Jewish Spain-Looking for Jewish roots and Juderias
74 images Created 9 Sep 2019
Al Sefarad is the name that the Jewish tradition still identifies with Jewish Spain but is also the symbol of the rediscovery of a Spain erased with the expulsion of Jewish communities in 1492 by the Catholic Kings Isabel of Castile and Fernando of Aragon after the conquest of Granada. Today many Spanish cities and towns have recovered these lost roots that imbued the Iberian Peninsula with art, culture, and even gastronomy for centuries. Descubre Sefarad, discover Sefarad, is a network connecting the cities with a heritage of Juderias, the old Jewish neighborhoods. Today what survived reveals a hidden world suspended between history and legends. Like the record of Samuel Ha-Levi, the great rabbi and treasurer of King Pedro the Cruel, who built the beautiful El Transito synagogue, so impressive to defy the ban on building synagogues larger than Christian churches, ostentation that ended badly because the king had him imprisoned and tortured. In the village of Hervas for centuries, the conversos, Jews often converted by force, founded a Catholic brotherhood to continue practicing their religion secretly, a story still recalled by Hervas citizens proud of their Jewish heritage. Even the great cathedrals lived symbiosis with the Jewish communities because their imposing architecture was often built by razing part of the nearby juderias and often received copious tributes from the local Jewish community. Also, many non-Jewish places are linked to this story, like the imposing church of San Vicente in Avila, built by a converso penitent. Even the spectacular geometry of the imposing medieval walls of Avila, the "Jerusalem of Castile," for the rabbis of the important Talmudic schools of the town, symbolizes a mystical structure. Among them was Moshe de Leòn, author of one of three books of Jewish mysticism, the Sefer ha-Zohar or the Book of Splendour, and in the same town, the Chapel of Mosen Rubi turned into a church in 1512, was the last Spanish synagogue built before the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Sefarad was a world inextricably linked to the Spanish soul. Even the great Christian mystical nun, Santa Teresa of Avila, was the nephew of a converso. This word left its mark in places far from Spain, like Tzfat, a town of Israel's Galilee, where many Spanish Jews, mainly scholars, and mystics took refuge, transforming the town into the spiritual capital of Judaism. In Morocco's Chefchaouèn, the legacy of the expelled Jews survives in the blues of the medina houses that recall the tekhelet, an indigo dye woven in prayer shawls and painted on the walls to remember the blue of heaven and God. Many of the most important cities of Sefarad are in Castile, Toledo, Avila, Segovia, and Salamanca, where this Jewish past emerges among the narrow streets of the ancient juderias that evoke a Spain still imbued with the multiculturalism of three cultures, Christian, Islamic and Jewish, swept away by the Inquisition.