Hiding in Plain Sight: The Story of Southern Italy’s B’nei Anusim

Sunday, Feb 20, 2022

Sunday, February 20, 1:00 pm – 2:30pm ET
Free on Zoom
Registration Link – Click Here

By the end of the 15th century, the Kingdom of Spain was unified under Ferdinand and Isabella. Their growing empire encompassed parts of the Mediterranean, including Southern Italy, Sardinia, and Sicily. These areas – with ancient Jewish communities dating to Roman times – were deeply affected by the 1492 Edict of Expulsion and the phenomenon of Crypto-Judaism.

Speaking directly from her mountain village in Calabria in southern Italy, the “toe” of the Italian “boot,” will be Rabbi Barbara Aiello, a descendant of Sefardic Jews from Toledo, Spain. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Rabbi Barbara made her way to the Calabrian mountains in search of her family’s heritage. What began as a personal journey to share her family story of Crypto-Jewish observance and survival with the people of Calabria soon became her life’s work.

In 2004, Rabbi Barbara was appointed Italy’s first female rabbi and she continues to serve as a modern, liberal rabbi who lives and works in Italy. In this webinar, she will share stories about Jewish life in the south of Italy, the arrival of Sefardic Jews in 1492, and the generational impact of the Spanish Inquisition.

As was true for crypto-Jews everywhere, Jewish rites and rituals in this region of Italy were practiced for centuries, often by hiding in plain sight. Rabbi Barbara has made it her mission to return to the birthplace of her ancestors and to offer Bnei Anusim (descendants of Jews forced to convert to Catholicism) the opportunity to reconnect with their lost Jewish roots at Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud, the first active synagogue in Calabria in over 500 years. Joining her in this webinar will be Angela Yael Amato who will share her personal journey of discovery. As a concert violinist, Angela will play an ancient Ladino melody that exemplifies the strength of the B’nei Anusim of southern Italy and their determination to reclaim their Jewish identity.

Opening Remarks:

Michael Steinberger, CEO & Founder of Jewish Heritage Alliance.

Program Introduction:

Dr. Isaac Amon, a descendant of Sefarad, is an attorney and counselor at law and JHA Director, Academic & Program Development. Isaac graduated summa cum laude with “Highest Honors” in History for his thesis on the Spanish Inquisition and worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. He has visited execution sites and torture chambers of the Inquisition as well as Nazi death camps. At the onset of the global pandemic, he was in the Iberian Peninsula researching the Iberian Inquisition.


Rabbi Barbara is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she received the Distinguished Alumni Award.  She holds a MS from The George Washington University in Washington DC and received rabbinic ordination from The Rabbinical Seminary International and the Rabbinical Academy in New York City. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Rabbi Barbara made her way to the Calabrian mountains where she was appointed Italy’s first female Rabbi serving congregation Ner Tamid del Sud (the Eternal Light of the South), the first active synagogue in Calabria in 500 years since Inquisition times. In 2017 the synagogue was recognized as a member of the Reconstructionist Jewish movement and welcomes Jews of all backgrounds including crypto Jewish Italians who are discovering and embracing their Jewish roots. She is a founder of the Italian Jewish Cultural Center of Calabria, a pioneering society designed to bring recognition to the lost and hidden Jewish communities in southern Italy.

Guest Speakers:

Professor Angela Yael Amato is a member of the Board of Directors, Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud. She is an accomplished professional violinist holding a master’s degree in music education from London’s acclaimed Institute of Higher Education. Professor Amato is a descendant of Bnei Anusim who combines teaching and performing to create magic in venues all over Europe. Professor Amato has spoken and written extensively about her family history and the plight of southern Italy’s Bnei Anusim.

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Question and answer session will follow the presentation for those who wish to stay on.