Report: The Second B’nei Anusim International Conference in Portugal, May 2019
by Jared Abram Seltzer
The Second B’nei Anusim International Conference that we and our brothers from Brazil organized with the towns of Castelo de Vide and Trancoso, Portugal was wonderful! To those of you who could not attend but supported in prayer, we extend a special thank you. The previous Portugal conference, nearly 10 years ago, raised international interest in the Anusim (the Sephardic Jews also called Marranos, New Christians, and Crypto-Jews that were ordered to convert to Catholicism or else flee Iberia for their lives).
That conference preceded, and through raised awareness, led indirectly to the subsequent founding of multiple Israeli organizations whose goal was to find and target Marranos for full Ashkenazi, Orthodox Jewish conversion as a condition to permitting their return to Israel.
The irony is disheartening; Catholicism had forced itself onto the Anusim 530 years ago, and now the terms for permitting their return to Israel include mandatory conversion. And even in the towns where a sizeable group of Anusim did accept conversion, their doing so actually created a rift in the community. It drove a wedge between brothers – the ones that accepted conversion which were forbidden to associate with those that already considered themselves Jewish and had no reason to convert.
In short, until the Anusim are back home in Israel, we will continue to shed light on this issue and advocate for them. That was the purpose of this 2019 International B’nei Anusim Conference in Portugal.
The conference hosted many dignitaries, politicians and scholars speaking on a variety of topics, including the President of the Municipality of Castelo de Vide, António Pita, and Brazilian State Deputy of Minas Gerais, João Leite. Additionally, Israeli political analyst, Guy Bechor, appeared via a prepared video with an encouraging message of hope and progress to the conference’s guests and to Anusim worldwide.
Sadly, several speakers cancelled last minute when the President of the Jewish congregation in Lisbon declared a boycott on our conference, forbidding any Jews to participate in it. But we are not moved by this desperate act since we know that boycotts and prohibitions never work long-term; we praise God for the success of the conference.
We were delighted to have large groups from Brazil and from China joining the conference, and, in total, 150 people were in attendance representing 12 different countries. It is clear how much support internationally this topic is receiving, and that, in and of itself, is very encouraging.
After the conference, we kicked off our four-day prayer tour led by our wonderful tour guide Mónica Santos. We started in Castelo de Vide, headed northward to Belmonte and then Trancoso, then turned back southward, stopping at Coimbra and then Tomar before finishing at Lisbon.
We visited Jewish Museums, holding cells for accused Jews, synagogues from the time of the Inquisition that have since been restored, and sites where Jews were persecuted, force-converted, tried and executed. We learned about how the Anusim kept their ancient Jewish traditions in special ways so as to keep it secret.
For example, we saw on display an ordinary lampstand fashioned in such a way so that it casts a shadow in the shape of the Star of David, and we saw candle holders designed for holding a single candle, but whose reflective backing emulated the lighting of two candles for Shabbat. After all, lighting two candles on Friday evening during the time of the Inquisition was a crime serious enough to be accused and tried as heretic.
In these towns, we prayed together, one person from each of the 12 countries that were represented, for healing and restoration for the Anusim worldwide, for the leading of the Holy Spirit to guide them back to their ancestral heritage and roots, and for the nation of Israel to lighten the terms of their return and welcome them back home after 530 years of exile and persecution.
We expect this conference to raise awareness of the Anusim and to produce real fruit that will lead to their return. We want to see Israel make it easy for the millions of Anusim who have maintained or desire to rediscover their Jewish roots. But at any rate, we will trust in the Lord, knowing that the Bible prophesies their return, and it will come to pass.
At this recent conference, one especially promising piece of news that we discussed is that Anusim who can evidence their family’s expulsion from Portugal during the Inquisition can apply for and receive Portuguese citizenship. On one hand, Portuguese citizenship may look inviting for economic or traveling reasons, but on the other hand, it also builds a list of families, a list which can be utilized at some point in the future for a mass immigration to Israel, about which we are quite optimistic.
Thank you to all of the distinguished dignitaries, speakers, and guests who participated in this conference, and to our friends from all over the world who attended. We want to also include a special mention of our dear brothers, Marcelo and Matheus Guimarães, from the “Teaching from Zion Ministry” in Belo-Horizonte, Brazil, for their partnership with us.
We invite you and all of our friends to continue to keep this conference and the issue of the Crypto-Jews in your prayers, and advocate with all of your means for them and for Israel. Bring anti-Semitism to a halt; contend for Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the nation of Israel.
Write to your governmental leaders to take a pro-Israel stance and to pressure Israel, Spain, and Portugal to rectify, once and for all, this gargantuan injustice done to the Anusim and subsequently to their descendants. Then, can we anticipate the soon and certain return of millions of children of Jacob to their ancestral homeland, and then, thereby, the redemption to the whole world.
Published June 3, 2019 | Updated June 3, 2019
About Jared Abram Seltzer
Jared is a content writer and editor for Netivyah, holds degrees in biblical history, culture and languages, and loves both to learn and to teach especially about the intersection of nascent Christianity with Second Temple Judaism.