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Italian Inquisition site hosts Hanukkah candle ceremony

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(JTA) — A Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony was held in the Steri Palace Prison in Palermo in Italy, which served as a prison during the Spanish Inquisition.

The candle lighting Wednesday was sponsored by the Shavei Israel organization and led by Rabbi Pinchas Punturello, the organization’s emissary to the Bnei Anousim, or Crypto-Jews, in southern Italy and Sicily. Italian Jewish leaders and about 100 Bnei Anousim from the Palermo area attended the event, according to Shavei Israel.

The organization seeks to bring descendants of hidden Jews back to their roots.

“For 200 years, Jews were tortured within the palace’s walls, and many were then burned at the stake by the Inquisition for secretly practicing Judaism,” said Michael Freund, Shavei Israel’s founder and chairman. “In the place where the darkness of the Inquisition once predominated, the flicker of our Hanukkah candles now prevails.”

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