Monday, February 14, 2011

Miracles do happen in our time! Milagros Ocurren en Nuestro Tiempo!

It's time for your lazy blogger to get to work, and a remarkable event this past week has inspired me to create this blog entry.

Many of you know that Linda and I are Jewish and are active in the San Miguel Jewish community, and especially at Shalom San Miguel, our synagogue. This group not only has weekly services, but also cultural events, classes and holiday services and meals. For some years, services have been led by Dr. Dan Lessner, a (young) retired doctor from New York.
Carole Stone and Dan Lessner, Co-Presidents of Shalom San Miguel, address the crowd
Several years ago, a small number of Mexicans began appearing at our Saturday services. Some claimed to be descendants of Spanish Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. Others felt a strong attraction to Judaism for some reason - emotional or intellectual. They came from nearby cities - sometimes taking a bus an hour and a half each way to attend weekly services. Dan Lessner, who speaks fluent Spanish, began teaching a weekly class for them. In addition, he and Carole Stone, Shalom San Miguel's President at the time, created a Spanish version of our Siddur (prayer book), including a transliteration and translation of all prayers - a monumental and remarkable task!

Eventually, some of the Mexicans decided to convert to Judaism, a decision not lightly taken. It required extensive study and commitment on their parts. Last week, after two years of study, seven of these men and women, whom we term B'nai Anousim, underwent the conversion.

Three Conservative rabbis (all members of the Rabbinical Assembly) from the United States - Rabbi Juan Mejia (born in Colombia, now working in Oklahoma City), Rabbi Daniel Mehlman (born in Buenos Aires, now working in Los Angeles), Rabbi Felipe Goodman (born in Mexico City, now Senior Rabbi at Cong. Beth Sholom in Las Vegas)  -  convened a Beit Din, essentially a Jewish court of law, to administer tests to these aspirants and to determine their commitment and sincerity.
Left to Right - Rabbis Goodman, Mehlman and Mejia

Each of the B'nai Anousim was required, among other things, to bathe in a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath. Because no mikveh exists locally, they bathed in "living water" (natural spring). Shown belong are the converts and the rabbis, after the mikveh ceremony.
After the Mikvah. Left to right standing: Paola, Salomón, Josué, Elida, 
Graciela, Heriberto, Iván and Rabbi Felipe Goodman. 
In foreground: Rabbis Juan Mejía and Daniel Mehlman.

 Our B'nai Anousim passed "with flying colors", and on Monday, February 7, the entire Jewish community of San Miguel was invited to a party celebrating the event. Almost a hundred people attended the event. Prayers were recited, and each of the three rabbis spoke briefly in English and Spanish before the B'nai Anousim jointly read a statement indicating the commitment to Judaism and its beliefs. It was a  moving experience for all (an understatement, to say the least). Even the rabbis were unable to hold back their tears and strong emotions. Each rabbi said that this event was unique in the Jewish world.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Our B'nai Anousim are:
Josue Garcia Vasquez (Yehoshua Ilan) and his wife, Paola (Adina Tamar; born in Leon)) and son,     Salomon (Sh'lomo Yaakov)Ivan Gari Arredondo Nova (Yeshayahu Zecharia)
Elida Vega Munoz (Rivka Batsheva)
Heriberto Gutierrez (Eliyahu Aviel)
Graciela Alejandrina Ramirez Chavez (Chana Ruth)

After the speeches, a surprise awaited us. Two of the converts, Josue and  Paula, a young married couple with a one year old son Salomon and another child on the way, were married under Jewish law by the three rabbis present. A makeshift chuppah was erected using a tallit (prayer shawl) and four hockey sticks as posts.

Tears were flowing freely. I can safely say that there wasn't a dry eye in the house, including mine.

 Be sure to visit the Youtube video of the wedding!

After the wedding, a lovely comida (luncheon) was served.

We are looking forward to the participation of our newest San Miguel Jews, and to their continued learning and commitment. They are an inspiration to all of us.

In Spanish, the word "miracle" is translated as "milagro". We are justifiably proud of the milagro in our midst this year.