10 Oct First ‘eruv’ in Belmonte, Portugal in 522 years
The recent innovation in the life of the Belmonte community not only made this Yom Kippur special – it is going to improve the quality of Jewish life for all upcoming Shabbats of this new Jewish year. Now the local Bnei Anousim (descendants of forced Conversos from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition) can enjoy a new eruv, established for them by Rabbi Boaz Pash and Rabbi Avraham Franco, who is the Rabbi of the community.
An eruv is a ritual enclosure usually constructed around neighbourhoods with a concentration of observant Jews, that enables people to carry objects within its borders from the private to the public domains. This was the first eruv established in the town since the expulsion and forced conversion of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews in 1497. Rabbi Boaz Pash, who was once Shavei Israel’s emissary in Poland, visited Belmonte for Yom Kippur to help the community have a meaningful fast and organized the holiday prayers, and used this opportunity to take part in this important mitzvah.
Belmonte had a thriving Jewish community until the 15th century when its members were forced to either go into hiding or convert to Catholicism. Today, the descendants of those Jews – the Bnei Anousim – are increasingly re-discovering and re-embracing their hidden heritage.