College, Marrano studies group form new research center
The Casa Shalom Institute, Israel’s foremost center for Marrano-Anusim Studies, and the Netanya Academic College will join forces in the coming weeks to create the world’s largest research institution for these “secret Jews,” it was announced Monday.
The center, which will be located in a new section of the Netanya Academic College’s library, will become the new address for Casa Shalom’s more than 2,000 books, 5,000 documents and hundreds of testimonies, artifacts and photographs, all telling the stories of Jews who either converted to Christianity or fled from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition more than 500 years ago.
Known by a variety of names, including Anusim, Conversos, Islanders, Chuetas and Cryptos, as well as Marranos, many of the communities stayed in the Mediterranean region, while others settled as far afield as Newfoundland, Cuba, Jamaica and even the Philippines.
Some of them have kept their Jewish identity so well hidden throughout the centuries that even today it is a struggle for them to be open about who they really are.
“Obviously we are delighted to have found an academic institution that not only wants to take our books but will continue with our day-to-day work helping the Anusim to find out about their roots,” commented Gloria Mound, founder and executive director of Casa Shalom, which she has run out of her Gan Yavne home for the past 25 years.
Mound, a veteran immigrant from Britain, recently turned 80 and has been searching for a local academic institution to continue her far-reaching work, which also involves helping individual Anusim to prove their Jewish ancestry – and in some cases convince the Israeli authorities that they should be allowed to make aliya.
“They [Netanya Academic College] are most anxious that the activities of Casa Shalom continue,” said Mound, who plans to move to Netanya as soon as possible to continue managing the center from there.
She said that the college had committed to publishing the institute’s annual journal and increasing its output to twice a year, as well as allowing her to broadcast a regular program about the subject on the college’s radio station.
“The college wants us to do a radio program, to run conferences and to generally educate children and adults about the Anusim,” said Mound. “We like their approach.”
College president Prof. Zvi Arad told The Jerusalem Post that his faculty already consisted of some of the “best researchers into the world of the Anusim, such as Prof.
Michael Corinaldi and Prof. Josef Paor.
“We believed that it would be useful to put all our resources together and build a center that would be central in the college,” he said, about the decision to take on Casa Shalom’s archives and its research.
Arad said that the college was already in the midst of organizing a conference on Anusim, set to take place this coming March in San Antonio, Texas, which has a large Hispanic population. It is believed that many Hispanics are descendents of Spanish Jews who fled the inquisition.
“Among the Hispanics there are many Anusim, and it is our goal to build relations with the community,” said Arad.
He also said that the new center, which will be a 500- meter addition to the facility’s existing library, will offer help and advice to Marranos seeking to find out more about their Jewish heritage and to provide assistance to those who are facing difficulties making aliya.
“We see this center as our contribution to the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” said Arad.