Living, Eating and Praying as a Jew in Spain
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.
Synagogues, kosher restaurants and community centers are springing up across the country with more being established every year.
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.
Known as the ‘Call,’ (pronounced "kai-ee") the Jewish quarter in Girona is one of the best preserved in Europe.
Synagogues in Spain: Where To Pray In Spain
In recent years there has been an increase in Jewish Synagogues being built across Spain.
Some Synagogues in a few of the key cities in Spain include:
Synagogues in Barcelona
Synagogues in Madrid
- Chabad of Barcelona
Calle Joan Gamper 27
- Comunidad Israelita de Barcelona
Avenir 24 Barcelona,
- Comunitat Jueva Atid De Catalunya
The Jewish Community of Catalunya
Tel: +34 93 417 37 04
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com
Synagogues in Valencia
- Israel Embassy
Velasquez 150-7, 28002 Madrid
Tel. 34 1 411 1357
Bet El - Comunidad Masorti de Madrid
Sinagoga Bet EL Madrid
- Synagogues in Alicante
Temple Beth Shalom - Reform
Tel: 0034-966 09 23 75
- Comunidad Beth Yisrael de Elche
Tel: 0034-637- 03-23-87
Keeping Kosher in Spain:
- Comunidad of Valencia
Engineer Avda. Joaquin Benolloch 29,
- Comunidad Judia Aviv De Valencia - Masorti Olami
Address: c/de la Sangre 5, Floor 4th, #24
46001, Valencia, Spain
- La Javurá - Sinagoga Conservative/Masortí
calle uruguay #59, pta 13
46007 valencia (españa)
Tel: (96) 380.21.29
Keeping kosher in Spain isn’t the easiest task as Spain’s Jewish population is quite small and demand for kosher food is relatively low. Not to mention that the Spanish are very keen on pork; most restaurants and food stores will have it hanging from their windows and it’s pretty much on every menu. However, it is possible to find both kosher restaurants and butchers throughout Spain, you just have to do a little research. In the cities with larger Jewish communities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga and Torremolinos, there are small kosher food stores. Gibraltar in particular has a vibrant Jewish community including four kosher food stores and restaurants. ([url=http://www.kosherdelight.com/Gibraltar.htm]http://www.kosherdelight.com/Gibraltar.htm[/url])
Other safe bets for kosher food in Spain, is to ask the local synagogues. Most synagogues offer kosher meals (sometimes free on Friday nights) and can refer you to other kosher restaurants within the city.
For more information on Synagogues and kosher restaurants in Spain Check out:
Jewish Monuments in Spain
Where To Go And What To See
Until 1492 with the expulsion by the Catholic Kings, Jews in Spain thrived. As a result, today there are still a fair number of towns and cities in Spain that are important to Jewish heritage. Below is a brief list of some monumental things to see in select cities in Spain.
Córdoba's Jewish quarter is one of the most famous in Spain. The majority of the Jewish quarter lies within the streets of Tomas Conde, Judíos and Plaza Juda Leví. Cordoba is home to the only 14th-century synagogue in Andalusia and the only synagogue in Spain that was never turned into a Christian building. A few other things to note in the Jewish Quarter in Cordoba is the bull museum and a monument dedicated to the Jewish doctor and philosopher, Maimonides.
Known as the ‘Call,’ (pronounced "kai-ee"
) the Jewish quarter in Girona is one of the best preserved in Europe. It plays host to the Torre Gironella, the famous refuge for the Jews during troubled times.
Ribadavia's Jewish heritage is quite well preserved and today there are still a number of festivals with Jewish origins. For example, the Festa da Istoria, the Boda Judía and performances with Sephardic music all take place within the city. For those looking for information on Jewish heritage in Spain, Ribadavia is a good place to go as both the Network of Jewish Quarters in Spain and the Sephardic Information Center of Galicia are in this town.
Toledo had one of the largest Jewish populations in Spain and as a result is a great place to see the old Jewish quarter which stretches from Calle Taller del Moro as far as the city walls at the Puerta del Cambrón. Two of the city's ten synagogues still exist, even after they were converted into churches following the expulsion of the Jews. The Sinagoga del Tránsito and the Sinagoga Santa Maria la Blanca are both popular sights within the city.
The Catalan town of Tortosa has a strong history of both Muslims and Jews. The Jews held an important position in the town as early as the eighth century when it was occupied by the Muslims, as they provided a link between the Christians and the Jews. When the Christians liberated the town in the 12th century, the Jews received the Muslim shipyards. The new Jewish quarter was founded in the 13th century and is still well preserved today, occupying the streets around the barri de Remolins