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                   Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

 

          It is a pleasure for us to be back again here at Longmeadow where we enjoyed such a warm reception two years ago.  At that time, we drove up from our home on Long Island.  Today we drove down from our home in Lyme, New Hampshire.  So we greet you this morning as fellow New-Englanders.  We still continue to travel to New York frequently, however, and every time we pass the Longmeadow exit, we remind ourselves of our pleasant experience before the Springfield JCC.

When we last were here, we spoke to you about two of our books: It Happened in the Catskills and Growing Up Jewish in America.  Today our talks stem from our travel writing. But we do want to take this opportunity to alert you to our newest book and fourth oral history  which will be published this fall: IT HAPPENED ON BROADWAY.  It is not specifically a Jewish subject,  yet Jewish themes permeate it -- in particular how most of the composers and lyricists of the Broadway stage happen to be Jewish.  In fact Cole Porter once said to Richard Rodgers “You know I think I discovered the secret of great songwriting in America.?

          Richard Rodgers said, “Oh yes, what is it??nbsp;

          And Cole Porter answered, “Yiddish melody.?nbsp;

          Think of the melody to “My Heart Belongs to Daddy and you’ll see what he meant.

          But enough of that --- let us turn now to the subject of this morning’s talk: “The Jews and Spain: The Resurgence of a Jewish Community that Never Died.?/span>

          Harvey and I have traveled to Spain six times since 1993 in search of Jewish roots and resurgence of Jewish life.  We have been to a wide variety of different areas -- in fact we can see the whole nation in our heads.  Just last March we were in the Basque country, in Bilbao where the new Guggenheim Museum is located.

          And there, as well as every other place we have been to, we have come across some fascinating Spanish-Jewish link, be it a new Jewish community or  an uncovering of a long-buried Jewish past.  It is nothing short of a phenomenon.

          The fact is: of all the Diasporic experiences, none seems to have the lasting power and majesty of the medieval Jewish presence in Spain.  Five hundred years may have passed, but the Jews have never forgotten Spain, and Spain has never forgotten the Jews.  Throughout all these centuries, Sephardic Jews all over the world have continued to speak Ladino, the medieval Spanish of their ancestors, enjoy Spanish food, respond to the pull of Spanish culture. 

          On the other hand, in these late years of  the twentieth century, a remarkable resurgence of Jewish life and culture is taking place in Spain itself. 

          Part of it has to do with the new democracy that Spain has become since Franco’s death in 1977.  One senses a joie de vivre in the streets of Barcelona and Madrid. People go out in the evenings, stroll along the boulevards, have their dinners at 10 o’clock and stay up till all hours.  Restaurants and nightclubs are full. Shopwindows showcase beautiful goods. The Spaniards are open and friendly and obviously enjoying the fresh air of political freedom. The church has become much less powerful, and people have become much more curious about their past. 

          Somehow this curiosity has translated into a powerful interest in possible Jewish roots.  During our first trip, we met a young man who worked in a gift shop in the Palace Hotel in Madrid.  When he learned we were researching the Spanish-Jewish connection, he told us, “I am certain I have Jewish origins.  Cut any Spaniard and you’ll find Jewish blood.?nbsp; We put this encounter into our first article.  The next time we were in Madrid, we stopped off to see him. “You made me famous,?he said.  “All these Jewish ladies from America keep coming into the shop and telling me, ‘You know, you do look Jewish.’”

          King Juan Carlos is a great friend of the Jews of Spain.  He has publicly apologized for the expulsion and Inquisition and has attended Jewish services in Spanish synagogues.   Yes, there are synagogues serving Jewish communities that have sprung up throughout Spain.  Some are made up of emigrants from North Africa and South America who have responded to Spain’s offer of citizenship to anyone of Sephardic descent.  For example, the fledgling Jewish community of Valencia was started by a single man, Samuel Sefarty, who emigrated from North Africa in the early 1960s. 

          But there are Ashkenazi Jews in Spain as well.  Most were refugees during the second world war.  In one of history’s ironic twists, Franco, Hitler’s ally, gave sanctuary or exit permits to anyone who was able to cross the Pyrenees into Spain.  And there are many converts, people who have inherited the collective memory of a Jewish past or who are simply attracted to Judaism.

          The current head of the nation-wide Spanish-Jewish Federation, Carlos Schorr, is an Ashekanzi Jew.  His father came to Spain after World War I to study medicine because quotas kept him out of medical school in his native Poland.  After he became a doctor, he sent for his sweetheart back home, and they settled in Barcelona. 

          Carlos Schorr is married to a Sephardic woman, Luna Benarroch, who happens to be the first female psychiatrist in  Barcelona.  The Benarroches are one of the oldest Spanish Jewish families.  Only Luna’s ancestors never left Spain.  They lived in Melilla, Spanish Morocco, where, strangely enough, Jews were never forced to choose between exile and conversion.  They were so prominent in this small, very exotic city -- a combination of Europe and Africa -- that until after World War II when many of them left Melilla for Israel, Barcelona, Caracas, and the United States, each extended family had its own synagogue.

          Another interesting aspect of the Spanish-Jewish connection is the way the Spanish Inquisition remains such a compelling subject for historians.   There are scores of books on the subject, and still more are being written.  The standard account is that in 1492 when the Jews were offered the option of converting or leaving Spain,those that remained converted on the surface, but secretly continued to practice their faith.  These are the Marranos or the cyrpto-Jews whom the Inquisitors persecuted.
           But two years ago, Benzion Netanyahu, Bibi’s father, published his long-in-the-making opus: The Origins of  Anti Semtism where he argues something very different, namely that the Jews that converted truly gave up their Judaism and became wholehearted Christians.  But the Inquisitors refused to accept them as Christians because, they felt, being Jewish was something genetic, racial that could not be erased by conversion.  This line of thinking found full expression in the Holocaust where conversion never helped anyone avoid deportation and murder.  In other words, once a Jew, always a Jew.  From the Inquisition to the Nazis.  This is Netanyahu’s theory.

          Now there is a brand new book on the subject, by yet another distinguished historian Henry Kamen: The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision with yet another spin on the subject.  Kamen argues the Inquisition must be seen from within its political and cultural context, and from that perspective it was not as terrible as it has been portrayed; that it targeted other groups as well as former Jews; that its impact on suppressing learning has been greatly exaggerated.
          Who is correct?  From what we have seen, we have come to the conclusion there is some truth is all these arguments, but none tell the entire story.  What interests us most of all is how this event, like the whole story of Spain and the Jews still receives so much attention.

          This morning, we’d like to share the experiences of three of our Spanish-Jewish journeys with you.  Perhaps they will shed some light on this mysterious and undying connection between the Jews and Spain.  Harvey will begin with an account of what we learned while traveling through the northeast portion of Spain: Catalonia.
          Catalonia is an interesting and very beautiful province. It reminded us of France.

          It stands apart from the rest of Spain.  In fact it was interesting how many Catalonians told us they were not Spanish, but Catalonian.  They were fierce resisters of Franco who  brutally suppressed them.  They were not even allowed to speak their own language or practice their own culture.  And so now, they are very assertive about being Catalonian.  They are ambitious and hardworking.  They value education.  And the nickname for them is the Poles -- but Poles is a code-name for Jews.  They are very proud of this comparison.

          The beautiful city of Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia.  Myrna told you about the head of the Spanish-Jewish Federation. He lives in the new Jewish neighborhood of Barcelona. It is a modern, affluent area with broad boulevards, spacious parks, a synagogue, even a kosher butcher. 

          It is a ten minutes drive from this neighborhood to the medieval Gothic quarter of Barcelona where you can see the actual buildings that Jews lived in from the eleventh to fifteenth centuries.  When you think of the peril that surrounded the medieval Jews, and the comfort that surrounds the modern Jews, the comparison is quite startling.

          The most interesting of the Jewish related stories in Catalonia, however, is not in Barcelona. It is about an hour’s drive to the north in the city of Gerona.

          Gerona is a modest-sized city that is bisected by the River Onyar.  On one side is a modern metropolis with apartment houses, banks, schools, and stores.  On the other side is the old section of town.  It is set into a hillside, a jumble of Romanesque towers and Gothic spires, narrow cobblestone lanes that climb into darkened cul de sacs, and stone houses that are huddled one against the other.

          Starting in the sixteenth century, when people inherited these houses, they did not want to live near the ground. So they built new apartments over the old ones, each generation added another layer, and that accounts for their jumbled and piled on look.

          Then the newer part of the city on the other side of the river began developing. People began moving there, and the old section was abandoned and neglected.

          In the 1970s, the life of the city started to change.  Suddenly, it became fashionable for rich people to move to the hills surrounding the old town, and from there, some of the people began moving  into the old town itself and remodeling medieval houses. 

          It was something like what we see up in New Hampshire of people buying these old farmhouses.  Only in New Hampshire, old means 250 years. In Gerona, it could mean 900.

          In the late 1970’s, a man named Jose Tarres bought an 11th century building in the old section with an idea of converting it into a restaurant.  This building had layers of apartments, one on top of the other.  And so he started digging down.  When he came to the bottom layer, he discovered the remains of some kind of a medieval school.

          Tarres began looking into the city archives, trying to find out what had been there -- and his research told him something quite amazing.  What he had stumbled upon was the 13th century yeshiva founded by the Ramban, Nahmanides, the renowned rabbi who had taken the part of the Jews in the famous Barcelona Dispute of 1263 and who is credited with first writing down the oral tradition of the Kabbalah.

          Tarres became imbued with the idea that a Jewish community existed in Gerona.  He set a Star of David into the floor of his patio and began talking to people about it.  At first, Geronans thought he was crazy.         Now Jewish scholars all over the world know Gerona was once a great center of learning and mysticism.  But Geronans had never heard about it.  The current generation was educated during Franco’s time when the history of Catalonia was not taught.  As far as they knew, the expulsion of the Jews happened Seville, in Toledo, but not in Gerona. 

          But their curiosity was awakened.  They began digging down through other buildings in the old section.  And they found buildings and streets that were blocked off.  They had been sealed for centuries.  Historians now believe that when the Jews left in 1492, they blocked up their property hoping to come back one day.  And in this way, an entire Jewish aljama lay unoccupied, sealed off and buried under layers of construction in a kind of Sleeping Beauty spell for nearly 500 years.

          Before long, the subject of Gerona’s Jewish past became a popular cause. Historians and archeologists began combing through the ruins and studying the archives.      People began researching into the possibility of their having Jewish roots. 

          The city began a project called Bonastruc ca Porta (which means Nachmanides in Catalan) where they are buying up property around the yeshiva and reconstructing not only the yeshiva, but the whole medieval neighborhood. 

          They found 1200 archival manuscripts and made a liason with Yeshiva University where a professor had them translated.  They have established links with the American Sephardic community and the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv.  In 1993, Gerona hosted a Shabbat service, the first in 500 years.   

          It is an on-going project.  There is already a Catalan-Jewish museum.  They are developing a Kabbalah study center and invite international scholars to come and work there. Israeli musicians perform there every summer.

          In little more than a decade, the citizens of Gerona have shaken off centuries of ignorance and indifference.  We walked down one of the streets and noticed an indentation in a doorway.  A man came up to us and said, “This was for a Mezzuzah?and explained what that means.  A librarian showed us this beautiful illuminated medieval manuscript and told us, “This was a Haggadah.?nbsp; And a historian told us, “Barcelona had the larger call (neighborhood); Cordoba was a more materialistic and pragmatic center of Jewish study.  But no place was more important than Gerona.  We had the Kabbalah.?br clear="all" style="page-break-before:always">           A few years after we visited Gerona, we were invited by the mayor of Segovia to come to his city which is actively promoting its Jewish heritage.  Like Gerona, Segovia had once been a great center of medieval Jewish learning.  But unlike Gerona, its Jewish quarter was never buried.  Jews no longer live in Segovia, but the two Jewish neighborhoods remain intact. Documentation about where synagogues and other structures once stood has always been available.  In fact, Segovia had never been a hotbed of persecution.

There were no pogroms there in 1391.  And now, with the awakened interest in its Jewish past, the city has begun a process of restoration and reclamation.

          Segovia is an ancient city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It sits on a rocky hill in north central Spain, between two river valleys. From a distance you can see its limestone towers rising from behind a medieval wall overlooking the dramatic vistas of Castilla-Leon.

          The most famous landmark of the city is the aqueduct that was built by the Romans in ancient times.  The mayor told us “There are two bridges in Segovia.  One is the aqueduct. Everyone knows about it.  But the other is the bridge to Segovia’s Jewish past. Not everyone knows that Segovia had one of the biggest Juderias in all of Spain. This is the bridge we have yet to cross.?/span>

          He provided us with a lovely guide, a young graduate student named Marta, fluent in English, very informed about her city and its many attractions.  She took us for a walk along a balustrade overlooking a dry river bed.  On the other side was the old walled city.  We could see some of the seven brick arches that surround the Jewish quarter. On our side, was the old Jewish cemetery with gravestones that go back to the 11th century.  A black iron fence ran the length of the walkway, protecting pedestrians from the steep drop.  And set into the fence were a succession of abstract candelabras, menorahs that alerted the visitor to the special nature of this place.

          In a reverential mood, we accompanied Marta to the other side of the river bed and into the old Jewish quarter. Our first stop was the beautiful Corpus Christi Church, an ethereal Mudejar structure.  If any of you have been to Toledo and seen Santa Maria del Blanca, this church is along the same lines.  The interior is punctuated with graceful horseshoe arches, and the ceiling is made of carved cedar wood.  Even though it was badly damaged by fire

in 1899 and never fully restored to its former glory, it is still an incredible structure.
          The Corpus Christi Church was once the major synagogue of Segovia, Marta told us.  Recently a joint Judeo-Christian service was held here attended by the bishop of Segovia and the leader of Spain’s Jewish community.

          Then she directs us to a huge oil painting on a far wall. 

“This painting,?she says, “tells the story of this church.  Some people say it is a myth, but I believe it is true.?/span>

          We look at this painting.  Against a dark background are three or four ugly old men with big noses and evil-looking faces hovering over a pot of some boiling liquid being heated by a fire.

In the upper right-hand corner is a glowing disc seemingly floating on its own volition.

          Marta tells the story behind the painting. “In 1410 a Jew loaned money to a priest,?she says.  “The priest could not repay the loan, so instead the Jew took the holy wafer, the Corpus Christi or body of Christ used in the mass.  He and a group of rabbis tried to destroy it by throwing it into a pot of boiling oil, but the wafer flew out of his hands and sailed across the city to another church where it fell into the hands of a priest conducting mass.

          “To punish these men, the Queen took the synagogue and transformed it into the Corpus Christi Church which became part of a nunnery.?/span>

          Myrna and I looked at each in some amazement.  Is this 1995 or 1495?  This supposedly educated young woman is telling us this tale about a flying cracker and says she believes it.

          We spent the rest of the day with Marta, who proved in other respects an excellent and informed guide -- except she did provide us with another piece of startling information when we observed a great wall from a distance with a convent at its base.  “There is a Jewish story to this place too,?she said, and proceeded to tell us there was once a Jewish girl who fell in love with Christ and converted to Christianity.  The other Jews condemned her and pushed her off the high wall.  She fell to the bottom and was killed.

But she was totally unblemished.  A group of nuns buried her in that place and erected the convent in her memory.

          Again Myrna and I looked at one another, but at the moment held our peace.

          That night we met the mayor for dinner with Marta as our translator.  We found him to be a most intelligent and perceptive man, full of respect for the ancient traditions of his city, anxious to let the world know about Segovia’s Jewish heritage. 
          After dinner, Marta took us back to our hotel.  We felt the moment had come to speak our minds.  “Marta, we want to tell you something frankly,?we said, “and we hope you will not be offended by what we say.?/span>

          And we proceeded to hopefully enlighten her about the nature of anti-Semitic myths like the desecration of the host, the needless and unjust suffering they had caused, the fact that none were based on evidence of any sort but were lies dreamed up to deprive Jews of their liberty and lives. 

          Moreover we told her that if she had any expectation of fulfilling the mayor’s dream of encouraging Jews to come and live and study in Segovia, telling people these ugly fantasies would not be a help.

          Marta listened attentively and seemed to understand.  We talked about stereotypes and prejudice, and hopefully we got through to her.  She came from a traditional Spanish family.  Her father was a Franco supporter.  All her education had been in religious schools. 

          The one hopeful sign was her telling us she had seen

“Schindler’s List.?nbsp; She had learned nothing about the Holocaust in school, but this movie taught her a lot.  It obviously made a great impression on her.

          We left Segovia with mixed feelings.  It is a wonderful city to visit, its restoration program is admirable. Perhaps it will bring a new cosmopolitanism to the city and such fantasies will finally be cast on the rubbish pile where they belong.

          There is one other story we’d like to share with you this morning, and that takes place in Mallorca which is one of the Balaeric islands off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean.

Myrna will tell it to you.

 

          Before we went to Mallorca, which incidentally is one of the most beautiful places on this earth, we read George Sand’s book Winter in Mallorca which describes the time she spent on the island with her lover, Frederic Chopin.  We were surprised to find a number of references to Mallorcan Jews -- all unflattering by the way.  She compares them to the Jews of France; she comments disparagingly on their dress, remarks on their ostentatiousness, faults them for manipulative bargaining to buy the valuable possessions of the impoverished aristocracy.  Still we were surprised. The book was written in the 19th century.  There were no Jews in Mallorca at that time, we thought.
          Our first day in Palma, the capital of Mallorca, we were looking in the window of a women’s clothing store and  noticed a pair of stone slabs with Hebrew lettering- the Ten Commandments.  We went inside and asked the proprietor what they were doing in her store window.

          “I’m Jewish,?she said in the Queen’s English, “it’s a symbol of my faith.?/span>

          She went on to tell us she is part of the sizable community of British ex-patriots who live in Mallorca and also part of its Jewish community which was begun by Ashkenazi refugees in the 1940s.

          “But,?she added, “ask any native Mallorcan where the Jewish section of Palma  is and they will direct you to the old section of town. Go to the Calle de Plateria (Street of Silver Shops) and see if you can meet a Xueta.  These are the descendants of Mallorcan Jews.  And though their ancestors converted to Christianity centuries ago, everyone still thinks of them as Jews.?/span>

          Soon after, our guide arrived.  We asked him to show us the Calle de Plateria and told him we’d like to meet some Xuetas.

          He seemed non-plussed.  “Xuetas?  I don’t know what that means.  I don’t know any.?nbsp; But he drove us to the Gothic section and down the Calle de Plateria --  a narrow by-way lined with small jewelry stores.

          As we proceeded with our tour, the guide, Bernardo, warmed up a bit. And after a while, he confessed that he did know a Xueta, a young woman who works for Mallorcan television. He  said he would call her and arrange a meeting.

          We stopped for lunch, and Bernardo had several glasses of wine. Harvey went out to smoke his pipe, and at this point, Bernardo turned to me, and said in a very confidential manner, “You know, my wife’s sister is married to a Xueta.  And at the wedding, my father in law said he would rather be at the cemetery than the church.?nbsp; Just then, Harvey returned, and Bernardo suddenly stopped talking and seemed very uncomfortable.  Soon afterwards, he took us back to the hotel, claiming he had an appointment he had forgotten about.  PS: the meeting with the television personality never came off.

          We were still trying to understand the phenomenon of the Xuetas. So that night we walked down to the Calle de Plateria.

A pleasant-looking man was standing outside the doorway of a small jewelry shop.  We asked him if this was the Jewish section of town.  He demurred.
          “We are not Jewish,?he said.  “The people in this neighborhood are descended from Jews, but we are Catholic. That is our church, St. Eulalia,?he said, pointing to a big church on the corner.

          “Yes,?he added, “we have a Jewish history.  But it is from so long ago.  No one is interested in it any more.?/span>

          He invited us into his shop and introduced himself and his son, a young man in his early 20s.  He is Joan Bonnim, Senior.  His son in Joan Bonnim, Junior. 

          We began talking about the profusion of jewelry shops on the street, and the son said, “These shops have always been owned by the Jewish families.?nbsp; And the father nodded in agreement.

          Here lies the paradox of Mallorca, its oxymoron: Jews who are not Jews; Catholic Jews.  How can it be?  These are people who follow no Jewish rituals, observe no Mosaic law, yet are still perceived as Jews -- even by themselves.

          What we finally learned is that the name Bonnim is one of fifteen surnames that specifically identify the descendants of Mallorca’s former Jews who did not convert until late in the 17th century, 200 years after the Expulsion Edict of 1492. 
          They got away with it for 200 years because Mallorca was an island, cut off from the Iberian mainland.  The Inquisition somehow never got there.  As a result, Mallorcan Jews continued to practice their faith, if not openly, at least with the tacit knowledge and consent of the rest of the population.

          Until an Italian trader carelessly mentioned something about doing business with Mallorcan Jews to a prelate.

          “What do you mean??the prelate said.  “There are no Jews in Mallorca.?/span>

          And the trader said, “Of course there are.  Everyone knows them.  They do all the trading.?/span>

          Well, once the news got out, the Inquisition came to Mallorca with full force.  Every last Jew was forced to convert under dire threat.

          But the strange thing was, although they sincerely converted at this point, they were never allowed to assimilate into the larger society.  They continued to remained apart, a sub-culture, cut off from social interaction and inter-marriage with the rest.  And they continued to be regarded with a combination of admiration and scorn. 
          “When they call us Jews, it’s not meant as a compliment,?the younger Bonnim says.  “But we are proud of our accomplishments.  Our children do well in school and go to university.  We are successful in business.  And we take care of one another.

          “They call us Jews, yes.  But also People of the Street because so many of us live on this street with the jewelry shops.?/span>

          “How about Xuetas??nbsp; we ask.

          “That too,?he says with some embarrassment.  “It means bacon-eaters, and it comes from the time of conversion when our forefathers used to eat bacon in the doorways of their shops to prove they had really converted.?/span>

          So that is the secret of Mallorca’s Jews -- people who were forced to convert, but who were ostracized and kept apart from the rest -- which ironically enough, resulted in their holding on to their collective identity. They are not Jews spiritually; they are Catholic.  Yet in terms of their values and cohesiveness, they are Jews.

          This is yet another irony.  As we mentioned before, all over Spain, people are curious to discover whether they have Jewish roots.  In Mallorca, there is no doubt.  The descendants of Jews know exactly who they are. 

          Also, as mentioned before, all over Spain there are new communities made up of emigrants who are descendants of exiled Spanish Jews and who have accepted Spain’s offer of citizenship. In Mallorca, the descendants of Jews have never left; the community is intact.  But there is very little movement to re-assert Jewish identity.

          Joan Bonnim Senior told us the Xueta community is very interested in Israel.  They follow all the news; they were enthusiastic after the 1967 victories.  But he will go no further. “As far as our becoming Jewish again, it is from too long ago.  The possibility no longer interests us.?/span>

          Joan Bonnim Junior, however, is fascinated by his Jewish heritage.  “I don’t know much about it except for the stories in the Bible.  But I want to learn.  I pay attention to the news from Israel.  I read about the Holocaust.  I have seen Schindler’s List.?/span>

          Then he adds: “My heart is Jewish.  My blood is Jewish.

But my religion is Catholic.?/span>

          A few years ago, he married a non-Xueta.  Only in this post-war generation has that begun to happen.  But it is happening more and more.  “I am typical of my generation,?Bonnim junior said.  “Many of us are inter-marrying.  It doesn’t matter any more.

Also, we are moving out of this old neighborhood to the new sections of Mallorca.?/span>

          “It is a good thing,?he adds. “I am glad the old divisions are disappearing.  But I do want to hold on to what I am and where I came from.  I’d like my baby son to know something of my history.?/span>

          We had spent a number of hours with this Catholic-Jewish father and son, who - incidentally -- seemed so very Jewish to us. By the time we left their jewelry shop, it was after 9 o’clock.  All the stores were closed.  All the shutters were down.  As we walked the streets of the old Gothic neighborhood, the terrors of the Inquisition suddenly seemed very close at hand.  We could imagine a Joan Bonnim of the 17th century standing in the doorway of his shop, not with the warm smile we saw, but one born of humiliation and fear.  How many generations did it take, we wondered, for the pain to ease, for the grief to be erased by collective forgetting?

          But by the next morning, such heavy-hearted reflections seemed out of place.  The sun was shining brightly.  From our hotel window, we could see a new cruise ship had docked in the port.  Mallorca is a big vacation place and the atmosphere is up-beat and happy. 

          And there is a new burgeoning Jewish community here with people from all over the world who are enjoying its economic opportunity, ideal climate, and beautiful scenery.

          Yet a sadness lingered.  We could not help but mourn the passing of the People of the Street who put such a curious spin on the enigmatic question: What is a Jew?

          It is clear that their eventful story is about to end. No longer apart, they stand on the cusp of history, about to move out into the larger population -- and oblivion.

          Well, ladies and gentlemen, we hope our little talk has been enlightening and has sparked a desire to visit this country that has such a fascinating and long-lasting Jewish connection. 

          Allow me to close on a personal note: my late father, a Russian Jew, somehow always had this great love for Spain.  He loved the Flamenco dancing, the music, the art; he admired the women -- from afar.  But when he and my mother finally went to Israel and planned some European stops along the way, he would not allow himself the pleasure of visiting Spain because, he said, he could not set foot in the land of the Inquisition. 

          What would he say if he knew of what has happened in the ensuing years: how the Spanish government goes out of its way to welcome Jews, uncover Jewish history, encourage new Jewish communities?  What would he think of the current King of Spain asking the Jews forgiveness, the Queen of Spain studying with a rabbi?  What would he make of the fact that Harvey and I have visited Spain six times, met so many of its people, gotten so many insights into this varied and wonderful land? 

          I imagine he would be very pleased that we have been able to see first hand the renaissance of Spanish-Jewry and establish for ourselves a very personal and powerful Spanish-Jewish connection.

 

 

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