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Sephardic Anusim Information

Sephardic Anusim "The Jewish-Latino Connection"
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May 11, 2008
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What are Sephardic Jews?
Sephardic Jews are from Spain. They get their name from the term Sepharad which is a Biblical location (Obadiah 1:20). This location is identified as the Iberian Peninsula which is modern day Spain and Portugal. Sepharad still means “Spain” in Modern Hebrew. In contrast, Ashkenazic Jews are from Eastern European countries. Ashkenaz is the Medieval Hebrew name for the region that later formed the country of “Germany.” Sephardic Jews spoke Ladino; a language derived mainly from Old Castilian Spanish, Hebrew, Turkish, and some French and Greek. Ashkenazic Jews spoke Yiddish; a fusion of elements primarily from medieval German dialects and secondarily from Hebrew, Aramaic, various Slavic languages, Old French, and Old Italian. Throughout the centuries of exile both the Ashkenazim and Sephardim developed distinct cultures, prayer books, and many different customs and traditions.

Cinco de Mayo Sephardic Outreach at Civic Center Park in Denver
Click Here To See Photos From Cinco de Mayo Sephardic Outreach! Kehilat T'nuvah (The Harvest Congregation) set up the booth to help promote their upcoming guest speaker Dr. Dell Sanchez who is an expert on Sephardic (Spanish) Jews. "We found the Cinco de Mayo Festival the perfect opportunity to reach out to the Hispanic community," said Senior Pastor, Mark McLellan. The Denver Cinco de Mayo Festival is touted as one of largest in the nation with over 400,000 visitors…

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When the Jews of Spain were expelled in 1492 they found refuge in Morocco, Italy, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and Israel. Many also fled to the Americas. Because of the Spanish, Mexican and Latin American Inquisition many of the Jews in the Americas were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism. Jews who have been forced to abandon Judaism against their own will are called Anusim. Anusim (plural of Anús) is the Hebrew word for “forced ones.” Anusim will do whatever is in their power to continue practicing Judaism even under a forced condition like the Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition was a holocaust that lasted 356 years (1478-1834) and ended a century before the German holocaust began.

Spanish Surnames Were Developed From Four Major Sources
  1. Patronymic & Matronymic Surnames - Based on a parent's first name, this category of surnames includes some of the most common Hispanic surnames. These Hispanic surnames are often formed by adding an -es, -as, -is, or -os (common to Portuguese surnames) or an -ez, -az, -is, or -oz (common to Castilian or Spanish surnames) to the end of the father's name. (Leon Alvarez - Leon son of Alvaro).

  2. Occupational Surnames - These Hispanic last names are based on the person's job or trade (Roderick Guerrero - Roderick the warrior or soldier).

  3. Descriptive Surnames - Based on a unique quality or physical feature of the individual, these surnames often developed from nicknames or pet names (Juan Delgado - John the thin).

  4. Geographical Surnames - The most common type of Spanish surname, these Hispanic last names are derived from the location of the homestead from which the first bearer and his family lived (Ricardo de Lugo - Ricardo from the town of Lugo).

Sephardic Anusim are the children of those who endured the Inquisitions’ treacheries including forced and coerced conversions from Judaism to Roman Catholicism. The majority of these descendants are just beginning to discover their true identity and heritage. They are innately compelled to learn of the faith of their forefathers in light of a strong and undeniable passion for Erez Israel, the land of Israel.

Sephardic Anusim have been tagged with labels including:

  • “Converso” (convert)
  • “Nuevo Creyente”(new believer)
  • “Marrano” (swine or pig; an insulting term used by Spanish anti-Semites.)
  • “Crypto-Jew” (hidden Jew)
  • “Anusim” (forced one)

In recent years, many Sephardic Anusim have been reemerging in the Southwestern United States, namely New Mexico and Colorado. With their reemergence we are witnessing a prophecy unfold right before our eyes. What’s more, we have the opportunity to participate in it!

Sephardic Resources

Aliyah Sephardic Center, Inc.
Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture(FASSAC)
International Federation of Messianic Jews (IFMJ)
Sephardim Hope International
Society For Crypto Judaic Studies

Related Articles
The Inquisition
Crypto-Jews in Mexico during the Spanish Colonial Era
Hidden Jews of the Southwest
Texas Mexican secret Spanish Jews today
Southern Colorado's (Possibly) Hidden Hispanic Jews
Jews in Mexico, A Stuggle for Survival
The Secret History
Hispanics Uncovering Roots as Inquisition's 'Hidden' Jews

Misc. Resources
Jewish Genealogy Links - Sephardic Resources
Research Tool for Sephardic Genealogy / Jewish Genealogy
Saudades, Portuguese Sephardic History
Sephardic Jews in the West Coast States
SephardicGen Resources

Sephardic Surname List (pdf, 164 KB)
The Jerusalem Connection Newsletter – Special Sephardic Edition (pdf, 2.8 MB)

A Quick Explanation of Ladino
Ladino Dictionary

Sephardic Music
Hatikvah Music
Voice of the Turtle
Yasmin Levy
Shira u'tfila
The Yuval Ron Ensemble
Gerard Edery – Sefarad Records & Management
Ladino CD’s

The National Center for Jewish Film – Sephardic Films

March 10, 2008, Today Show Story:
A Man's Passion to be Principal

You Tube Video:
Anusim Returning