(JTA) — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin praised activists who are working to reconnect the descendants of Sephardic Jews with the Jewish people.
Rivlin said this in a letter he sent last month to Reconectar, a nonprofit that last week launched a its website in English, Spanish and Portuguese in the hope of reaching out to non-Jews descended from Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity during the 15th and 16th centuries in Portugal and Spain, during the Inquisition – the name for religious persecution of Jews.
“It is vital to locate and reconnect with those who remain our brothers and sisters,” Rivlin wrote to Reconectar, adding: “I would like to congratulate you on your important effort to reconnect with the anousim,” a Hebrew word that means “the forced ones.”
In the days following the launch of reconectar.co, the site registered more than 5,000 views, according to Ashley Perry, a Sephardic Jew who was born in Britain and now lives in Israel, and who is among Reconectar’s founders.
He said that, according to polling of sample respondents of descendants of anousim, “a significant proportion of them have expressed a strong interest in reconnecting to the Jewish people.”
In addition to Rivlin, the project received the endorsement of Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Aryeh Stern.
Reconnectar’s launch comes months after Spain and Portugal issued the first passports under laws implemented last year that offer citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews.