Discovering a new past

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April 24, 2014 12:05

I joined Genie Milgrom in Portugal to celebrate Passover with a group of bnei anusim (descendants of forced converts) who were returning to Judaism.

passover

GENIE MILGROM and Marion Fischel stand next to the seven stairs going down into a mikve in the Portuguese city of Coimbra. It was discovered last year by a plumber looking to make repairs in a basement.. (photo credit:Courtesy)

When author, historian and researcher Genie Milgrom asked me to join her for Passover in Portugal, to celebrate the holiday with a group of bnei anusim (descendants of forced converts) who were returning to Judaism, I jumped at the opportunity. Over the past few years I have been privileged to notice the early stages of the revival of Jewish feeling, generally thought to have disappeared from the Iberian peninsula, but that has actually lain only slumbering in the cities and villages of Portugal and some parts of Spain.

Recent moves by the Spanish and Portuguese governments to offer citizenship to those who can prove Sephardi heritage – an initiative which is expected to become effective in the next few months – have raised a further question, that of reciprocity.

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