Remembering the Journey of B'nai Anusim

by Michael Hendrix

July 18, 2023

After forty years of journeying through the desert the Children of Israel were encamped alongside the Jordan River. They were not only on the brink of attaining their long-desired destiny since their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt, but they were also about to realize God’s promise to them of possessing the land of Canaan as their eternal homeland. Surely their thoughts must have been on what awaited them on the other side of the Jordan River. However, it was at this crucial moment of destiny that Moses instructed the people that they should remember the entire journey that had brought them to where they were. “You shall remember the entire journey on which Adonai, your God, led you these forty years in the desert.” (Deuteronomy 8:2) 

This principle of remembering the journey of their ancestors is fundamental to the Jewish people. In fact, the three primary festivals that God instructed His people to celebrate remember their journey from their bondage in Egypt to their promised homeland in Israel. Pesach (Passover) remembers when God miraculously liberated them from slavery in Egypt. Upon their exodus from Egypt God led the Children of Israel to Mt. Sinai where He gave to them the Torah, His instructions to His people by which they were to live. This monumental event is remembered in the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost). In the fall the Jewish people build temporary dwellings in their celebration of Sukkot (Tabernacles), remembering when the Children of Israel dwelled in tents on their journey to their homeland. 

The prophet Jeremiah instructed the Jewish people in exile to erect road markers and to set up landmarks along the road they travelled. “Make road markers for yourself, set up landmarks for yourself; set the thoughts of your heart upon the road, the route that you are walking.” (Jeremiah 31:20) These landmarks that they were to erect would call them to remember the route that they traveled into exile.

It is vital that B’nai Anusim also establishes the landmarks of their own journey into exile. This journey was not only a physical journey but also a phycological journey that affected the social and spiritual identity of B’nai Anusim. B’nai Anusim are the descendants of Jews from Spain and Portugal who were forced to convert to Christianity in the 14th and 15th centuries. Their journey spans almost 4000 years and practically crosses the entire globe. The journey begins in the ancient land of Israel and subsequently sails to Spain with the trade adventures of the Phoenicians. After the Roman dispersion in the second century, the Iberian Peninsula became a new homeland for many Jewish exiles. However, the flourishing Jewish community eventually became the target of vicious persecution, setting the stage for one of humanity’s darkest hours—the Spanish Inquisition. As a result, many Jews were forced to abandon their faith and heritage to survive the horrors they encountered. Subsequently, the saga of B’nai Anusim journeyed to the Americas with Christopher Columbus and the early explorers and settlers of the New World. B'nai Anusim emerged to become a vital component in the formation of the Latino people and culture. 

Although B’nai Anusim can be found worldwide, a substantial number are located in the Americas. Today, a growing number of B’nai Anusim are awakening to their hidden Jewish identity and are seeking to reconnect with their lost heritage. 

The late Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres said, “Descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities are a unique part of the tapestry that makes up the Jewish nation. Anusim are our past, our present, and our future. They are part of our story, the Jewish story, and the next chapter in Jewish history should include this historic reconnection.”

The saga of B’nai Anusim has been a long and frequently hidden journey into a physical, social, and spiritual exile. It is crucial for B’nai Anusim to mark the paths of this exile and remember the entire journey that has not only led them to where they are but has also formed them into who they are. By establishing and remembering their own journey, B’nai Anusim will prepare themselves to embrace the destiny that awaits them. 

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