Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Anussim II

Dear Friends,

I have received several responses, in comments as well as emails, to my statement regarding anussim. I would like to clarify my position on this topic a bit further, responding to all of the contributors simultaneously.

First of all, I must emphasize that I am ignorant of the specific histories of the communities that some of you have described, so I am in no position to determine the personal status of their members. A comprehensive and thorough investigation of all relevant facts - an investigation which, I understand from your comments, is already underway - would have to be completed before any competent rabbinical decision could be rendered. My remarks about the subject of anussim in the posts on this blog have been, and continue to be, purely hypothetical in nature.

When it comes to matters of Jewish law, we must adhere strictly to the principles of the Written and Oral Torah, applying them to the evidence available. The halacha, or Jewish law, only recognizes a person as Jewish if we have proof that his or her mother is Jewish. Otherwise, that person must undergo a conversion. Our sympathy with the plight of the anussim communities cannot overrule the standards that the Torah has established.

Although the original anussim were forced to convert against their will, the fact remains that, in some communities, the converts or their descendants later intermarried with non-Jews and their offspring may not be Jewish according to the Law.

Of course, as I mentioned in my first post, it all depends upon the facts of the case. If a community, aware of its anussim status, preserved its identity and never intermingled with the local non-Jewish population after their "conversion", there would be no doubt as to their status as Jews. This may be the case in the communities of which you speak, and this would be the reason why some Sephardic rabbanim may have endorsed their Jewishness.

Again, it is not the Jewish identity of the original converts that is in question. The original converts remained Jewish no matter what. A Jew who converts to Christianity or Islam or any other religion is still a Jew, and does not need to undergo any process to return.

The only issue is whether the descendants of the converts intermarried because, as generations passed, they began to forget that they were originally Jewish. This is the problem faced by the Spanish individuals of Jewish descent who subsequently assumed fully Catholic identities and lost all connection with Judaism, except for a few isolated rituals whose meaning they no longer remembered.

So, in conclusion, if a person has clear proof that his maternal line is 100% Jewish, he or she does not require conversion.

I hope this clarifies my position. I wish all of you the best of success in your study and observance of our Torah.

Warmly,

Rabbi Maroof

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