Home At Last the Story of a Returning Marrano

Jorge Lopes Amaral born in Mozambique of Portuguese parents from Mangualde (90 kilometres from Belmonte) was obliged to travel to New York to return to Klar Israel It’s hard to say when Jorge’s odyssey began but when he went to Israel in 1985 on a work assignment he found himself at home It felt as though he had been there before the intimacy with the people the identification with the way of life In Israel he finally started connecting the dots

Jorge had always wondered why his mother lit candles (just one) on Fridays or why it was a family custom to wash each hand three times in clear water before eating His mother simply did not have any explanation; it was just a family tradition On Saturdays the whole family dressed in their finest clothing and went on an outing usually to the movies Sunday was a workday In Israel he began to understand family traditions

Jorge stayed in Israel six years He made good friends but when it came to joining their synagogue he did not feel welcome so like many Israelis he went to the beach instead In 1991 he returned to Portugal One day while watching television he saw an interview with Rabbi Elisha Salas who was then working in Belmonte Although he lived only 90 kilometres from Belmonte it was not common knowledge that a Marrano community had survived there for nearly 500 years and had recently returned to normative Judaism The next day Jorge drove to Belmonte to search for Rabbi Elisha a warmhearted man with an infectious smile Soon Jorge was attending Shabbat services in Belmonte

When rabbi Elisha moved to Porto Jorge followed him driving each weekend the 190 kilometres to Porto to attend Shabbat Torah study and Hebrew classes Rabbi Elisha arranged for him to stay at the synagogue in the living quarters that Barros Basto had so wisely incorporated into the design of the Mekor Haim synagogue that was completed in 1938 the year of Kristahlnat Barros Basto may be dead but his work of rescue continues

A heart attack in 2006 set Jorge back He was not able to attend a specially arranged session of a beit din (a rabbinical court) in Jerusalem for Marranos from Porto who to wished to return to normative Judaism Accordingly he decided to once again travel to Israel He contacted several rabbis attended Chabad classes but was not making any progress The rabbis were friendly enough even encouraging but did not suggest or take any concrete steps to show him the way home He felt they were giving them the runaround

Frustrated with the religious bureaucracy and the lack of knowledge of Marrano history shown by the rabbis he contacted he remembered meeting Yaacov Gladstone a friend of Marranos in Belmonte He obtained Yaacov’s phone number from a friend in Belmonte and telephoned Yaacov in New York Yaacov opened his door and his heart inviting Jorge to stay with him Yaacov Gladstone a champion of the Marranos arranged for a returning ceremony to be conducted by Rabbi Posner at Temple Emanuel in New York On the 4 th of November before Rabbi Posner Jorge Lopes Amaral became Zeev ben Amaral

Zeev’s soft smile beams from ear to ear He feels like a new man he says His 80yearold mother Zulmira Teixeira e Chaves is filled with pride but says it’s too late for her what would her friends say she wonders Zeev ben Amaral has written and posted his story on his blog at wwwcomunidadeshemaisraelblogspotcom which he started in 2005 An English translation of his story is posted at wwwfriendsofmarranosblogspotcom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *