The origins of the work conducted today at Casa Shalom are perhaps unusual , but is an entity that has within a few years made considerable strides, having become both internationally and academically respected and a clear example of how from unexpected events can emerge a catalyst to unique and important research.
The whole concept was initiated almost as a holiday hobby in the Spanish Balearic Islands of Ibiza and Formentera, known as the Pitiuses Islands, in 1978, when it emerged that within these backwaters Jews had been protected by the Islanders and survived after the expulsion in 1492 until modern times.
As Jewish customs and ritual were discovered, as well as documents, which included a 14th century Megilla Esther, (now being restored by the Spanish Government) and four buildings that had been secret synagogues, some in use until the Civil War in 1936, the importance of the discoveries began to be appreciated more widely. Within a few years the research expanded to the larger Balearic Islands of Majorca and Minorca.
In March, 1984, I was invited to give a paper on my findings at the 4th Judeo-Spanish Conference at Glasgow University which resulted in the interest of that university's then head of Hispanic studies, Professor Doctor Nicholas Round. MBA., who offered to supervise the research. In 1988 I was nominated by Glasgow University to be an Honorary Research Fellow , Department of Hispanics and this has been renewed annually since and now confirmed until the year 2003. This recognition of the Casa Shalom research set us on the road to acceptance of other academic bodies which has since grown considerably to the present time. Today, we are very proud that Prof. Round who is now Head of Hispanics as Sheffield University, sits together with the present Head of Hispanics at Glasgow, Prof. Paul Donnelly, on the Board of Casa Shalom.
Shortly after my attendance at the Judeo-Spanish Conference, it was decided to further the project, seeking out a hitherto unknown history of the secret Jews in the smaller Balearic Islands, by living there for a period of 12 months before immigrating to Israel; giving up our home in the U.K., but there was so much unchartered information to navigate , including information about Balearic Jews going to to the area of Salonika after the explusion of 1492, that the proposed single year stretched to three, before we finally made Aliyah in August 1988. At this stage, other than being willing to acquaint anybody who would listen to our findings about Marrano life and customs in the areas we had lived and studied in, we envisioned that all the research was finished, but along came Mr. Neil Davis, of the Davis Foundation in London, to view our then quite tiny library, who immediately promised to finance the project for one year if we would agree to continue researching and maintain our contacts with the people of the Islands. So, settling in Gan Yavneh, the research and documenting continued and with the subsequent support from the Schalit Foundation, whom all connected with Casa Shalom will be eternally grateful. Such valuable assistance enabled research in Spain, Portugal, U.S.A., Canada, The Caribbean, South America and Africa, all culminating with meetings with people from hidden Jewish origins and the collection of data about past and present communities and individual families.
When the Institute for Marrano-Anusim Studies was finally formed in 1994, Eli Schalit agreed to become Chairman of the Board, and likewise Mr. Davis's positive enthusiasm did not abate. These gentleness' desires for the further study of Crypto - Jews was compounded with the coming forward of a number of other interested international prestigious individuals, who demonstrated their willingness to serve on the Honorary Board. In addition local volunteers came to assist in translations , and general office activities. Much time and effort is given over to E-mail enquiries and help with Genealogical searches as we hold considerable and unique Onomastic,(family names) dossiers and have published accordingly. To all questions we reply as helpfully as possible, being able to have the facility of our unique data base, but because of our limited budget we are forced to cease after initial answers unless the enquirer becomes a member of Casa Shalom. The membership charge being very small. We have a sliding scal starting from only $36 per year, which includes our free journal and reduced rates for other publications and off-prints. At ALL times we are most careful to keep the privacy of those that desire it.
Visitors have been welcomed to our Institute from all over the world, many from families of hidden Jewish background, desirous learning more about their Jewish heritage. From our limited resources ,books , Mezuzahs, Tallasim, candlesticks, Hebrew textbooks, etc., are often requested and transported to many parts of the universe.There are plans to hold more Seminars ,open days and tours to places of Jewish interest ,some hitherto unknown.
While each area of the research has a distinctive personal history, the constant theme has been the tenacity of the Jewish faith. Today, whilst perhaps not large by comparison with some, a unique library and photographic collection as well as audio cassettes and Archival material has been amassed during numerous travels and researches. Except for a small amount of secretarial help all other assistance including my husband and I, who attend full time , work without salary. Adding information on a daily basis, as well as aiding those who seek answers to questions on Jewish identity and ritual occupies many hours. We at all times endeavour to assist scholars and students with information. Frequently the enquirer's initial question to us leads in turn for our research data to be further enriched about Marrano life and practices.Over the now nearly thirty years since the onset of the investigations , we have contributed to a number of prestigious publications, including the Encyclopaedia Judaica Year Book ,as well as attendances at innumerable conferences in Israel and abroad. The fact that we are able to supply so much firsthand personal material has meant that our lectures have proved very popular, making history come alive to all levels of audiences, both for adults and children or where there are problems of Jewish identity. We regard assisting in education as one of the most important aims of our organization. A large number of papers on all facets of Marrano-Anusim studies have been published and more are forthcoming. These include happenings in those areas affected during the Holocaust and how refugees fleeing the Nazis were helped by local secret Jews. Close attention to this facet of WWII studies will be continued and made available in forthcoming publications
In 1997 the first of The Casa Shalom Member"s Journals , was published and received many accolades for its high standard and value of new material therein. Whilst originally we had not envisaged to have the means to distribute the magazine without charge to all levels of Institute membership, thanks to the support of the Mayor of Gan Yavneh ,Mr. Moshe Alkesiasi , and his local Council, we managed to continue to repeat this in all subsequent issues. Our Journal has in addition to supplying Academic information proved to be a lifeline to so many isolated Marranos-Anusim in many parts of the world, or indeed anyone interested or involved in Crypto-Jewish studies. It is the plan of the Casa-Shalom Control Committee from this year onwards to publish more than one edition annually, but naturally this depends on realising our aims to increase membership and so strengthen our financial base.
Our main project these past three years has been the previously unrecognized early Jewish immigration to Florida. The majority of this influx took place from the northern Balearic Island of Minorca in 1768 during the time that the British occupied both Florida and Minorca. Our total findings to date have pushed back the hitherto accepted Jewish history some one hundred and fifty years. In this connection we have found that a large proportion of the excess of one thousand immigrants who travelled and suffered terribly upon arrival, were just one or two generations away from ancestors who had been in trouble with the Inquisition in the Balearic Islands and carrying with them to their new homes many Jewish practices. In a few cases, at the other end of the spectrum we have been fortunate enough to trace the present day descendents of some of these families and again find an amazing continuance of Jewish ritual and observance. Some today leading open Jewish lives. The researches have been done with the closet encouragement of the Schalit Foundation and in association with the University of Miami's department of Jewish Studies, headed by Professor Henry Green, who has been a powerhouse of motivation. We now hold a very large amount of Archival material on this subject at Casa Shalom, showing important historical links to nearby American States like Louisiana and also to Cuba and Jamaica . From these areas new data continues to arrive all the time. We are deeply indebted to the town of St. Augustine, the oldest city in the USA., who have shown such a positive interest in our researches and where so many of the Minorcan immigrants finally settled.
Our library is at present housed in space totally inadequate for its needs, nevertheless it contains many important and rare items, about Crypto-Jews not only in Hispanic countries, but also in places like Iran and Sao Tome Y Principe, the latter being two Islands off the Gulf of Guinea, where two thousand children between the ages of two and twelve years of age were taken in 1493 from Lisbon as slaves, yet five hundred years later some vestiges of Jewish awareness and practices remain amongst these children's' descendents.
In Israel ,in addition to Adult lectures a number of classes have been arranged in schools on the subject of Crypt-Jewish life with great success. Many children of immigrants to Israel are from a totally secular and mixed marriage background from the former USSR and endure serious identity problems. We are proud to help such students understand their heritage. With almost equal appreciation the lectures, always accompanied by unique slides and usually also musical and interview recordings, have had even greater successes in Europe, USA and Canada where presentations are now being given twice yearly. For example we have one audio cassette of a dying Spanish woman saying the Shema. This rendering of the most sacred Jewish prayer , being recorded by the lady's grandson anxious to prove to the Rabbinical authorities that even though he had no papers, his Mother's family were Jews. The question of those in such situations who wish to return to open Judaism and lead a fully Orthodox Jewish life is difficult and complex, but happily in the last few years our representations to better acquaint the necessary Authorities about the history and situation of Anusim are bearing fruit. Classes both residential and non-residential have been set-up by the Israeli Government and Rabbinical Councils, to help those who wish to formally Convert or take what is known as a Shuvah (return ) to Judaism Courses in Israel. Considerable amounts of careful contacts and admin are very necessay to make sure that the person planning to come to Israel is going to be suitably placed .Usually a preparatory visit too is advised if at all possible .All this involves much arranging and often expense on the part of Casa Shalom.
Another project that has been deeply appreciated has been our Passover Sederim in Ibiza . Thanks to the American Joint Committee who supplied the Matzos , and other supporters who assisted with other costs we were able to restart such events that we had instigated whilst we lived on the Island from 1985-1988,and resumed with enormous success these Passover activities in the years 1987-88-89 ,but having used so much of our funds on other researches we were sadly unable to manage it this current year, which meant that some twenty five persons missed out on a personal Seder, and some sixty families went without Matzot.,but we trust that by next year our financial situation will have improved with sufficient new members to have the backing for us to resume again, hopefully this time linking up with Marrano-Anusim in the island of Minorca who we trust will join us. The Passover activities are a totally 100% Kosher event. We transport all the necessary Rabbinically supervised items from Israel, partof which incurs heavy Spanish Customs duty payments. Unfortunately although we have endeavoured to encourage the local people to conduct their own affairs and arrange a Seder themselves this has not been possible, and the few persons who were there and capable have now moved away , some coming to Israel with our help.
SHORT RESUMÉ OF CASA SHALOM HOLDINGS
Asterisk * denotes that personal testimonies are also held. General and Anglo-Jewish History 1st.edition Jewish Encyclopaedia and other sets of early and modern Encyclopaedias *Research papers and photos of the late Rabbi Abraham Chaitowitz, recipient of the first United Synagogue (UK) Sir Robert Waley- Cohen Memorial Travelling Scholarship Prize in 1973.These papers include much material concerning findings in Churches and Monasteries on the Spanish mainland as well as Majorca. Bevis Marks, Records of Births Marriages & Deaths from inception of the Congregation of Spanish and Portuguese Jews in London in 1660 until 1901. Transactions and index of the Jewish Historical Society of England. * Extensive Anglo-Jewish and Colonial books and Archival material, including hitherto unknown Jewish settlement in town of Banbury, UK.
America. *Marrano families in New Orleans. *Florida Papers relating to early settlers and most important items relating to the Minorcan Immigration, Jewish practices, including details on persons who later left for Cuba and other places in the Caribbean.
Mainland Spain and Canary Islands / Maderia. *Lucian Wolf and Haim Beinart's works on the Jews of the Canary Islands. *Jews and secret practices ,persecution ,Inquisition, Food etc. *Papers relating to Jews in the Canary Islands/Cape Verde etc. *Holocaust Studies in relation Spain, Portugal, Libya and Marranos in this period. *Statements from Marrano families.
Balearic Islands. Copies of Jewish Land Sales and disputes prior to the official dissolution of the Jewish Community in 1435 , from the Santa Clara Convent . (Partly in Hebrew) Palma de Majorca. Movement of the secret Jews from Majorca to Salonika. * Lives and ritual amongst the local secret Jews in Majorca as known as Chuetas. *Minorca Genealogy files, showing links to New Zealand and USA.families Copies of old Ketuboth.of Palma-De-Majorca. Copies of 14 pieces comprising 85% of a total 14th.century. Megilla Esther,now being restored by Spanish Government. *Balearic Periodicals/newspapers/old films/photos inc. Freemasonry/guide books/. *Walter Benjamin's ,Raoul Hausman's , Elliot Paul's sojourns in Ibiza 1932-36. *Information and works appertaining to the life of Baram an Israeli painter and his artist wife Bella Brisel during their lives in Formentera in the 1950s-60s and 70s.Baram received the first officially permitted Jewish Burial in the Pitiuses Islands for 500 years. Later buried on the Mount of Olives Jerusalem. *Works of Isadoro Macabich Llobet./ Juan Mari Cardona prime historians of Ibiza and Formentera. *Papers relating to Prince Luis Salvador of Hapsburg's life and works on the Balearic Islands ,and many other places of travel, including Flora and Fauna. His finding of secret Jews there, Friendship with Nathanial Von Rothschild of Vienna. Copies of 17 Letters by Rothschild to the Prinz. etc. Works of Nito Verdera and Rafel Bauza Socias and their theses that Columbus came from the Balearic Islands and was a secret Jew. *Slides, Cassettes.Films.,photos on most of the above subjects, including a number from pre-Spanish Civil War in 1936. *Photos and Testimonies of Republican bombing of the Battleship Deutschland in Ibiza harbour in 1937. *Papers of family of Chief Rabbi of Bulgaria ,Rabbi Moritz Grunwald, who whereupondied at his selection visit to be Chief Rabbi of England in 1892. His son and grandchildren lead secret Jewish lives in Ibiza From 1932.
Portugal. Archival material on the Islands of Sao Tome Y Principe, inc. some from Inquisition Archives in Lisbon. In conclusion I would like to say…. We are a recognized non-profit organization ,who aims to reach out to those of Jewish and non-Jewish origin who desire to know more about the Jewish heritage. We provide a hitherto unavailable facility , but only connect members to each other if BOTH sides wish it. The Institute welcomes members to visit the Library by previous appointment. We have no lending facilities, but will gladly provide Bone- Fide members even by post with photo-copies at very low cost as not all who enquire from us have access to a Computer. *Publications of Gloria Mound and Casa Shalom on the above subjects.
Hon. Executive Director Casa Shalom
Institute For Marrano-Anusim Studies
Gan Yavneh Israel 70800.
Tel /Fax. 972-(0)8-8573150
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