Reverting vs. Converting – The Halachic Basis For Returning To Lost Minhogim – להחזיר עטרה ליושנה בעניני מנהגים – הבסיס ההלכתי
If one has, for one reason or another, lost touch with his מנהג, his ancestral, family custom, and grew up with a different one for an extended period, but later becomes more aware and wants to return to the former, may he do so? After all, we prize tradition, מסורה, so much, and typically gaze with suspicion at changes. Let’s see in the below case:
In March 2006, a Silicon Valley Executive discovered, after careful genealogical research and extensive DNA testing, that his ancestry was indeed Jewish Maternal and Paternal. After lengthy deliberation he presented these results to an Orthodox Rabbi. The Rabbi carefully studied the evidence and concluded this was sufficient proof that both his paternal and maternal ancestors were B’nei Anusim.
His paternal ancestors were Sephardim settled in Barbados, Montserrat and Jamaica under the surnames Baeza, Benavides, Baez de Benabides, Charlaf, Charlow and Charlaw; due to the premature deaths of his ancestors due to disease in Colonial Virginia his paternal ancestors were adopted in 1833, their names changed and they were baptised into Anabaptist Church. His maternal Spanish Jewish Family arrived on shores of present-day Croatia after expulsion in 1492 CE, only to be forced to convert centuries later during one of the many wars which ravaged the Balkans.
Family Surnames are Kramar/Mercado (Merchant), Ambroz (toponym from ‘Valle de Ambroz’), Horvat/Hrovat (Croatian), Gers/Gersh (Gershon) and Perec (pronounced ‘Peretz’). His wife’s paternal ancestors (del la Silveira, DeSousa, Morgado and Alvares) were Portuguese
Sephardim of Sao Miguel, Azores, who had lived on the island for 400 years before travelling to Hawaii to become Ranchers on the Big Island in the late 1800’s where they abandoned their Jewish heritage yet took up no other.
He underwent ‘Halachic Return’ since he was within 4 generations of forced
conversion on his maternal side and she underwent ‘Halachic Conversion’ to rejoin the Jewish People. This is a family of Shomrei Shabbat Halachic Jews and active members of a local Sephardic Community.