The Talmud has a saying about how someone who saves a life saves the world I feel the same way about the Jewish souls who were lost in the Iberian Peninsula to conversion and death Those Jewish souls who were lost became lost Jewish worlds I’m trying to bring some of them back I want to give crypto Jews a chance to learn about their history and culture while keeping their anonymity if they so desire When someone decides to convert back to Judaism it fills my heart with joy Just helping them learn about their ancestry is wonderful And it helps to let them know they are not alone

But first let me introduce myself My name is Ana Kurland and I was born and raised in Puerto Rico in a Catholic family When very young I was told that I had Jewish ancestry just like a lot of families that came from Spain but that they had converted “sincerely” and were now Catholics At the time I thought we were only “secular” Catholics since we did not attend church unless there was a wedding or baptism; we weren’t even like the “bad” Catholics who attended only on Christmas and Easter I noticed that if I went to a friend’s house they had crucifixes in their bedrooms pictures of saints the virgin or Jesus around and we did not but I thought that was part of being secular Christmas was a small family holiday but the day that the whole family gathered for a celebration was on New Year’s Day When I asked my mother why we did it on New Year’s she answered that it was in honor of my grandfather’s Saint’s day My grandfather’s name was Manuel Spanish for Emmanuel Trying to be a good Catholic I searched saint’s day books in my school for St Manuel or St Emmanuel but in vain I then thought to ask my aunt why we celebrated on New Year’s and she whispered “Because it’s the day of the circumcision of Jesus” and then embarrassed as if she had said too much she walked away To this day she denies saying it but I was young and did not forget it I even had to look up circumcision in the dictionary

When I was twelve or so I had what I called my crisis of faith I could no longer be Catholic However because I really believed in Gd I started reading about other religions hoping to find one I was comfortable with

Eventually I started studying Judaism and I knew I had found my religion I converted after twelve years of studying I’ve tried to be an active participant in Jewish causes A few years ago I joined a group called Kulanu which helps Jews in unusual places I started helping them by doing some translations for them but I became interested in crypto Judaism and read all I could about it About the same time I started searching my family tree and discovered that I indeed had Jewish roots Things I had thought were weird family customs suddenly made sense we really were conversos! I was delighted I decided that the souls of my ancestors had cried out not for revenge but for renewal return I then made this my quest: to teach as many others like me However all I knew about Jews in Spain was they were expelled in 1492 I guess going to Catholic school they pass over (pun intended) the grimier aspects of the church So I started studying about the Sephardim I also started learning about crypto Jews My great grandmother’s name was Moreno one that is common among Sephardim It is also rumored that it was common for conversos because it was close to morenu (our teacher in Hebrew) I am currently trying to research my family history to see if I can prove to be B’nai Anusim

I run several lists on the Internet geared toward people like us who I call B’nai Anusim I hope I can help find more crypto Jews and help them learn about their roots It all started with one list Anusim with ten or so members We are now up to 286 and growing In addition I started a list called conversos which is a sister list but all in Spanish; a list about Torah AnusimTorah; two for genealogy AnusimGenealogy and Apellidos Sefarditas and one for those who seek to return AnusimTshuvah The lists attract people from all over the world who think or know they may be descendants of Anusim Along with the headaches involved in moderating a list (including weeding out both the proselytizing Christians and the Jewish fanatics who insist we have no place in Judaism) come the joys of someone discovering that what he or she thought was an odd family habit has a reason I read about people who thought they were the only ones who heard the whisper from parents “do not tell anyone but we are Jewish”

I work in the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress I am lucky enough allowed to recommend books and serials dealing with Sephardim Ladino and Jews in Latin America and Spain This not only allows me to contact new authors and researchers but also to be one of the first to read their writings and spread the word My work and what was once my hobby now the soul of my life are my redemption for my ancestors

To subscribe to Ana’s lists send an email to: anusimsubscribe@egroupscom

Ana can be contacted at: akur@locgov