The story of Kehillat Bnei Sefarad
I’d like to share inspiring developments among the Jews in Valencia, Spain and Kehillat Bnei Sefarad specifically. Sara and I met many of the founders of Bnei Sefarad while they were part of the Valencia Masorti community, Kehillat Aviv, back in 2004, through Rabbi Chaim Weiner.
Rabbi Chaim was involved with this Valencia synagogue because of the new community’s interesting mix: about half of the members consisted of Argentinean Jews (who arrived in Spain after the economic collapse of Argentina around the turn of the century) and the other half consisted of native Spaniards, Jews by choice, many of whom had undergone conversion through the European Masorti Beit Din with Rabbi Chaim. Together they would become Kehillat Aviv and Sara and I were lucky enough to celebrate with them on the occasion of their first communal Seder and spend time in their homes back then. This was an incredibly moving experience for me, and I remained in touch with many of the members of Kehillat Aviv over the years, their stories being quite similar to mine.
Sadly, there was a parting of the ways between the Argentinean and Spanish-born halves of the community back in 2009. This split led to the creation of Bnei Sefarad in 2010, the first synagogue founded and led by descendants of Bnei Anusim in Spain. As Kol Nefesh members will remember too well, a break-up is difficult, and the members of Bnei Sefarad had to start from scratch, finding a new building, finding a new movement affiliation (the remaining members retained their Masorti Olami link) and organizing themselves to keep going. I am happy to report that since then, Bnei Sefarad has grown and thrived. Its membership has grown and thanks to the support of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the synagogue received its very own Sefer Torah ahead of Yom Ha’atzmaut a few weeks ago. I attach a photo of the occasion, which the members sent to me this week.
I encourage anyone passing through Valencia to get in touch with Bnei Sefarad (I can provide details upon request), as they will gladly welcome visitors for Shabbat services.
Gabi Peretz, June 2019