulsion cannot be overstated, nor can its severe consequences both for the Sephardim who fled and for the countries they left behind. However, the expulsion does not present the whole of history.
To tell this story, Museo HispanoJudío will open to the public in 2023 to showcase the legacy of Sefarad, both as a nation and across the Diaspora, helping visitors understand the lives Jews lived, the challenges they faced, the triumphs they celebrated, and the losses they bore. By featuring Jews who lived before the Inquisition; La Convivencia, when Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in peace; the journey of exiled Sephardim and the exploration of Jewish communities across the Ottoman Empire, North Africa and the New World (using interactive films to trace migration of the Jews of Sefard); the impact of war (before, during and after World War II); and the right to citizenship and return after 500 years of hiding and banishment, Museo HispanoJudío will empower audiences from around the world to recapture the “before” and the “after,” and to navigate the enduring legacy of the past in our present-day landscape.
This high-tech museum will at once serve an onsite community and a global online audience—designed to enhance the ways in which visitors can interact with history and understand important Sephardic contributions in philosophy, theology, music, language, arts, and sciences across Spanish-speaking cultures. By introducing a virtual-first experience, the museum will future-proof its concept through online engagement, and present visitors with a presentation that is based on the future of storytelling and knowledge sharing. Specialized display technologies and immersive experiences will illuminate historical case studies and invite visitors to offer personal reflections as they take a 4,000-year journey through the museum’s core exhibition.
Institute of Jewish Experience
The American Sephardi Federation is a founding member of the The Center for Jewish History, is a non-profit Jewish organization that strengthens and organizes the religious and cultural activities of Sephardic Jews, preserves Sephardic heritage, tradition and culture in the United States, and assists in the publication of books and literature dealing with the Sephardic culture and tradition. The federation also works to further awareness of the former existence of large Jewish communities in the Muslim and Arab world.
ASF Educational Arm
The American Sephardi Federation’s Institute of Jewish Experience (ASF IJE) is an educational initiative designed to revitalize the Jewish intellectual and cultural legacy. In an Ashke-centric Jewish world, we raise awareness, knowledge and respect for the centuries-long traditions and customs of Sephardi, Mizrahi, and other Jewish cultures. From the Geonim of Baghdad to the philosopher poets and scientists of al-Andalus, the Hachamim of Halab, the Kessim of Ethiopia, and the scholars and dancers of Salonika and Sana’a, the Jewish experience is a rich mosaic with tiles of many shapes. ASF IJE is dedicated to ensuring that today’s Jews know their history, appreciate the diversity of the Jewish People, and have a sense of pride for one’s own cultural heritage.
Our mission is to create a world of mutual respect and collaboration between the diverse Jewish communities.
We do so through multi-disciplinary and multi-generational formal and informal education and outreach. Our programs present the world’s leading scholars and represent the best that is being thought and written on our topics.
- Semester-long online courses (MOOCs) for continuing learners focusing on less studied aspects of Jewish history, customs, culture and arts (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBifgIwtGQI)
- Yearly academic conference focusing on a particular Jewish heritage (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jOD_oVMirY)
- Year-round programs at New York’s landmark Center for Jewish History
- Short informational clips and teacher materials supplementing standard Jewish curricula in Jewish middle and high schools (https://youtu.be/38q-TCV9clM)