Today, on Tisha b'Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av), we are not only mourning the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem but also the anniversary of the expulsion of Spanish Jewry in 1492.
I've made mention of my husband's activities in El Salvador but haven't yet found time to expound on them here, even though I've received quite a few requests to do so. But really, why hear it second-hand when he's already written so much about his personal experiences here?
The community in Armenia is a remnant of the Benei Anusim.
"Banana-what?" I often hear when giving the long version of the reply to "what does your husband do?" Also known as Crypto-Jews and alternatively spelled B'nai Anousim, they are descendants of Jews forced to convert and hide their identity. The Inquisition followed them to the New World and remained officially in force until the early 19th century.
The generations of Benai Anusim alive today no longer have the fear of the Inquisition forcing them into hiding and they are coming out to search for and reconnect to Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, our nation and land. The internet is helping make that possible. I always smile when I look in my stats and see El Salvador listed as a country that my blog is being viewed from. Most of the community doesn't know any English at all. But they are so eager to connect to Jews everywhere, and there have been far greater barriers than just language in their past.
It's with great joy that I'm seeing off my husband next month as he goes to lead High Holiday services (I'll miss him too...really). This community of 300 members built a synagogue over 35 years ago but has no sefer Torah (Torah scroll) and the men take turns laying their one communal set of tefilin (phylacteries) each morning. On this, his third, trip to Armenia, he will take a donated sefer Torah and five more sets of tefilin, as well as continue strengthening educational programs for children and adults. There's a short Kulanu blog about it here. It only took a couple of minutes to create my own personalized page through the link on Kulanu's blog to raise awareness and support.
I hope that all of you have a meaningful Tisha b'Av and may we merit--not just to see, but--to be part of bringing about the unification of all of our people.