It was a star-studded event – or at least one filled with honored guests and international emissaries. But no one could plan for the most surprising guest of honor: an infant born exactly 8 days before who celebrated his brit mila (ritual circumcision) amidst a congregation of new friends.
The occasion was a special “congress” held on Sunday, February 15, 2014, and organized by Beit Israel, the Bnei Anousim community in San Salvador. (We’ve written about Beit Israel previously.) The three-hour evening was an opportunity for Bnei Anousim from around El Salvador to mingle and meet, as well as a chance for the community to present a plaque of appreciation to the Israeli ambassador to El Salvador, Shmulik Bass, for making an introduction to Shavei Israel last year.
That introduction led to the appointment of a Shavei Israel’s first ever emissary to El Salvador, Rabbi Daniel Touitou; the establishment of a new mikveh in the capital city; and a series of events all meant to strengthen the Bnei Anousim community in the country, such as February’s congress.
Ambassador Bass wasn’t the only “star” in attendance. Miquel Segura, a well-known chueta from Palma de Mallorca, flew in from his home in Spain to share his inspirational tale of how he discovered his Jewish roots, spent 12 long years gathering information about his heritage, and then presented it to a beit din (Rabbinical court) which, in an extraordinary move, issued him a formal certificate of returning to the faith of his ancestors. (We’ve written about Segura previously.) His message to the Bnei Anousim of El Salvador: if I can do it, so can you.
Segura’s wife Margalit, who wasn’t born Jewish, converted last December in Israel. The two were then married in a ceremony attended by Shavei Israel staff in Jerusalem. Here are some pictures.
Also speaking at the congress was Rabbi Yitzhak Aboud from Mexico, who spent 10 days in El Salvador prior to the congress, visiting the 300 Bnei Anousim who live in several communities spread out in various parts of El Salvador. At the congress, he taught classes on Jewish Law, emuna (faith) and Mishnah.
Eliyahu Franco, president of the Beit Israel community and co-founder of FESOSAL (the Federation Sephardi Orthodox of El Salvador), writes that this was the first congress put on by the organization, but more are planned, including a weekend Shabbaton coming up later this year.
As for the brit mila, Franco writes “it was a very happy coincidence,” but one that gave participants the opportunity to join in a seudat mitzvah – the festive meal commanded after such a ceremony. It was especially joyous for Franco: he had the honor of being the Sandak (godfather) for the proud new parents.
Here are some pictures from the event:
And here are some pictures from the brit milah ceremony: