The Jewish community has survived changes in demography, geography and attitude over the last few thousand years. It seems no matter where we are, who we live with, or how much people want us around, we always find a way to maintain our connection to our sacred past. Though we aren’t surprised at stories of our strength anymore, we can’t help but be inspired by those who have found a way to claim and celebrate their heritage in the face of extreme adversity. A recent article in the (New York) Jewish Week highlights just an example.
Last week, Miquel Segura of Mallorca, Spain “returned” to Judaism in a ceremony at Shearith Israel in New York. Segura, the article explains, is a Chueta, a descendent of Mallorcan Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism as far back as the 1300’s. Now, over 500 years later, he and many others are proudly embracing their roots as members of the Jewish community, finding a home in the religion they were forced to denounce but never fully surrendered.
Segura’s journey would not have been possible without the support of both his family and people like Rabbi Marc D. Angel, founder of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, and Michael Freund, who runs Shavei Israel, an organization that “reaches out to descendents of Jews around the world and fosters their connection to Judaism and the Jewish state.” Freund, who has worked with Indian, Chinese and Polish communities, said bluntly: “I think that the Jewish people have a responsibility toward the Chuetas. We should be embracing them.”
We think this responsibility should apply to not only the Chuetes, but also to everyone in our community who feels they aren’t fully welcomed – intermarried families, children of intermarriage, LGBT Jews, and Jews of mixed heritage, to name a few. The Jewish people are a people of diversity, and Segura’s story demonstrates once again just how important it is for the Jewish community to keep its door open for all who want to enter.
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