Rabbi Manny Vinas- part of a movement that encourages converts
Rabbi Manny Vinas is also a research fellow of “the Institute for Jewish and Community Research” headed by Dr. Gary Tobin who recently wrote an article Stop keeping out non-Jews.
In Rabbi Vinas’ biographical sketch on their website it mentions “Rabbi Manny Vi?as is a first generation Cuban American. He was born and raised in Miami, Florida after his parents had emigrated to the United States as part of the large Cuban exile in 1960 following Castro’s revolution. Manny’s family was of converso background, practicing in Cuba many of the Jewish traditions that had been “secretly” handed down from generation to generation. In Miami, the family rediscovered its Jewish roots and formally returned to Judaism [i.e, they converted].”
Which means that Rabbi Vinas is himself a ger or the children of gerim. It also mentions “His mission is to provide a home for Latinos to engage in Jewish life by serving as a congregation for prayer and learning and as a resource for those of converso (anusim) background who wish to return to Judaism.” In other words to convert non-Jews who have hispanic ancestry and might have a patrilinear connection to Judaism.
Based on the description of “Institute for Jewish and Community Research” he obviously has his sights set on more than converting just non-Jews from marrano or hispanic backgrounds.
The Institute continues to conduct research and write about conversion. As discussed in Opening the Gates: How Proactive Conversion Can Revitalize the Jewish Community , proactive conversion is the positive process of welcoming those who are interested into Judaism. Proactive conversion requires Jews to open the ideological and intellectual gates and help non-Jews walk through them into Jewish life. Being proactive means encouraging rather than discouraging non-Jews to consider Judaism. This will require changing ideology, practices, and institutional structure to better facilitate conversion to Judaism. If the Jewish community were to lower its barriers to conversion ? barriers that it claims it does not have ? it might find many people open to the message of Judaism.
Perceptions of stability and growth or decline can lead to self-fulfilling prophesies, in either direction. A community that is seen to be vibrant is likely to retain its members and attract others. On the other hand, a community that ages without replacing its numbers and attracting people from outside is likely to fulfill the image of being in decline. Communities that believe they are in decline can abandon institutions, cut services and plan for a more limited future, which in turn is defined through limited vision of what might be. Communities that plan for growth can often achieve that goal.
Most Jews in the United States behave like other Americans: they value their freedom of choice. However, when Jews exercise their freedom of choice with regard to their spouse or partner (if that spouse or partner is not Jewish) they may find themselves at odds with what many feel are Jewish values. Do Jewish values differ from American values?
Nearly all Jews have an opinion and all Jews have a stake concerning intermarriage. Most Jews understand that they individually represent a small part of a tiny religious minority, both in the United States and the world as a whole. Already diminished by the extermination wrought by the Holocaust, Jews worry about group survival.
People who marry out of Judaism can be pessimistically viewed as defectors who are the cause of Judaism’s self-destruction. Or, optimistically, we believe they can be the renewers of the faith ? those who will bolster Jewish numbers and strength by bringing in newcomers and building the Jewish community. Intermarriage requires creative programming and investment, not condemnation and rejection.
Regarding the desirability of converting non-Jews to increase the number of Jews and to create a more diverse ethnic and racial Jewish people
The Potential to Grow the Jewish People
In addition to over 6 million Jews, IJCR also found some 4.2 million adults in the United States with Jewish heritage: those with a Jewish grandparent or great-grandparent, or more distant Jewish ancestor. Of these 4.2 million, there are 700,000 people with diverse backgrounds who are not currently Jewish, but are aware of a Jewish ancestor. When asked, they claim their Jewish heritage as part of their ethnic or religious identity, even if they do not answer Jewish when asked about their current primary identity. Of course, these numbers would be much larger if more people knew more about their Jewish ancestry. Many who are not currently Jewish have historical ties to Judaism but do not know about their ethnic origins. Ethnic histories over the centuries are quite complex and are lost to many. Millions of people have Jewish ancestors, especially those of Portuguese, Spanish, and African descent, but are unaware of it.
We also found an even larger population of some 6.7 million adults who are not Jewish, but who have a connection to Judaism or the Jewish community. This includes some who are married to Jews and feel identified with the community and others who have an affinity with Judaism or Jews based on intellectual or emotional identification. They are entwined in the Jewish community but are not self-defined as Jews. This group includes some 600,000 individuals — “connected non-Jews??� — of diverse backgrounds who are connected to the Jewish people through marriage, friendship, extended family, community, or personal interest.
Some of these individuals are on the path to conversion; they may even be living as Jews in terms of synagogue attendance or ritual observance but have not yet formally become Jews through a conversion or affirmation process. Some may practice Judaism and another religion but have not yet decided to practice only Judaism. Some are so entwined within the Jewish community that they feel Jewish, according to their own self-assessment. They participate in Jewish life and may be raising their children as Jews. (See Table 2)