13 May 2010

El Paso: 7th Sephardic Anousim Conference, July 16-19

The seventh Sephardic Anousim Conference - "Past, Present & Future: Identities of B’nai Anousim" - will take place at Congregation B'nai Zion, July 16-19, in El Paso, Texas. Rabbi Stephen Leon leads the congregation, where some 50 families have returned to Judaism.

Tracing the Tribe is delighted to have been invited to speak at this year's conference with a theme of such great personal interest. For several years, I've attempted to attend both the Sephardic Anousim and Crypto-Judaic Studies events, but they've always conflicted with the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. This year, fortunately, the dates worked out and I'll arrive directly from the 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (July 11-16, in Los Angeles).

Rabbi Leon introduced a resolution at the December 2009 United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism biennial convention to honor and remember victims of the Spanish Inquisition on Tisha B’Av. The resolution passed unanimously, applies to Conservative congregations and honors Bnai Anousim who have returned to Judaism. Here's the text:

Resolution on the observance of Tisha B’av to be a day to commemorate the Spanish Inquistion and the return of the Anousim to Judaism
Whereas the holiday of Tisha B’av recalls the very day that the expulsion of the Jews from Spain took place in the year 1492; and
Whereas many Jews were forcibly converted to Christianity publicly, but continued to practice Judaism in secret; and Whereas many of the descendants of these Jews who are called B’nei Anousim have returned formally to Judaism today, and many are in the same process,
Now, therefore be it resolved that the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism calls upon all of its affiliated congregations to formally observe Tisha B’av on an annual basis as an occasion to educate its members about the history and events of the Spanish Inquisition regarding the Jewish people, and to inform its members of the return of the B’nei Anousim to Judaism today; and
Be it further resolved that the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism helps to provide programs, speakers, films, and other appropriate materials for such Spanish Inquisition and B’nai Anousim commemorations on Tisha B’av.
The fee is $118 per person (scholarships/subsidies available) and includes meals. Group hotel rates ($79/night including full breakfast) are available at the Holiday Inn, 900 Sunland Park Drive. Mention the B'nai Zion conference when making hotel reservations by June 23 for the special rate.

The Jewish Federation of El Paso provides generous financial assistance for this annual conference.

Payment and registration should be sent by July 1 to Congregation B’nai Zion, 805 Cherry Hill Lane, El Paso, Texas 79912. Contact Sonya Loya or Rabbi Stephen Leon for more information, for the registration form, or call the congregation, 915-833-2222.

Here's the program:

Friday, July 16
-- 6.15pm: Shabbat evening services, traditional Shabbat dinner; Keynote Speaker: Andree Aelion Brooks: “Portugal: Facing up to its Converso Heritage and the Impact upon our B’nai Anousim”

Saturday, July 17
-- 9.30am: Shabbat morning services, Kiddush lunch; Speaker: Andree A. Brooks: “Dona Gracia Nassi, Her Life and Times as a Role Model for Today;"; Speaker: Schelly Talalay Dardashti: “Genealogy 101 & Sephardic Research Trends"
-- Shabbat rest
-- 7pm Mincha; Seudah Shlisheet; Speaker: Rabbi Juan Mejia: “Moving Onward with the Anousim Movement”
-- Ma’ariv & Havdalah
-- Art Gala: Wine and hors d’oeuvres; Introduction by Sonya A. Loya,  presenting artists Elizabeth Genova, Dan Grife, artisan Sonya Loya and photographer Peter Svarzbein.

Sunday, July 18
-- 8.30am: Morning services, bagel breakfast; Speaker: Rabbi Stephen A. Leon: “Tisha B’Av: A Resolution Realized”
-- Panel discussion
-- 2.30pm: Play, "Parted Waters," by Robert Benjamin
-- 5pm:  Evening services

Monday, July 19
-- Tisha B'av speaker: Dennis Durfee, Portland, Oregon

For more information and the registration form, go to the Bnai Zion website or email Sonya Loya or Rabbi Stephen Leon at the links above.

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