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Rabbi Michael Freund Leads Historic First-Ever Chanukah Candlelighting at Mexico City’s Infamous Palace of Inquisition

Candlelighting ceremony led by founder of Shavei Israel, Michael Freund brings meaning to a landmark for its long-recognized role in the Spanish Inquisition.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO, January 11, 2023 / -- On Thursday, December 22, 2022, Rabbi Michael Freund, founder of the nonprofit organization Shavei Israel, led a historic first Chanukah candlelighting ceremony within Mexico City’s Palace of Inquisition.

This notorious building is where the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition was held by the Spanish from 1571-1820. Over those years, hundreds were persecuted for secretly practicing Judaism. Many were tortured and executed, giving a grim past to a building that has since served as a university and now a museum.

The candelighting ceremony was organized in conjunction with the Beit Moshe Jewish community in Mexico City, and in attendance were the Bnei Anousim, people whose Jewish ancestors were forcibly converted to Catholicism over 500 years ago. For generations, they continued to practice Judaism in secret. A majority of the victims who were persecuted here by the Spanish were descendants of forcibly converted Jews who fled the Inquisition from Spain and Portugal.

Mexico City’s Beit Moshe community was established formally in 2010 with 70 members and serves to reconnect members with Judaism and Jewish traditions. The community has a synagogue, Torah scroll, and a ritual bath known as a mikvah. In 2018, Shavei Israel became involved with the community and offers assistance in a variety of matters relating to Jewish lifestyle and recovering lost Jewish identity.

The Chanukah candelighting ceremony was a landmark event in which Rabbi Yitzhak Abud of Mexico City; Moshe Rivera Reyes, President of the Beit Moshe community; and Aaron Francisco Javier Perez, leader in the Beit Moshe community were in attendance.

“To solidify the stance of this reemerging and growing Jewish community in an area in which the Inquisition held its grip for centuries is nothing short of a victory,” said Freund. “It was a privilege and honor to stand inside a landmark known for darkness and bring light.”

Shavei Israel’s mission is to reconnect “lost” and “hidden” Jewish people around the world with their Jewish community and the State of Israel.

Shavei Israel is a nonprofit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the U.S. with the objective of reaching out to “lost” and “hidden” Jews globally to reconnect them with other Jewish people and the State of Israel. Currently, Shavei Israel is active in more than a dozen countries, from Poland to Peru.


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