Making history

One woman’s search for lost Sephardim leads to a groundbreaking conference at Netanya Academic College.

Casa Shalom founder Gloria Mound (photo credit: CASA SHALOM)
Casa Shalom founder Gloria Mound
(photo credit: CASA SHALOM)
Gloria Mound has been tireless in her search for traces of Jewish continuity in the Iberian peninsula and her efforts to help those searching for their Sephardi identity. Mound and her husband, Leslie, unexpectedly came across traces one summer in Ibiza and Fomentera in 1973.
That holiday brought them back to live in the area for a year in 1985. “In 1986 we registered our aliya, but went back to Ibiza for another two years before moving to live in Israel,” says Mound. “We had discovered so much in the Balearics alone.”
In 1988 they founded Casa Shalom in Gan Yavne with the support of the Schalit Foundation and the Davis Family Foundation. Their research was aimed as far afield as South America, the Caribbean and Africa as well as the UK, the US and Canada.
In 2011, a year after her husband’s death, Mound donated their collection of over 2,500 books and more than 5,000 documents to the International Institute for Secret Jews (Anusim) Studies at Netanya Academic College.
Today, Mound presides over the fruit of her labors as executive director of Casa Shalom, now part of the college.
She is also senior adviser at IISJAS. The institute is currently the central address in the country to deal with these issues.
Mound has studied Belmonte and other villages in Spain and Portugal, and this past July attended the Zamora Jewish Quarters Conference: Encounters and Reencounters, where she met up again with Genie Migrom, author of My 15 Grandmothers, whose ancestral village, Fermoselle, meaning “sealed shut,” Mound has also studied. In December, Milgrom spoke at Casa Shalom.
There are many issues that begin to arise from this new awakening of Spain to its Jewish past and its present offer of citizenship to Sephardi Jews around the world, not least of all the question of what can be done for crypto-Jews and their descendants. Casa Shalom has been working for years to facilitate official recognition, by Israel, of the descendants of the Iberian Exile.
The Perspectives of Jewish Law, the Jewish People, and the State of Israel towards the Secret Jews (Anusim) conference will be held on March 9, from midday to 3:45 p.m.
“This conference will be an important forum for bringing the issues involved out into the open,” Mound told The Jerusalem Post.
Conference participants will include former member of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman; former Internal Affairs minister and former Shas chairman MK Eli Yishai; World Zionist Organization chairman Avraham Duvdevani; World Zionist Congress Israel chairman Shai Hermesh; Rabbi Daniel Eliahu Touitou, formerly based in Brazil and Argentina and currently working in conversion and research in the field of Anusim studies; Cecilia Mendes, attorney, Lisbon (Portugal); and Mound herself.
A roundtable discussion will follow the presentations for all interested parties.
The Don Juan de Bourbon Spain-Israel Foundation has confirmed that it will be sending a representative from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid to the March 9 conference.
There are many possible stumbling blocks to Israel dealing properly with the descendants of our common ancestors.
Those who attend the conference will have the chance not only to witness history, but to make it.
The conference will mostly be in Hebrew, but simultaneous English translation will be provided. Entrance is free of charge. RSVP by Wednesday, March 5 to Adina Moryosef, casa.; tel. (09) 860-7837 or to Esti Feinreich,, tel.
(09) 860-7885/785, fax (09) 860-7701.