June 13, 2023 — Writer and researcher Genie Milgrom met with Pope Francis in his private Library at Vatican City this week. The private audience was planned by Rabbi Avi and Nehama Tawil, leaders of the European Jewish Community Centre (EJCC) in Brussels. She was accompanied by her husband Michael Milgrom and several members of the EJCC.
For over 8 years, Milgrom has been working tirelessly to have the Inquisition Judgements, known as Procesos, digitized so as to be able to follow the Pre-Inquisition genealogies of the Bnei Anousim or descendants of the Crypto Jews as well as the Sefardim who left Spain at the Expulsion in 1492. Inside each Proceso, there are clear genealogies given by those arrested for practicing Judaism underground. The reason being that the Inquisitors could follow the genealogies and arrest the extended families.
There are many historians who concur that the approximate number of Jews present in Spain before 1492 was approximately 300,000 but there is no exact and accurate number that historians can offer us. Of those, the consensus seems to be that 100,000 left in 1492 for the Ottoman Empire and other lands, 100,000 stayed behind and went underground to practice their religion while pretending to be Catholic, and 100,000 assimilated and were lost to the Jewish people.
Genie Milgrom belongs to the group whose family stayed and went underground in 1391 and for centuries, pretended to be Catholic. Milgrom returned to the Jewish people and was able to follow her own lineage via the Inquisition Procesos, finally finding an unbroken maternal line going back 22 grandmothers in a row. This took her over 12 years and it was no easy task yet, she clearly understood that unless these Inquisition records were digitized and up on the internet, the work and cost would be prohibitive for most people and she began her mission for the mass global digitalization of these Procesos.
During her audience, she was able to clearly explain to the Pope, the historical significance of the digitization as well as the present struggles in each country. The Pope was enthusiastic to help and assigned a Papal emissary to work hand in hand with her to obtain positive results. A truly significant and historical moment to regain the identities of those whose lineage was lost during the Spanish-Portuguese Inquisition.