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A Piece of History: Jews in the Iberian peninsula




Beginnings

In the year 70 C.E., after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans, thousands of Jews fled to several countries in Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. In those remote times, some of them arrived in Barcelona. Besides tombstones and some jewels, there is nothing left of their material culture but there is a very rich history worth telling and revisiting.

manuscript
Aleph from
illuminated
manuscript
The Thirteenth Century: A Time of Splendor

The thirteenth century was the most prosperous period for the Jewish community throughout what we now refer to as Spain. The size of Barcelona's Call (Jewish quarter) reached 4.000 inhabitants or about 15 percent of the city's population. Versed in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, Spanish, Catalan or Arabic -depending where they lived-, Jews acted as cultural liaisons between Eastern and Western civilizations, and helped transmit the latest advances in science and the most recent works by Arab philosophers. Nevertheless, despite this prosperous situation, Jews often suffered ill-treatment and their Christian neighbors did not look favorably upon them.

Jewish artist

Barcelona Call
by Devra Wiseman
London
  Conversions and the Expulsion in 1492

Throughout the centuries, Jews had been forced to convert to Catholicism. The converted 'new Christians' were usually protected by a Christian patron who offered them his surname. After the attack to Barcelona's Call in 1391, the newly converted could hold positions that had been previously forbidden to them. The Inquisition persecuted those who continued with their Jewish practices, generating the many autos-da-fe of that time. This situation worsened in 1492, when the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand of Castille and Isabella of Aragon, ordered the expulsion of those Jews still living on Spanish soil.


Call marker

Jewish quarter Barcelona
in memory of
Rav Ha Sardi,
XII-XIII century
Barcelona
  Judaism Today

From the expulsion through the end of the nineteenth century, there was little active Jewish life in Spain. Jews returned first from the Middle East, later from Morocco, and during the second half of the twentieth century, from South America. There are presently about 18,000 Jews in Spain and several communities, of which only a handful have a full time Rabbi. Barcelona is the only city where there are two synagogues with regular services. The Comunidad Israelita de Barcelona (CIB), orthodox in orientation, was the first one in peninsular Spain -after the expulsion in the fifteenth century- to build a community center. The Comunitat Jueva Atid de Catalunya, is the first congregation in Spain to be linked to the 'progressive' wing of Judaism. In 1997, it became officially affiliated with the WUPJ (World Union for Progressive Judaism). Center Chabad Lubavitch opened a couple years later, offering yet another alternative to Jewish life.

Hebrew calligraphy

Yet the bush

was not consumed
by Didac Pintor
Barcelona



 
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