Flip Side of the Coin – Fighting for Freedom of Religion
July 1, 2020
By Yaffah Batya DaCosta (Founder and CEO, Ezra L’Anousim)
The expression “flip side of a coin” is used to indicate a different way of seeing (or of how one might think about) any situation.
For example, we can fight against hate or we can fight for tolerance. We can fight against lies and deception, or we can fight for truth. We can fight against sexism, racism etc. or we can fight for the concept that “all men (humans) were created equal.” In the case of anti-Semitism, we can fight against it, which is certainly good and right, and/or we can fight for “freedom of religion” for Jews.
For Ezra L’Anousim, our focus is on the “flip side of this coin”. We certainly do agree that anti-Semitism must be fought by the Jewish world (and our supporters). We also believe that we (collectively) must also fight for the Jews right to follow our Torah, and to live a life consistent with our own conscience, like every other human being, and free from harassment and/or coercion.
Given that statement as our high-level “tafked” (divine mission) it is not at all surprising that our Israeli non-profit, Ezra L’Anousim, has chosen to focus on helping the Sephardi victims of anti-Semitism of over 500 years ago.
We do this specifically in terms of helping those descendants of the “forced converts” of Spain and Portugal who had suffered through the Inquisitions & persecutions of the Sephardim. In this way we are doing a mitzvah, bringing Justice to this situation, and it is also a Tikkun (rectification) of what had occurred in the past in Iberia.
These people have been called Marranos (which means swine, pig) and is the insult we were given by the Christians of 500+ years ago. We are also called Crypto-Jews (secret Jews) because the forced converts (and also all their descendants) had to hide as observant Jews to save their lives.
Most people, including many Jews, are not aware that an active killing Inquisition against the Jewish people lasted for almost 350 years after the expulsion from Spain. And the secular government of Spain only recently (in 1968) finally revoked the Alhambra Decree, the edict which expelled Jews in 1492.
Meanwhile, these people were referred to (in the Jewish responsa writings) as Anousim (which means forced or coerced) and their descendants are called Bnei Anousim.
Currently, we are experiencing a global Bnei Anousim Movement of revival, renewal and return that our organization actively supports and assists. Bnei Anousim are coming out of the shadows of secrecy and returning publicly to the faith and traditions of their Sephardi ancestors.
We sincerely believe that the Jewish world as a whole should be much more involved in helping the people in this movement. Because we Jews are responsible for one another. And we’ve all experienced anti-Semitism at one point or another.
In the American and Israeli military, there is the concept of “no soldier left behind.” This is similar to the belief of “no Jewish soul left behind.” Forced conversion is a form of theft of belief. And the “flip side” of fighting against “theft of the mind” is to fight for personal freedom and free will of Jews and people of all religions.
In the case of the Jewish religion, we can show how all other religions have in their own sacred texts many positive comments about Jews and about Judaism that can assist them in coming to our defense, and in educating their co-religionists.
There are Christians and Muslims today who agree with us about fighting for freedom of religion for all peoples. They can join arms with us in this positive fight because some of their co-religionists are also being persecuted in various parts of the world. Two examples: Christians persecuted in the Middle East. And Moslems persecuted in China.
There is a concept called “the trimtab factor.” It is used in America for organizational change, and social change as well. In context of fighting for “freedom of religion” a trimtab would be to find in Christianity the exact theory or development of supersession ideology, which causes some Christians to want to convert Jews. Within Islam a trimtab would be finding the exact method that has been used to incite Moslems to want to kill Jews and not accept our historical connect to our land.
And need to use this concept too in helping to positively change the minds (and hearts) of the people of the world of those who are today engaging in anti-Semitism. The call to action then is for us to develop the “trimtabs” in all areas where people do not really understand the fraud they are helping to perpetrate.
Please visit http://bneianousim.org/ to learn more about the important work of Yaffah Batya DaCosta and Ezra L’Anousim as they seek to support Bnei Anousim (Crypto Jews) worldwide.
Category: Contributor Op-Eds