A Knesset lobby intended to push for greater outreach toward the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews forcibly converted to Christianity, known in Hebrew as Bnei Anusim, was launched on Tuesday.
President Reuven Rivlin, in a letter read at the lobby’s inaugural gathering, said that while in “Spain precious communities were forced to leave their faith, their life and the values they grew up and raised their families with” five hundred years ago. “Spanish Jews are still with us, and we must not forget them.”
According to lobby founders MK Robert Ilatov and Ashley Perry, increasing numbers of the descendants of Jews around the world have become interested in exploring their heritage and reconnecting with the Jewish people.
“For many of us in this room who are the descendants of those persecuted and forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal, we know that it would have been impossible for our ancestors to have even dreamed of this moment,” said Perry, a former adviser to former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman and the founder of the NGO Reconnectar.
“Thanks to technological advances, like the Internet, DNA and genealogical advances, we have a window of opportunity for this historic reconnection,” Perry said.