JERUSALEM (JTA) – A prominent rabbi in Israel has recognized the Chuetas of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, who were forced to convert to Christianity 600 years ago, as Jews.
Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, chairman of the Bnei Brak Rabbinical Court and a nephew of the Chazon Ish, recently issued a written opinion stating clearly and unequivocally that the Chuetas are Jewish, it was announced Monday in Palma by Michael Freund, chairman of the Shavei Israel organization, which works to gain recognition for lost Jewish communities and bring them to Israel.
The Chuetas are the descendants of Mallorca’s Jews, who were forcibly baptized in the 14th and 15th centuries and then barred from intermarrying or assimilating with the island’s Catholic population until the modern era. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Chuetas still live in Mallorca, though many have assimilated in recent years, according to Shavei Israel.
In his written opinion, Karelitz stated, “Since it has become clear that it is accepted among them [i.e. the Chuetas] that throughout the generations most of them married among themselves, then all those who are related to the former generations are Jews, from our brethren the children of Israel, the nation of G-d.”
He also wrote, on letterhead of the Bnei Brak Rabbinical Court, that efforts should be made to draw the Chuetas closer to their Jewish religious heritage and that they should be encouraged to embrace a life of Torah and religious observance.
“This is an historic development,” Freund told Spanish journalists assembled in Palma. “The Chuetas no longer need to live in between worlds; we have succeeded in opening the door for them to come home. And I hope and pray that many will do so.”
Chuetas who want to make a complete return to Judaism will have to be vetted by a rabbinical court, Shavei Israel said in a news release.