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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Remnants of the Inquisition

This week my local Movie Club has concentrated on the Anousim, aka Marrano Jews, the descendants of Jews forced to convert and lead double-lives as Catholics out of the home and Jews in the privacy of their home and family.

A member of the club borrowed a movie from the Van Leer Institute. I think it's this one, The Last of the Marranos.

It tells about residents of a village in the Portuguese mountains, in which lives a clan of Jews. The Jewish customs had been passed from generation to generation, mother to daughter for five hundred (500) years.

We had the advantage of getting added explanations from our neighbor, Rabbi Nissan Ben Avraham, who grew up in Majorca and is descended from his father's side, from Anousim. When he discovered that as a child, he became interested in Judaism, moved to Israel, converted, married and moved to Shiloh. He is a world renown expert in the history of the Anousim/Marranos.

Even in recent years, when there's no legal problem about living as Jews, out in the open, in public, you can see the fear in this community. The movie was filmed twenty-five years ago, when there was still isolation. I wonder how the younger generation identifies with their special customs and history.

Rabbi Nissan told us that "normative," standard Judaism was brought to the community, but it hasn't been fully accepted. The men are somewhat interested, but not the women. In their own version of Judaism, the women have been the Jewish leaders, and the men would go out in general society. I don't think that the Jews who came to the village understood that the key was winning over the women.

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