JERUSALEM (JTA) — A descendant of forcibly converted Spanish Jews who immigrated to Israel and became a rabbi is returning to Spain.
Rabbi Nissan Ben-Avraham of Shiloh in the West Bank will serve as emissary to the Bnei Anousim, or Marranos, for the Shavei Israel organization.
Shavei Israel is a nonprofit organization founded to strengthen ties between the State of Israel and descendants of Jews around the world, including the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China and the "Hidden Jews" of Poland from the Holocaust era.
Ben-Avraham, 52, immigrated to Israel from his native Spain in 1978 and formally returned to Judaism. He is the father of 12 children.
He will teach the Bnai Anousim in Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Alicante and Seville more about their Jewish roots.
“This is a very moving and historic development,” said Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel. “It marks the first time that a member of the Bnei Anousim is returning to Spain, where he was born and raised, in order to help his fellow Anousim learn more about their Jewish roots.”
Freund says there are tens of thousands of Bnei Anousim in Spain who are conscious of their special connection to the Jewish people.
"We owe it to them and to their ancestors to reach out to them, embrace them and welcome them back home," he said.