Exhibition on Crypto-Jews Opens in Tiberias

A colorful new exhibition tracing the history and experience of the Bnai Anousim over five centuries has opened this week at the Dona Gracia House in Tiberias.<BR><br/>

, | updated: 12:57

The exhibition, which is entitled “The Journey of Spanish & Portuguese Bnai Anousim: Past, Present and Future”, was designed and produced by Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based group that reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people.

It includes a wide array of maps, illustrations and photographs, with explanatory panels in Hebrew, Spanish and English which tell the story of the Bnai Anousim and their heroic struggle throughout the centuries to preserve their identity.

'The Journey of Spanish & Portuguese Bnai Anousim: Past, Present and Future' at the Dona Gracia House in Tiberias.

“Bnai Anousim” is the Hebrew term for people whose ancestors were forcibly converted to Catholicism during the time of the Inquisition. Historians have often referred to them as "crypto-Jews" or by the derogatory label "Marranos."

“We want people to realize that the phenomenon of the Bnai Anousim is not just confined to the history books or to the distant past,” Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund said at the ceremony marking the opening of the exhibition. “The Bnai Anousim are alive and well and continue to exist, and many are looking to reconnect with their people and their heritage.”

“We hope this exhibition will raise awareness about the Bnai Anousim, and help to place this issue on the agenda of the State of Israel and world Jewry,” he said.

The choice of venue for the exhibition was not coincidental. The Dona Gracia House, which consists of a hotel and museum, is named for the 16th century Jewish heroine, who was born to a family of Bnai Anousim in Portugal. She went on to become one of the most prominent figures of her day in fields such as international trade and diplomacy.

Dona Gracia eventually settled in Istanbul, where many Jewish exiles from Spain and Portugal had fled. There, she befriended the Sultan and obtained his permission to revive Jewish life in Tiberias, which she hoped to turn into a refuge for Jews. But she passed away in 1569, shortly after the project had begun.

The exhibition will be on display in at the Dona Gracia House (3 HaPerachim Street) through the end of July.

For further information, or to arrange for the exhibition to appear in your community, contact: office@shavei.org.