Following the Knesset conference for the Caucus for Reconnection with the Descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Communities on 13 October 2015, the ISAS and WJC-Israel sponsored an afternoon conference, “The Anousim Diaspora Today: Jewish Challenge and Hope,” at the Ben-Tzvi Institute in Jerusalem.
The conference was moderated by Prof. Abraham Gross of Ben Gurion University, who represented the ISAS. We were honored by the presence of our two main speakers: Mordechai Arbell spoke about his many years of experience with Anousim during his time as Israeli ambassador in South America and the Caribbean and while researching his scholarly works, which include his books “The Portuguese Jews of Jamaica” and “The Jewish Nation of the Caribbean.” His talk was reflective of his rich experience and gave much food for thought. Genie Milgrom related her personal story of return and the context of her book, “My 15 Grandmothers.” Genie left no stone (and no page) unturned during her research in the archives of Spain and Portugal. She is now the president of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, and an inspiration to us all.
The program also included excerpts from Joe Lovett’s documentary-in-the-making and labor of love, “Children of the Inquisition,” which follows the stories of several people who are Bnei Anousim. There was also a one-man-show by by Shmuel Vilozhni, a well-known Israeli actor, who performed a dynamic excerpt from “A Jew in the Dark,” based on the true story of Andres Gonzalez, whose parents were persecuted by the Inquisition and burnt at the stake as Anousim in 1485 in Spain. It was a full and truly inspiring day.