Marranos: Secret Seder in Spain 370.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Descendants of Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism centuries ago will attend
the first Seder in decades on the Portuguese island of Madeira off the coast of
Thirteen Jews -- some of them Bnei Anousim, the descendants of
Portuguese Jews targeted for conversion during the Inquisition -- will gather in
Funchal, the capital of the archipelago, on Passover eve, according to Shavei
Israel, an organization devoted to bringing so-called lost Jews back to Judaism.
According to the organization, the Seder will be the first recorded Passover
feast to take place on the island in centuries.
The island, situated some
600 miles southwest of Portugal, has no Jewish residents today. The Bnei Anousim
attending include members of two families from Belmonte, a town in northern
Portugal known as a Jewish center before the Portuguese Inquisition was launched
Portuguese Jews who settled in Madeira continued to practice
Judaism in secret even after their forcible conversion, according to Modechai
Arbel, author of “The Jewish Nation of the Caribbean.” They were exposed when
denunciations against Jewish practices in Madeira filtered back to Lisbon in
1550, he wrote. Jews from Morocco arrived in Madeira in 1819 and set themselves
up in the cloth trade. A synagogue and cemeteries were built on the island but
were abandoned decades ago.
The Madeira Seder will be led by Marvin and
Danby Meital, an American-Israeli couple, and sponsored by Shavei Israel, which
was founded in 2002 to help descendants of Jews across the world reconnect with
the Jewish people and Israel.
“The holding of a Seder in Madeira is truly
historic,” said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund. “It is incumbent upon
Israel and the Jewish people to reach out to the Bnei Anousim and facilitate