Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Frank Rabbi of Athlone and his Daughter Anne

Edward (Frank) Ennis' dark auburn haired daughter Anne Ennis (Chana Anes)

In 1760 over 60,000 religious Jews converted en masse to the Catholic Faith under the influence of their Tzadik or Moranu Jacob Leib Frank. After Jacob Frank's arrest and imprisonment later in 1760 many of his relatives and followers moved to other countries and a large group moved into the British Isles and Ireland. They took Anglicised or Irishified names and blended with the local communities. They often connected with older crypto-Jewish families and introduced them to the Frankist teachings. Outwardly they observed Catholicism or Anglicanism with their neighbours while meeting in secret and keeping in secret many aspects of their mystical Jewish traditions.

The first generations of Frankists were encouraged to become farmers, soldiers, priests and religious nuns or monks. Those who married were encouraged to marry other Frankists or crypto Jews if possible. Some of the men were trained in secret as crypto-Jewish or Frankist Rabbis. Some of these men were sent as teenagers to Amsterdam and others places where they rejoined the Jewish community in order to study as a Rabbi and then to return to their communities to marry and continue their crypto-Jewish ministry. These crypto Rabbis usually had another profession such as a tailor, shoemaker, farmer or publican in order to support themselves and as a cover for their ministry.

One such crypto-Jewish Frankist Rabbi was Edward Thomas Ennis who was called the Frank and this was to become his nick name. His father belonged to a crypto-Jewish Irish family of Frankist merchants who came to Athlone from Dublin and bought Ballynahown Court. Edward's father John William Ennis was the brother of  the Frankist merchant Andrew Ennis. Their father William Andrew Ennis was born on his family's Virginian Estate in 1758 belonging to a crypto-Jewish family originally coming from Athlone. The Ennis' were descended on the male line from an old crypto-Jewish family of Cork originally called Anes originating in Portugal.

When William was a young man he came to Dublin as a merchant and married a young girl of a Frankist crypto-Jewish family whose father was related to the him. They lived in the Roebuck area of Dublin and in 1800 he bought land in Griffinstown Westmeath. His son Andrew Ennis bought Ballynahown Court in 1830 where they established a Frankist crypto-Jewish community led by his Frankist wife Mrs Ennis (known as Lady Ennis to the crypto-Jewish community).

Around 1808 William sent his son John William Ennis to Amsterdam to study as a Rabbi in the thriving Orthodox Jewish community there. On his return to Ireland he married a young girl Mary Coffey (Miriam Kaufi) descended from Jacob Frank through her mother Anne Maher (Chana Mayer) one of the Matriarchs of the Irish Frankist community. Their son Edward (known as Frank) was a crypto-Jewish Frankist Rabbi to the Athlone community led by its Matriarchal descendants of Jacob Frank.

Edward married Mary(Anna) Ganley of Athlone. Mary was a teacher, healer and midwife like her mothers before her. She and her family had a special devotion to the archangel of healing- Raphael. She passed this devotion to the angels to her daughter Anne (also called Annie). Mary's mother the dark auburn haired Helena Moran was born in Liverpool and was from the Frankist community there led by her parents James and Juana (Johanna) Moran. Helena moved to Athlone and married her husband Richard Ganley in 1812 and became one of the Matriarchs of the crypto-Jewish Frankist community with the older "Lady" Ennis of Ballynahown Court (she was indeed the Lady of the Manor). Helena was known as Lady Ganley to the Frankist community as her father was a paternal grandson of Jacob Frank. Jacob Frank used the title of Baron or Count as did his descendants. The younger Lady Ennis indeed became an official Lady in the peerage of Britain and Ireland when her husband John Ennis was made a Baronet  in 1866.

Edward as a crypto-Rabbi was also a tailor in Tubberclare (Toberclair) near Athlone. In later life in the 1850's he became a farmer in the Kilkenny West area of Westmeath (near Athlone).  One of his farming properties was leased from his uncle Thomas Coffey. He died there in 1874. Many of Edward's brothers moved to live in Melbourne in Australia in the 1850's. His auburn-haired daughter Anne Ennis was to move to Melbourne in 1869. Anne had moved to Liverpool around 1865 where she worked as a governess for the Jewish Joseph family of Toxteth Park. They then secured a position for her as a governess to their relatives of the Montefiore family living in Melbourne Australia. It was from Liverpool that she caught a ship the "Gresham" to Australia. She arrived in Australia to Melbourne on 22 June1869 where she was employed by the Montefiore family.She married a Frankist relative Michael Kissane in Geelong in 1871. After the death of her husband in 1890 she ceased her secret Frankist observances and reared her younger children in the ordinary observances of Irish Catholicism.

Anne was a teacher and midwife like her mother before her. After her marriage she moved to Echuca. Her brother John Ennis joined them in Echuca and became a farmer there in 1887. She ran a school house in Echuca on the family property called Boileau, her daughter Johanna also taught for a time at her school. She is also said to have later moved to West Melbourne where she ran a nursing home for expectant mothers. In 1908 she went to Western Australia (with her daughter Johanna (Hannah) and her small grandchildren on a ship) where some of her children had moved in the late 1890's to the Goldfields (Kanowna and Coolgardie). The men are said to have travelled by land in wagons. In Western Australia she started a maternity nursing home in the town of Wagin and lived there until her death in 1931. 

After the death of Anne's husband and two daughters to yellow fever around 1890 she became a deeply devout Catholic and ceased to follow the secret Frankist Jewish ways which caused some conflict with her daughter Johanna (who also had dark auburn hair like her mother) who had returned to the Jewish faith while living in Melbourne where she worked for Rabbi Elias Blaubaum of the St Kilda Synagogue. Johanna's older sister Mary Ann (Molly) Kissane married her cousin Michael (Mick) Joseph Ennis (a son of Anne's brother Patrick Ennis of Westmeath near Athlone). Anne's younger sister Rose (Hebrew name Shoshanah) also in the 1870's arrived in Melbourne from Ireland where she married and raised a family.

The story of the Ennis family is typical of the Frankist families who for about a hundred years managed to retain their identity in secret but by the late 19th century this identity was being lost and forgotten and they were assimilating into the dominant culture of their communities. However the story of their origins that they created and assumed for their non Frankist neighbours became the one that their descendants also came to believe in many cases.The taking on of Irish and English names which successfully hid these families also was to aid in their rapid assimilation within 4 or 5 generations. These families had been successful in bringing a mystical, devotional and spiritual leaven into their  host Christian communities but in regards to preserving Jewish identity the secret or silent approach proposed by Jacob Frank (after the Polish Bishops refused to allow the Frankists to preserve their Jewish customs openly in the Church) must be deemed a failure.

It would seem that any Israelite community to preserve itself over time must have a concrete and public structure in which Jewish observances is a central feature. For 1500 years, according to Father Elias Friedman, the Church has followed a policy and regime of assimilation of Jewish converts to Gentile customs and practices. In order to preserve a functioning Catholic Jewish community as the mother form of the Church, a new or renewed approach is required. This will require not just Catholic orthodoxy with a Jewish "Face" in regards to Catholic teaching but Jewish orthopraxy in regards to Jewish observances. 

That the Marranos and Frankists succeeded in preserving and passing on their Jewish identity for a number of generations is due to the institution of the family. Any future Jewish Catholic community must begin with and build from Jewish identity and observances in the family environment. Chabad missionaries encourage a Jew to just light a candle for Shabbas or don teffillin or some other simple mitzvah. This small act can then enkindle a small flame of Jewish observance which can be built upon one step at a time. Of course for the Catholic Jew the meanings of these Jewish observances will be done with a deeper Mystical, Messianic, Marian, Josephine and Eucharistic understanding and comprehension.