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A Piece of History: Jews in the Iberian peninsula



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.
We do not have evidence that in those remote times, some of them arrived in Barcelona.
But in the consecutive relocations, their descendants were living in this city by the mid IX c., as there are references to a Jewish cemetery since before 850's.
Besides tombstones and some jewels, there is nothing left of their material culture. None of the five synagogues remain standing. But there is a very rich history worth telling and revisiting.

Aleph from

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.

* Lluís Marcó i Dachs: “Catalunya and the Jews” (1985) onomastic index with data collected from historical archives and documents.

* Anna Rich Abad: “Jewish community in Barcelona, 1348 to 1391” (1999) onomastic index collected from private economic records in public notary archives.

Jewish artist

Barcelona Call
by Devra Wiseman

(click to enlarge)

Conversions and the Expulsion in 1492  

Throughout the centuries, Jews had been forced to convert to Catholicism.
The '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.

Yom Ha Quipurim in Siddur 14c. of
Catalan conversos

(click to enlarge)

Judaism Today  

From the expulsion in 1492 through the end of the nineteenth century, there was no 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 less than 30,000 Jews in Spain and over 20 communities, of which only a handful have a full time Rabbi.
Barcelona is the only city where there are four (soon five) synagogues with regular services and a couple of minyanim.
Comunidad Israelita de Barcelona (CIB), orthodox in orientation, was the first one in peninsular Spain to build a new community center.
Comunitat Jueva ATID de Catalunya, is the first egalitarian congregation in Spain, affiliated with conservative movement MASORTI OLAMI.
Center Chabad Lubavitch
and reform congregation Bet Shalom, of later creation, offer other alternatives to Jewish life.

Hebrew calligraphy

Yet the bush

was not consumed
by Didac Pintor

(click to enlarge)

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