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Brazilian Anusim write their own Hagadah


Over the last several years increasing numbers of  Bnai Anusim, the descendants of Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism, have made efforts to reconnect with their roots at the same time that Jewish organizations have stepped up efforts to facilitate their reintegration with the larger community.

As part of that effort a Brazilian community of the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews has authored its own Passover Hagadah with concurrent texts in Hebrew and Portuguese aimed at their fellow Bnai Anusim. 

A Hagadá de Pêssach do Sertão, as it has been dubbed, was produced in association with the Recife Sephardic Association, and follows the Portuguese-Amsterdam rite, including many songs in the Judeo-Spanish language of Ladino and illustrations in traditional Brazilian styles.

“A self-aware, self-reliant and active community is vitally important for Jewish continuity,” Ilana Kohler, editor of the Hagada, said in a statement on Monday.

“As the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews in Brazil are struggling to establish their own communities and live an open and full Jewish life, not forgetting their origins, this Hagada is an important step towards not depending on other publications most of which do not follow the traditions of our ancestors.”

“This Hagada is more than just a book that will be used by many Anousim on Pesach,” said Ashley Perry, the founder of Reconectar, an NGO working on building bridges between Israel, the Jewish people and Bnai Anusim. “It is also representative of a massive awakening and self-sufficiency among Anousim who are keen to return to the traditions of their ancestors.”

“The traditions of their ancestors are alive and well in the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish tradition and it is very exciting for both our communities to reconnect with their roots. The Twenty-First Century is providing both the millions of Anousim and the Jewish world with an unprecedented opportunity to reconnect in a way impossible in previous generations and we dare not miss this opportunity. This is what we are trying to achieve at Reconectar and this Hagada is a testament to the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.”

Last year Perry, who previously served as an advisor to former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, helped launch the a Knesset lobby intended to push for greater outreach toward Anusim.

“Our people were forcibly ripped apart many generations ago and now is the time to rectify this historic injustice,” Perry asserted last October, calling it a “halachic mandate.”

Two months prior the government announced the formation of a special committee to investigate the relationship between the state and gentiles, many of Jewish descent, who have shown an interest in Israel and the Jewish people.

“I think the best thing we can do as the Jewish world, apart from reconnecting our people, is just lending a hand to those anusim to be self sufficient to run their own communities and help them return to their own traditions,” Perry told the Jerusalem Post on Monday.