Barcelona, Spain – For the first time since the expulsion of Spain’s Jews in 1492, a descendant of forcibly-converted Spanish Jews who immigrated to Israel, returned to Judaism and received rabbinical ordination will return to Spain to serve as a rabbi. Rabbi Nissan Ben-Avraham, a resident of Shiloh, has been appointed Shavei Israel’s new emissary to the Bnei Anousim (whom historians refer to as “Marranos”) in Spain.
Rabbi Ben-Avraham was born in 1957 in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, into a Chueta family (see below). His given name at birth was Nicolau Aguilo. He immigrated to Israel in 1978, formally returned to Judaism and Hebraicized his name. He later married, was ordained as a rabbi, and became a proud father of 12 children.
As Shavei Israel’s emissary in Spain, Rabbi Ben-Avraham will teach Torah, Jewish culture and tradition to Bnei Anousim, and will conduct a range of social and educational activities. His work will focus on the Bnei Anousim communities of Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Alicante and Seville, where he will assist those seeking to learn more about their Jewish roots.
“This is a very moving and historic development,” said Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel. “It marks the first time that a member of the Bnei Anousim is returning to Spain, where he was born and raised, in order to help his fellow Anousim learn more about their Jewish roots.” According to Freund, there are tens of thousands – and maybe even more – of Bnei Anousim in Spain, who are conscious of their special connection to the Jewish people. “We owe it to them and to their ancestors to reach out to them, embrace them and welcome them back home,” he said.