Posted by Sammie
This article is about being Jewish in Spain; where to eat, pray and go to see Jewish monuments. It also focuses on the history of the Jews in Spain from before the Spanish inquisition until present day.
Whether you´re religious, conservative, reformed or just feel like learning a bit about your ´Jewish roots or lack thereof,’ getting involved with the Jewish community in Spain is getting easier. Synagogues, kosher restaurants and community centers are springing up across the country with more being established every year.
Currently there are around 50 000 Jews living in Spain with their central body, the Federación de Comunidades Judías (FDCJ) overseeing most Jewish activities. The strongest presence of Jewish life in Spain is within the two major cities of Madrid (3,500) and Barcelona (3,500) which are followed by Malaga, where a smaller number of Jews live. Other Jewish communities in Spain are in Alicante, Benidorm, Cadiz, Granada, Marbella, Majorca, Torremolinos and Valencia, however Jewish day schools only exist in Barcelona, Madrid and Málaga.
A Brief History of Jews in Spain
Before 1492 Spanish Jews comprised one of the largest and most prosperous Jewish Communities under Muslim and Christian rule. Due to the union of two Spanish Dynasties through the marriage of Isabella de Castilla and Fernando de Aragon, Caltholic Spain was unified and in order to purify Christian Spain, the Jews were expelled. By the end of July, 1492, more than 100 000 Jews had fled Spain during the Spanish Inquisition which was established in 1478 by Ferdinand and Isabella in order to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms. The inquisition was not definitively abolished until 1834 during the reign of Isabel II.
Although expelled in 1492 as a result of the inquisition, many Jews stayed in Spain and were baptized, thus appearing to be Christians. However they continued practicing their religion in secret and these Jews were called Conversos or New Christians. If they were caught, they were burned alive and thousands of Jews were burned at the stake during this period. After the Expulsion, some of the Conversos escaped to Western Europe and Latin America, where they were able to practice Judaism openly. A considerable amount of Conversos actually married into the Spanish aristocracy.
Quick timeline about Jews in Spain from the late 19th century until today:
- 1868- The Spanish Republic pledges religious tolerance
- 19th Century- Some Jews come back to Spain however in far less numbers than before.
- 20th Century-Synagogues are opened in Barcelona and Madrid in the first few decades of the 20th century and due to Spanish neutrality in World War II Spain allows 25,600 Jews to use Spain as an escape route from the European theater of war.
- 1944-Spain took part in the effort to rescue Hungarian Jewry by accepting 2,750 refugees.
- 1968-A new synagogue is opened in Madrid and to mark the event the government officially repeals the 1492 expulsion edict.
- 1992-King Juan Carlos, in a symbolic gesture, repeals the expulsion order as well.
Today the Jewish community of Spain is primarily based on waves of post-war migration from Morocco, the Balkans, other European countries and as of the 1970´s and 1980´s largely from Latin America. There was a huge influx of Argentinean Jews, mainly Ashkenazim escaping from the military Junta.