The European Day of Jewish Culture

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Shortly after we moved to the island of Mallorca, in Spain, twenty years ago, a Jewish wedding was celebrated in the island capital, Palma de Mallorca. The local newspapers were reporting at the time that the happy union was the first recorded Jewish wedding on the island in well over 500 years. The first Synagogue in Palma had only been established in the 1970s, over 500 years after the expulsion or conversion of Spanish (and Mallorcan) Jews during the times of the Spanish Inquisition.

Spanish Jews once constituted one of the largest and most prosperous Jewish communities under Muslim and Christian rule, before the Judíos (Jews) of Spain were expelled in 1492. Today, a few thousand Jews live in Spain, but the descendants of Spanish (and Portuguese) Jews, the Sephardic Jews, still make up around a fifth of the global Jewish population. The Jews of Spain speak Ladino, a Romance language, derived mainly from Old Castilian (Spanish) and Hebrew. The relationship of Ladino to Castilian Spanish is comparable to that of Yiddish to German.

Someone better qualified than me could tell you a lot more about the history of the Jewish people in Spain, in Mallorca and the aftermath of expulsion, conversion or simply, extermination of the Spanish Jews.

Many Spanish towns and cities that once, a long time ago, were vibrant hubs of Jewish life, such as Toledo, Girona, Barcelona, Cáceres, Segovia, Córdoba, Jaén, León, Ávila and many more, have joined a European movement of celebrating the European Day of the Jewish Culture. Tomorrow, 2nd September, the 8th such European Day will be celebrated and not only in Spain, but in other European countries as well (France, Italy, Britain, Lithuania, Czech Republic).

 

As far as Spanish cities and towns are concerned, and amongst them, Palma de Mallorca, I feel much better informed.

 

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I can share with you the fact that Palma and all the other Spanish cities named earlier have historic Barrios Judíos (Jewish quarters) that recently have been restored and maintained and been put back on the map. In Palma de Mallorca, for instance, guided tours are on offer throughout the year for interested people like me (or you). I have taken the Palma Call tour a half a dozen times, and each and every time I am amazed that more and different things can be learned. I have also been to the Jewish quarters, Call in Ladino, in Toledo, Barcelona and Girona. If you are interested in Spain, or history, or life in general, you might get as much satisfaction out of such visits as I did.

Tomorrow, Sunday, may be just such an occasion.

 

If you want to read a book on the subject, because you are interested, but may not be around for a visit in Spain, or another such European country, I would recommend The Jews of Spain, by Jane Gerber. In case you can read a Spanish text, I would recommend Los Judíos de la España Antigua, by Luis A. García Moreno. If you want to read about it on the Internet, or if you want to know more about the programme and the venues of the European Day of the Jewish Culture, I would click here if I was you.

 

Let me also remind you that the Jewish holidays, which denote the new year (5768) on the Jewish calendar, will take place in two weeks time (September 12th-14th).

 

Just in case that you might have a Jewish friend or two.

 

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