Beth Ami Temple hosts Rabbi Garcia for December speaker series

Rabbi Yosef Garcia will discuss Crypto-Jews and the part they play in America today as part of the Beth Ami Temple Speakers Series at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec.1, at Beth Ami Temple in Paradise Valley.

Centuries of persecution and murder of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews caused many families who immigrated to the New World to hide their Judaism, according to a press release. Crypto-Jews are Jewish people whose ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity in 15th century Spain.

Rabbi Yosef Garcia (submitted photo)

Nowadays, a number of Crypto-Jews wish to re-enter the Jewish religion but find it is not easy and face many hurdles, the press release stated.

Rabbi Garcia is a Hispanic Sephardi originally from Panama. He is the religious leader of Avdey Torah Jayah Synagogue and is President of the Association of Crypto-Jews of the Americas.

Since discovering his Jewish background at a family wedding many decades ago, Rabbi Garcia has passionately embraced Judaism and became an ordained rabbi. Rabbi Garcia breathes new life into the Jewish community on a daily basis by bringing “hidden Jews” back into the fold through local and Internet classes.

Also, he has the distinction of being a co-founder of the Association of Crypto-Jews of the Americas. He helped create the “Ceremony of Return,” which includes a Certificate of Return that is recognized by the Ministry of Interior of the State of Israel for purposes of making aliyah.

Rabbi Garcia travels to countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Ecuador to connect with hidden Jews who are eager to reclaim their religion.

The public is encouraged to attend this informative evening of discussion. A brief Shabbat service will be held before Rabbi Garcia speaks followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. Light refreshments will follow.

Beth Ami Temple’s Rabbi Allison Lawton is excited to preside over her first Speakers Series, she says.

“I am looking forward to learning from Rabbi Garcia about Crypto-Jews,” Rabbi Lawton said in a prepared statement. “This promises to be an interesting and highly energized learning experience for all who attend. “

Founded in 1978, Beth Ami Temple is a boutique reform temple for active adults seeking a spiritual connection with their Jewish roots and social involvement in a small friendly congregation. The Speaker Series brings to light important topics and interesting speakers that not only impact the city’s Jewish population, but the entire Phoenix community altogether.

For more information on Beth Ami Temple and its Speaker Series visit www.bethamitemple.org.

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