ZEEV ben AMORAL
2007 - finally at home
(translated by elopes azevedo)
Finally…yes, finally, at home. It was on the 4th of November of 2007…an unforgettable day, the most important of my life and for my family. It’s not just any house, but my family roots- the Jewish people, Israel and Judaism. Uffff, what a relief and so much joy…it’s the same feeling of an athlete, when he crosses the finish line…Wow..I arrived..and I leave behind a whole set of feelings, of pain, of anxiety, of despair, etc…I finally succeeded.
Yes, it has been a long journey, a journey that started in 1985, at the time of my first trip to Israel, where I stayed until the end of 1991. After that it was in Portugal, in 2003. Already in this year of 2007, I tried to return once more to Israel, and finally…finally…finally, a door opened, in New York, in the United States of America.
This trip starts in Israel, more precisely in Jerusalem. I am a native of Moçambique, 53 years old, and father of two adult sons. The oldest is called João and is married to Elizabeth, an American citizen. The youngest is called Bruno and is single. They both live in London. Oh, I am also a friend of another Moçambican, who also lives in Israel, Avner.
After despairing and failed attempts to return via an Orthodox organization, and after another conversation about the issue with my friend Avner (a yeshiva student at Machon Meir, Jerusalem), the name of Yaacov Gladstone came to me, resident in Manhattan New York, founder and president of the organization, “Friends of Marranos” (firstname.lastname@example.org). This organization is dedicated to the transmission of Jewish education and to rendering help in the publication of Marrano stories and memories.
Continuing, in this manner my whole journey starts, in the endeavour to finalize my return. I telephone Miguel of Belmonte and ask him if he has the phone number of Yaacov Gladstone. He responds that no, but that he would enter into contact with Manuel Azevedo, because he surely would know it. For those who do not know, Manuel Azevedo is a Marrano, a Canadian lawyer, of Portuguese origin and very active in pro-Judaic cultural movements and is one of the founders of the “Ladina” organization.
And thus it was, Miguel (a member of the Jewish community of Belmonte) sent me an email with Yaacov’s number. I telephoned Yaacov Gladstone and asked him if it was possible to find a rabbi interested in performing a “mitzvah” (he who saves a soul saves humanity). Yaacov responded on the telephone that he would take care of the matter. And thus it was so. after a few days, Yaacov sent me an email confirming the possibility of my return being realized in New York. These are the words in his email:
Rabbi Posner would like to perform the Returning Ceremony on Nov.4, 2 PM. at Temple Emanu El. So please make sure to arrive before that date. Rabbi Posner will be arriving from Israel on Nov. 1. I will invite friends and well wishers for the Ceremony. I learned last night that very close friends of mine, Israelis from Tel Aviv, who are now vacationing in Greece will also be coming to stay with me, either end of Oct. or beginning of Nov. So they too will be invited to the Great Event in your Life and we will all share in your SIMCHA.”
As it should be expected, I telephoned Avner and told him the news. I found myself in Naharyia and Avner in Jerusalem. It is October 2007 and I am anxious for that day of November 4th to come. I start to effect the preparation for my dislocation to New York. I purchase my airline tickets and bus ticket on the Internet. On the 29th of October, at 2 in the morning, I leave Naharyia by train to Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion airport, a trip that takes about 2 hours. The trains are modern, comfortable and acclimatized. I embark at 6 in the morning, on an Israir flight to Stanstead airport, in suburban London. I stay about 20 hours in London in the company of my children and daughter-in-law. I take advantage of the occasion to tell them in detail all of this whole process and the entire emotional and sentimental load involved. Needless to say, they turned radiant, and moreover, hopeful and convinced.
On the 30th day, at 9 in the morning, I had to be at the airport, but as I was going on a National Express bus and there had been a big accident, traffic was stalled, and thus I lost my flight. I paid an additional 95 pounds to not lose the ticket and to be able to embark on the following day. With this entanglement, I ended up spending 24 hours at Gatwick airport. Just as well, for at dawn I met my friend Manuel Azevedo and we started talking about his trip to Canada and mine to America. The last time that I had seen him, was on a flight that we both made from Lisbon to London, I think in May, and the disembarkation at this airport-Gatwick. Jokingly, Manuel Azevedo said, “To see each other, we have to be at airports!”.
I embark from London to New York via Bermuda. It was a fantastic trip, despite the 10 hours with a stop in Bermuda. I finally arrive at Kennedy airport and catch a bus to Manhattan, which cost me 15 dollars and took about one hour. I descend on 40th Street and Yaacov’s house is between 38th and 37th Street on Lexington Avenue. Reason had a friend from Moçambique that lives and works in London, when he told me that in Manhattan the tourists spend their time looking up, as the skyscrapers are so tall.
I ring Yaacov’s doorbell and it’s a delight for both of us. It is the 31st day of October, a Wednesday, around 6 in the evening, local time; the hour difference is 5 hours, from Portugal. I had Thursday and Shabbat to prepare myself for Sunday. Shabbat was spent in the synagogue. During these days, the anxiety was ever increasing as the big day approached.
Finally, on Sunday, I got up early to prepare myself for the great and unforgettable celebration. Yaacov and I left the house around 12.45 in order to catch a bus and then another. And all this takes time and we had arranged with other people to meet up at the entrance to the synagogue, Temple EmanuEl, at 13.30. I spent the whole time talking to Yaacov about the solemn act; needless to say, I was like a volcano, ready to enter into eruption. We all met, in the atrium of the entrance to the temple and after some conversation and smiles, rabbi David Posner arrived.
The rabbi is responsible for Temple Emanu El (www.emanuelnyc.org/), Reform congregation. He had an enormous smile for being able to perform another great “mitzvah” and thanked Yaacov for this opportunity. Previously, rabbi Posner carried out the return ceremony of another Portuguese, Fernando, who finds himself in London. The rabbi turned on the interior lights of the Temple and what a marvel, a beautiful Temple, of great height, width and length. I had never been in such a beautiful synagogue, majestic, imposing, and unusual. Clearly, I was very proud, because even the scene was spectacular…everything contributed to heating up and increasing the pressure of my interior furnace…what interior joy…what a start to the ceremony. At a certain point, the rabbi asks me to repeat after him, the following declaration,
“On the 4th day of November 2007 corresponding to the 23rd day of Cheshvan, according to the traditional Hebrew calendar, at Congregation Emanu El , in New York city, Zeev Amaral entered the historic covenant between God and the people of Israel. Of his own free will he has made the following declaration:
I make this affirmation as I enter the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, the children of Israel. I choose to become a Jew of my own free will. I accept Judaism to the exclusion of all other religions, faiths and practices and now pledge my loyalty to Judaism and the Jewish people under all circumstances. I promise to establish a Jewish home and participate actively in the life of the Synagogue and the Jewish community. I commit myself to the pursuit of Torah and Jewish knowledge. If I am blessed with children, I will rear them as Jews.”
After I recited the Shema, the certificate signed by the rabbi and three witnesses was handed to me for my signature. And so I did, I signed the certificate with my name Zeev ben Amaral and then rabbi Posner handed me the certificate and said, “Welcome back to our people”.
I contained myself emotionally, and then the rabbi took a Sefer Torah from the Ark and handed it to me to hold to my great satisfaction, but also as a symbol of the covenant. I held the Torah with great pleasure. Here, yes, I could not control myself and I smiled with an expression of contentment, of pride, with a duty fulfilled, of having attained the objective, of returning home, of reconnecting to my roots, of being part of the family again, of belonging to the people of Israel, of being proud of my Torah and being able to be observant, being able to use my tefelin, talit and kippa, in the end, being a Jew.
As everyone can imagine, the joy is great and that day was the most intense and unforgettable of my life. I finally succeeded in re-starting the journey of my maternal family (Portugal) and paternal (Spain), at the point where the Inquisition abruptly and forcibly cut it off. The course of my life changed direction again and this time, I returned to the original family destiny, the Jewish world.
I want to leave here, a word of appreciation and thankfulness to Yaacov Gladstone, an untiring and indispensable person in this final trajectory-the ceremony. My heartfelt thank you from the bottom of my heart.