Bnei Anousim are the decendents of those Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity before and durng 1492 in Spain (also known as Marranos), when the rest of the Jews were expelled and formed the Sephardic Jewish community. Many of the Anousim moved to Portugal and then to Spanish and Portuguese colonies to escape the Inquisition. After 500 years, with freedom and the internet available to them, many of the descendents of these Jews are discovering their origins. Here is an excellent example:
Transcription of Fabio Fonseca’s speech at the Conference “Reconnecting 2016” Miami FL Sept 7, 2016
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s a great pleasure to be here and have the opportunity to share with you all a little bit about my story. But when I was invited to come here by my friend Avi Gross, I’ve stayed in my room thinking, in what way is my story more special than any other people that I met during all these years – in nothing! And that’s why I am here not only to tell my story, but to bring on my shoulders also the story of many other Bnei Anousim in Brazil and I do believe in the world.
I can say that it is a calling of the soul, a calling of the Jewish soul, because there is no reasonable reason for you to feel what you feel, and you feel. But how did this awakening start. A special aunt of mine gave me a Bible, and every time she used to meet me she asked “Fabio, did you read the Bible?” and I said “Yes, I did,” so she said, “So, Fabio, tell me something about it.” She is evangelical, so I used to tell her about David, Shlomo, Moshe. But, she said to me, “No Fabio, the New one is more important,” but I said, “No aunt, but I like the Old one. The Old one is more interesting, at least to me.” I always had such feeling inside me that everything related to Israel was special.
When I was 12 years old, someone, I don’t remember who, when and how, but I remember that I was a very curious boy about my story, about my family, and someone said “Oh, you are a Fonseca, the Fonsecas from Rio Grande do Norte (State of Brazil) are descendants of Jews.” So one day when I was about 16-17 years old, I was walking in the downtown of my city and I saw a guy, Ariel Katz, and we exchanged addresses, started talking and he sent me tapes, singers like Nurit Galron, Shlomo Artzi, Ehud Banai, Machina, was part of me. But, I was filled with that hunger, that starving necessity of being fed for everything related to Israel.
When I was 18 years old I was Israeli, I was a Jew. Inside my soul I was in love so much, how can I explain this? Until one day I read an article in a very important magazine in Brazil, named “Veja.” The headline was “the return to the synagogues,” of course it caught my attention, and there were some surnames, and my name was there, Fonseca. And I thought to myself, is it really possible? According to my family, they don’t eat pork meat, they don’t eat meat with blood and they used to marry each other. In the house of my great-grandmother she used to light the candles on Friday night, make her prayers and she didn’t allow anybody to do anything at home, wash the dishes, wash clothes, clean the house, nothing, until the sunset on Saturday. So I said, now I understand why I feel this. To me it was OK, I could have an answer. I am not just a Jew by the soul, but a Jew by the blood.
So I said now I need to knock on my people’s door. And that is what I did. At that time there was already the internet, so I did a search and I could find telephone numbers, and I discovered the tel number of a community in Natal, and there I discovered Mr. João Medeiros, a person that works like a rabbi today, a person that I love so much. And that old man started talking to me, telling me the first letters in Hebrew and started to introduce me to our religion. Then I met my friend Avi Gross and he invited me to go to Israel, and I did! And when I was about to arrive in the airport and I could see the lights, I came back home!
It was a month of happiness, joy, I had made Aliyah Torah, it was so special, so symbolic, so important to me, I did it! And I arrived in Jerusalem and went to the Kotel, and put my hands on that smooth rocks, to me in my soul I had the certainty in that moment that I was completing a cycle in my life.
I left Israel with a part of me there, it’s still there. But, I came here with my heart open. We are part of this people, part of this untold history and we found this desire to return home, this desire appears like a rose that flourishes in the desert. But, I must remind you all that it is impossible for something to flourish without a seed. So if it flourished that was because there was a seed, and this seed is what we can call “Nefesh Yehudi.” That despite we can’t see it, it links us somehow to all the Jews of the world. I do believe that bringing back home long-lost brothers must be a mitzvah (blessing). And believing in this I finish my speech with my heart full of hopefulness.