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B'nei Anusim (Hebrew: בני אנוסים, pronounced [ˈbnei anuˈsim] "children [of the] forced [ones]"; singular male, Ben Anusim, Hebrew: בן אנוסים "son [of the] forced [ones]"; singular female, Bat Anusim, Hebrew: בת אנוסים "daughter [of the] forced [ones]") is a term, in the plural form, which refers to the children and all later descendents of anusim — "anusim" in turn being a category of Jews in Jewish religious law (Halakha) who were forced or coerced to abandon Judaism against their will, typically whilst force converted to another religion. The term "anusim" itself is most properly translated as the "coerced [ones]" or the "forced [ones]".
Those referred to as B'nei Anusim are all the subsequent generations descended from anusim, born in the condition of inherited alienation from Judaism, whether they are or are no longer halakhically Jewish, or whether they are aware or not of their Jewish origin.
The status of B'nei Anusim as Jews within the general Jewish community is determined by just one particular line of descent. All B'nei Anusim who are of an unbroken maternal line, are full-fledged Jews. Jewish law explains that the child of an Israelite woman is still an Israelite, no matter what religious belief system or lack thereof the child or descendant may hold.
Consistent with halakha requiring Jews in general to be considered Jews (by birth) only if there is an unbroken maternal Jewish line (where one's mother, or mother's mother, or mother's maternal grandmother, etc. was a Jew, irrespective of all other lines of descent), so too are B'nei Anusim of an unbroken maternal line of anusim (where one's mother, or mother's mother, or mother's maternal grandmother, etc. was the anusáh) also considered full-fledged Jews. This too is irrespective of whether all, most, some, or none of all the other lines of descent of a ben/bat anusim do or do not trace to other anusim ancestors.
All B'nei Anusim without an unbroken maternal anusim line of descent, while nonetheless considered B'nei Anusim, are not halakhically Jewish. These B'nei Anusim must first "revert" back to Judaism to be considered Jews. Some communities, however, do not require these B'nei Anusim to "revert" back to Judaism to be considered Jews in the counting of a quorum for a minyan or to make aliyah (ascending to make a Torah reading) in synagogue services. "Reversion" to Judaism, is, however, required in the event of marriage to a Jew.
Often, "reverting" for B'nei Anusim is, for all intents and purposes, a nominal or symbolic conversion, an affirmation of faith and commitment to the Jewish people, immersion in a mikveh (body or collection of water fit for the purpose of ritual immersion), and for males a brit milah (circumcision) or hatafat dam brit (if already circumcised).
Religious legal opinionsEdit
- But their children and grandchildren [of Jewish rebels], who, misguided by their parents . . . and trained in their views, are like children taken captive by the gentiles and raised in their laws and customs (weghidelúhu haGoyím `al dathám), whose status is that of an ’anús [one who abjures Jewish law under duress], who, although he later learns that he is a Jew, meets Jews, observes them practice their laws, is nevertheless to be regarded as an ’anús, since he was reared in the erroneous ways of his parents . . . Therefore efforts should be made to bring them back in repentance (LeFikakh rawí leHah zirán biTeshubáh), to draw them near by friendly relations, so that they may return to the strength-giving source, i.e., the Toráh