Rockland County, NY – An effort to expand the production of kosher certified ingredients in Honduras in order to stimulate the republic’s economy has brought with it the creation of an official chief rabbinate which will be headed by a Monsey rabbi.
Rabbi Aaron Lankry, spiritual leader of Bais Medrash Ohr Chaim in Forshay, will be serving as the first chief rabbi of Honduras, a country which currently does not have any religious Jews. At a Wednesday meeting at the Sheraton Crossroads in Mahwah convened to draw business to Honduras, Honduran Minister of Government and Justice Hector Leon Ayala said that it was an honor for the country to create the new office.
“This is the first time that Honduras is recognizing a chief rabbi and we are 100 percent willing and able to do so following the national oath of the Republic of Honduras,” Ayala told VIN News.
The idea to create a chief rabbinate was sparked by an economic interest, explained Jay Bar-Levy, who works closely with Rabbi Lankry in Monsey. Having a chief rabbi in the republic would create the possibility of Honduran food items becoming kosher certified which could potentially increase exports, said Bar Levy.
Rabbi Lankry plans to work with the large number of Hondurans who believe that they are descendants of those who practiced Judaism secretly during the Spanish Inquisition.
According to Rabbi Lankry, the dwindling presence of Christianity in Honduras has left a religious void that is being filled by Muslims, prompting many who believe that they might be Jewish to start exploring their own religious roots.
“There is a very large community of Marranos located in Honduras and all across Central America,” said Rabbi Lankry. “We are hoping to establish religious courts that will be able to help them and determine if they are really Jewish.”
Rabbi Lankry noted that those who discover that they are not Jewish could undergo an Orthodox conversion if their desire is sincere and all of the necessary religious criteria are met.
Rabbi Lankry said that he has yet to visit Honduras and that he looked forward to exploring various opportunities to build economic and other bridges between the republic and the State of Israel.
As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2TQ0dWw) Honduras announced that it would follow the United States’ lead and would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and, in a letter dated March 28th, Honduran Director of External Cooperation Keydi Andino said that the Honduran government looked forward to Rabbi Lankry’s assistance in moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which it described as “The Eternal Capital of Israel.”
Other new initiatives launched include a Honduras and Israeli Chamber of Commerce and commercial government offices to be located in Jerusalem, New York and Tegucigalpa.