Distant Relatives-Emerging Groups and Communities with Affinities to the Jewish People
A development unprecedented in the last two thousand years is occurring: significant numbers of people, perhaps even numbering in the millions, are seeking some type of affinity with the Jewish people. Some are of recent or distant Jewish descent (often discovered through genetic testing), others became aware that their family Jewish identity was suppressed whether in medieval Spain or the 20th century Soviet Bloc, others yet belong to groups in Africa, Asia, and America, who have come to seek a connection to Jewish ideas and values.
The prospect of so many people around the world, seeking some kind of relationship with the world’s fifteen million Jews is an extraordinary development. It has the potential to change the nature of discussions about Jews in many individual societies and create new constituencies for Israel. However, to date this phenomenon has hardly studied, by academia or institutions. There is a lack of basic information about the history, the size and the prospects of such groups and communities. There has been even less discussion about how to address this new development, either by single Jewish communities or by the state of Israel.
The Maas Center for Jewish Journeys of American Jewish University co-sponsored, with the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem and ANU-The Museum of the Jewish People, the first international conference to examine these extraordinary developments. The conference “Distant Relatives – Emerging Groups and Communities with Affinities to the Jewish People” was held in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on April 10-11, 2022 in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. We were deeply honored that, signifying the importance of the conference, President Isaac Herzog provided recorded opening remarks.
The conference and this research initiative is part of the Maas Center’s continuing effort to champion those too-often relegated to the periphery of Jewish life.
This page contains a program, photos and videos from the conference. As our research continues, it will also serve as a central resource for relevant publications.
PROGRAM | VIDEOS | PHOTOS
Looking at Emerging Groups and Communities, with Affinities to the Jewish People
A Research Conference Sponsored by The Maas Center for Jewish Journeys of American Jewish University, The Herzl Institute of Jerusalem, and ANU Museum of Tel-Aviv
9-10 Nissan, 5782 | April 10-11, 2022 | Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
Day 1 (10th April): Evening Program, Mishkenot Shaananim Conference Center, Ha-Tsayar Ya'akov Shteinardt Street, Jerusalem
18:00-19:30 Reception and Light Dinner
19:30 Greetings Dr. Jeffrey Herbst, President of American Jewish University
19:45 Overview of the Report of Groups and Communities with Affinities to the Jewish People, Dr. Ofir Haivry, Vice President of the Herzl Institute
20:00 Greetings: Mr. Isaac Herzog, the President of the State of Israel & Mr. Yehiel “Hili” Tropper, Minister of Culture
20:30-21:30 Roundtable Discussion – "What are the Emerging Groups and Communities with Affinities to the Jewish People?" With Prof. Jeff Herbst (AJU), R. Haim Amsalem, Zera Israel Foundation, Prof. Benni Ish-Shalom (Beit Morasha), Dr. Ofir Haivry (Herzl Institute)
Day 2 (11th April): Day-long program at ANU Museum, Tel Aviv University Campus, Tel Aviv.
Breakfast and Introduction to the day: 8:00—9:00
Session I. (9:00—10:15): “The demographics of emerging groups and communities with affinities to the Jewish People.”
Chair: Prof. Maoz Azaryahu, Haifa University
Prof. Sergio Della Pergola, Hebrew University – “A Demographic Framework”
Prof. Keren R. McGinity, USCJ Interfaith Specialist and Brandeis University (US)- “Conservative Judaism and the New Narrative on Jewish Intermarriage: How Partners of Other Faith Backgrounds Are Not-So-Distant Relatives”
Dr. Daniel Staetsky, Institute for Jewish Policy Research (UK) - “Genetic Ancestry Testing: A New Resource for Demography?”
Session II. (10:30—11:45): “Paths of Specific Communities to Affinity with the Jews (I): The Descendants of the Conversos.”
Chair: Dr. Ronen Shoval, The Tikvah Fund
Prof. Avraham Gross, Ben-Gurion University - “’Bnei Anusim’ of Brazil, between Individualism and Communitarianism”
R. Juan Mejia, Rabbis without Borders (US) – “Moving beyond the ‘Anusim’ narrative in Latin America”
Dr. R. Tomer Corinaldi, Kumi Ori Center, (Puglia, Italy) – “Developing our knowledge and connections with ‘Bnei Anusim’ communities of southern Italy”
Session III. (12:00—13:15): “Paths of Specific Communities to Affinity with the Jews (II): Communities in Europe, Asia and Africa”
Chair: Mr. Gideon Mitchnick, fmr. manager Jabotinsky Institute
Dr. Vladimir (Ze'ev) Khanin, Chief Scientist, Ministry of Aliya & Integration - “Beyond the Third generation - A newly emerging Jewish periphery?”
R. Michael Shudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland - “Poland 2022: Discovering your Jewish Roots”
Dr. Daniel Lis, University of Basle (Switzerland)– “West African Communities”
Lunch 13:15—14:00 & then Tour of Lost Communities installations at the Museum from 14:00 to 14:45
Session IV. (15:00—16:15) Implications for Israel: How does Israel Relate to Communities with Affinity to the Jews today?
Chair: Prof. Benjamin Ish-Shalom, Beit Morasha
Michael Freund, Shavei Israel – “A shift in the Israeli perspective?”
Dr. Netanel Fisher, Shaarei Mada Umishpat College - “The State Perspective: Dilemmas in setting the state’s attitude towards the ‘Scattered of Israel’”
Ashley Perry, Reconnectar – “Opportunities and Challenges of reconnecting with the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Communities”
Session V. (16:30—17:45) Next Steps: “A Program of future Research and Action - What have we learned and what do we need to know?”
Chair: Dr. Jefferey Herbst, American Jewish University
Dr. David Breakstone, Kulanu & fmr. Vice-Chairman Jewish Agency – “Policy, Practice and Proposal: What we need to do next”
Dr. Ofir Haivry, Herzl Institute – “Proposal for a new Institute of Research into emerging groups and communities with affinities to the Jewish People”
Closing Reception 17:45-18
Session 1 Video: The demographics of emerging groups and communities with affinities to the Jewish People
Session 2 Video: Paths of Specific Communities to Affinity with the Jews (I): The Descendants of the Conversos
Session 3 Video: Paths of Specific Communities to Affinity with the Jews (II): Communities in Europe, Asia and Africa
Session 4 Video: Implications for Israel: How does Israel Relate to Communities with Affinity to the Jews today?
Session 5 Video: Next Steps: “A Program of future Research and Action - What have we learned and what do we need to know?
The support of Ed and Peggy Robin for hosting the conference is gratefully acknowledged.