The Converso Comeback
The Converso Phenomenon & the Comeback Stories Converso phenomenon, while historically not new, is finally coming to the fore. Discussions, research and interest are reaching new levels of interest. It's a fascinating story for a myriad of reasons, including what we have come to know as the "Pintele Yid", albeit an Ashkenazy term, it means the "Jewish Spark", literally, the Jewish remnant residing in the heart of every Jew.
The Converso phenomenon is rooted in the Inquisitions and pogroms that took place in the Iberian Peninsula (historical Spain and Portugal). A Converso was (and remains) a Jew that converted to Roman Catholicism in Spain and or Portugal, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries, or one of their descendants. The majority of Spain's Jews converted to Christianity as a result of the program in 1391. Those who remained openly practicing Jews were expelled by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in the Alhambra Decree of 1492, following the Christian re-conquest of Spain. Many of the remaining practicing Jews chose to join the already large Converso Community rather than face exile. In order to safe-guard the Old Christian population and make sure that the Converso or "New Christians" were true to their new faith, the Holy Office of the Inquisition was established in Spain in 1481. Conversos who did not fully or genuinely embrace Catholicism and continued to practice their Jewish faith in secrecy were referred to as "judaizantes" and pejoratively as Marranos ("swine") or in Hebrew Bnai Anusim.