Bnei Anusim (Hebrew for descendants of coerced) is a term that was coined to describe a community previously known as Marranos meaning descendants of forcibly converted Sephardi (Iberian) Rabbinic Jews.
The total number of Bnei Anusim is difficult to calculate not only due to often pervasive familial secrecy but also because there are varying degrees of assimilation and intermarriage. Bnei Anusim number in the millions and quite conceivably even more.
The Bnei Anusism have remained nominally Catholic despite the introduction of freedom of religion and this is due to Rabbinically Jewish Diaspora communities effectively preventing their communal reversion through a structurally non-welcoming attitude of structural suspicion towards Crypto-Jews whereby they are supposed to “prove” that they are Jewish, yet no amount of proof is typically sufficient to allay this structure of unlimited suspicion in the psychological culture of Rabbinic Jews. Bnei Anusim are typically told that they must undergo a full conversion which is effectively saying that they are not Jewish and indeed should be expected to be treated as such. If they do convert however are they as converts to Judaism generally nowadays still subjected to structural suspicions as everyone in the Orthodox community is allowed to decide for himself whether even an Orthodox conversion is individually valid indeed and for how long it is considered to remain valid, to what degree and for what purposes. This attitude typically converges with usually unstated racist attitudes as it is implicitly assumed that the physical appearance of a person can “prove” that someone actually somehow is not Jewish.
The structural demand that Bnei Anusim convert is demeaning and prejudicial (as it implies the person converting accepting the assumption that she is not Jewish) and so an entirely different attitude is therefore needed and required indeed.
What is instead needed is a process of communal welcoming whereby Bnei Anusim are communally reverted community by community. It is essential that this is done communally rather than individually and the process needs to be one of unreserved and warm welcome rather than as of now Bnei Anusim facing demeaning irrational suspicions.
Bnei Anusim most clearly belong in Israel and there is therefore need for organizing a mass operation across the Ibero-American world and beyond in organizing warmly welcoming processes of communal reversion, including mass Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel). The Israeli state, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and Diaspora Jewish communities need to mobilize for the purpose of communally welcoming Bnei Anusim home to the Jewish people and indeed importantly home to Israel itself.
The process needs to be one of education (including intensive Hebrew language immersion) with the purpose of communally reverting Bnei Anusim communities but also making sure that as many possible in the process move to Israel as well. This is indeed a process involving many millions of Bnei Anusim and so this is also a challenge demographically far larger than than any of the previous waves of Jewish immigration to Israel.
This is an important redemptive stage in the historical trajectory of Zionism and this requires much organizing in many countries as this also means helping bring together communities in them communally deciding to communally revert to our shared indigenous heritage which they their ancestors were so tragically deprived by religious imperialism. The State of Israel, JAFI and the Diaspora communities need to stand together in this mass operation which surely should not be owned by rabbis as this is a peoplehood operation and certainly not a denominational one.
This is not a matter of somehow doing Bnei Anusim a favor as this is rather about welcoming Bnei Anusim home to the Jewish people and home to Israel. This is about correcting historical injustice and not allowing historical crimes by religious imperialism against the Jewish people limit our ability to welcome the descendants of those who were so criminally wrested from us. This is a Zionist imperative of Aliyah and an ethico-futuristic obligation of as far as possible correcting the historical crimes of religious imperialism.
This is a peoplehood operation whereby as many members of the Jewish people as possible need to be mobilized to welcome the Bnei Anusim who have so heroically remained Jewish despite everything their ancestors went through. Bnei Anusim need to be warmly welcomed back into to the Jewish people and Israel because they are our lost siblings indeed.
While Israel will increasingly grow very extremely significantly in the many millions is this first and foremost a Zionist imperative of ethics whereby we will ignore denominational issues since this is a peoplehood operation of communal reversion involving non-acceptance of continued separation of the Bnei Anusim and the Jewish people.
Israel also needs to welcome Palestinian endogamous communities throughout the Western Land of Israel back to Rabbinic Judaism, Samaritan Judaism, Alawite Judaism and Druze Judaism respectively while descendants of Palestinian refugees throughout the region need to be rehabilitated by rebuilding their former villages with significant international investment in making the deserts of Jordan blossom indeed. Jordanian endogamous communities too are descended from Jews who were tragically victimized and coerced by religious imperialism and so Jordan too needs its own processes of communal reversion as leading to increasing unification with ultimately mutual consent between the two banks of the Jordan River.
Anyone concerned with demographics of any kind needs to consider the successfully multiethnic nature of the Jewish people in Israel and so growing in diversity means deploying an attitude of welcome whereby communally reverting descendants of the Jewish people will make our people grow and become increasingly diverse without any particular ethnic majority within the Jewish people in Israel. There is in fact no ethnic majority within the radically multi-ethnic Jewish people in Israel and so we need to embrace growth in diversity as a means of making the Zionist enterprise stronger and more diverse indeed!
Zionism has always been about turning daring vision into reality and so this is a challenge where we need to assume our historical obligation to ourselves and to our future. By leaving behind the irrational parts of the Diaspora mentality of suspicion can we instead move towards inclusion and acceptance in diversity into and within our people. The success of communal reversion precisely depends on our own ability to successfully include the descendants of those who were so tragically wrested from us by religious imperialism.
By leaving the politics of fear behind can we instead focus on dismantling the menace of religious imperialism by means of warm welcome in communal reversion. We the people are diverse and we need not fear becoming increasingly diverse as we know that Israeli society and the Zionist projective as a whole becomes stronger the more inclusive we become.
Welcoming Bnei Anusim home to the Jewish people and Israel is also an opportunity to strengthen our ties with Ibero-American societies, including significantly increasing trade volumes between Israel and Ibero-American countries. Bnei Anusim are not a problem needing to be “resolved” but we rather share the opportunity of history in uniting the Jewish people and making the Zionist enterprise even more successful. By enhanced inclusion of warm welcome can Bnei Anusim help Israel grow in precisely making another major wave of Aliyah succeed and thus help make Israel ever more attractive for Mass Aliyah of Diaspora Rabbinic Jews in America and elsewhere around the world indeed.
Indeed, this is truly what Zionism is about, indeed unity in inclusion of diversity and that is part of what has made Israel into a regional and global success story. We the people have an appointment with our own future.