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What’s the difference between Anusim, Converso, Meshumad, Cristão-novo, Morrano and Crypto-Jew?

  1. Anusim (Hebrew: אֲנוּסִים), plural for anús Hebrew: אָנוּס, means "forced ones” in Hebrew. In Jewish Law, this is the legal term applied to a Jew who was forced to abandon Judaism, but does whatever is in his or her power to continue practicing Judaism under the forced condition. It derives from the Talmudic term aberá be' ones, meaning "a forced transgression." The term Anús is used in contradistinction to meshumad (מְשֻׁמָּד), which means a person who has voluntarily abandoned the practice of Jewish Law in whole or part.

  2. Because of the mass forced conversion of Jews in Portugal and Spain during the 14th and 15th centuries, the term “Anusim” became widely used by Spanish rabbis and their successors for the following 600 years. In non-rabbinic literature, Iberian Anusim are referred to by many terms that were coined by the Catholic Church: Converso (Convert), Cristão-novo (New Christian), "Crypto-Jews", or "Marranos."

  3. However “Marranos” is the insulting term that Spanish anti-semites gave to the Anusim in the 14th century. All four terms are sociological, whereas Anusim refers to a status in Jewish law.

  4. Jewish converts to Catholicism in Spain and Portugal during this period may be divided into three categories:

  5. 1)Willing converts known as Meshumadim.

  6. 2)Public converts who retained various degrees of Judaism while assimilating into Christian society.

  7. 3)Temporary converts. The categories overlap to a degree, and there are variations, or sub-categories which go beyond the explanations listed below.

  8. Cristão-novo or New Christian comprised those who appear to have legitimately converted to Christianity, whether for expedience or a sincere belief in the Christian faith. This group truly considered themselves Christians and raised their families as such. These were called "New Christians" or "Conversos."

  9. A number of Spanish poets belong to this category, such as Pero Ferrus, Juan de Valladolid, Rodrigo Cota, and Juan de España of Toledo. Called also "El Viejo" (the old one), Juan de España had been a Talmudic scholar before his conversion and used his knowledge to engage in often mocking criticism of his former co-religionists. A number of Conversos, eager to display their new Christian zeal, persecuted other Jews, denouncing secret Jews to the authorities, as happened frequently at Valencia, Barcelona, and other cities. On the other hand, during times of persecution, New Christians could easily fall under suspicion and become victims of mob violence, especially if they maintained ties to their Jewish relatives and neighbors.

  10. Crypto-Jew consisted of those who held on to the Jewish customs and faith in which they had been reared. These were known as "Judíos Escondidos"—hidden Jews. They secretly preserved the religion of their fathers and, in spite of the high positions which some held, observed Jewish traditions in private. Many of the wealthiest supposed coverts of Aragon belonged to this category. Some constructed hidden synagogues in their homes, to which trusted neighbors might be invited, while others used their influence at court to protect the Jewish and Converso communities from persecution. This can also refer to Christians who conscious, or unconsciously maintain Jewish laws and traditions.

  11. Temporary Converso which included the largest group of Conversos, comprised those who yielded through stress of circumstances, but seized the first opportunity to return publicly their faith when it became safe to do so. The degree to which these conversos adhered privately to Jewish law varied. To this group the rabbis often applied the Talmudic passage: "Although he has sinned, he must still be considered a Jew." Such conversos lived outwardly as Christians but retained ties to Jewish kin.

How is Sephardim different from Ashkenazim Judaism?

  1. Ashkenazic Jews are the Jews of France, Germany, and Eastern Europe and their descendants. Sephardic Jews are the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East and their descendants. Sephardic Jews are often subdivided into Sephardim (from Spain and Portugal) and Mizrachim (from the Northern Africa and the Middle East), though there is much overlap between those groups. Until the 1400s, the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa and the Middle East were all controlled by Muslims, who generally allowed Jews to move freely throughout the region. When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, many of them were absorbed into existing Mizrachi communities in Portugal, Northern Africa and the Middle East.

  2. The word "Ashkenazic" is derived from the Hebrew word for Germany. The word "Sephardic" is derived from the Hebrew word for Spain. The word "Mizrachi" is derived from the Hebrew word for Eastern.

  3. The beliefs of Sephardim are basically in accord with those of Ashkenazim, though Sephardic interpretations of halakhah (Jewish Law) are somewhat different than Ashkenazic ones. The best-known of these differences relates to the holiday of Pesach (Passover): Sephardic Jews may eat rice, corn, peanuts and beans during this holiday, while Ashkenazic Jews avoid them. Although some individual Sephardic Jews are less observant than others, and some individuals do not agree with all of the beliefs of traditional Judaism, there is no formal, organized differentiation into movements as there is in Ashkenazic Judaism.

  4. Historically, Sephardic Jews have been more integrated into the local non-Jewish culture than Ashkenazic Jews. In the Christian lands where Ashkenazic Judaism flourished, the tension between Christians and Jews was great, and Jews tended to be isolated from their non-Jewish neighbors, either voluntarily or involuntarily. In the Islamic lands where Sephardic Judaism developed, there was less segregation and oppression. Sephardic Jewish thought and culture was strongly influenced by Arabic and Greek philosophy and science.

  5. Sephardic Jews have a different pronunciation of a few Hebrew vowels and one Hebrew consonant, though most Ashkenazim are adopting Sephardic pronunciation now because it is the pronunciation used in Israel. Sephardic prayer services are somewhat different from Ashkenazic ones, and they use different melodies in their services. Sephardic Jews also have different holiday customs and different traditional foods.

What is the Ladino Language?

  1. During the Middle Ages, Jews were instrumental in the development of Castilian into a prestige language. Erudite Jews translated Arabic and Hebrew works – often translated earlier from Greek – into Castilian and Christians translated again into Latin for transmission to Europe. Until recent times, the language was widely spoken throughout the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, having been brought there by Jewish refugees fleeing the area today known as Spain following the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

  2. The contact among Jews of different regions and languages, including Catalan, Leonese and Portuguese developed a unified dialect differing in some aspects from the Castilian norm that was forming simultaneously in the area known today as Spain, though some of this mixing may have occurred in exile rather than in the peninsula itself. The language was known as Yahudice (Jewish language) in the Ottoman Empire. In late 18th century, Enderunlu Fazıl (Fazyl bin Tahir Enderuni) wrote: "Castilians speak the Jewish language but they are not Jews."

  3. Ladino’s grammatical structure is close to that of Spanish, with the addition of many terms from Hebrew, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, Bosnian and Serbo-Croatian depending on the geographic origin of the speaker. Like many other Jewish languages, Judaeo-Spanish is in danger of language extinction. Most native speakers are elderly, many of them having emigrated to Israel where the language was not transmitted to their children.

I think my family are decedents of crypto-Jews. How do can I find out more?

  1. Click here of more detailed information about crypto-Jewish indicators.

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