When the Roman Legions overran the Jewish nation, much of the Jewish population was sent into exile throughout the Roman Empire. Many were sent to the IBERIAN peninsula. The area became known by the Hebrew word SEPHARD meaning “far away”. The JEWS in SPAIN and PORTUGAL became known as SEPHARDIM or SEPHARDI, and those things associated with the SEPHARDIM including names, customs, genealogy and religious rites, became known as SEPHARDIC.
The Jewish nation in Iberia, numbering approximately 750,000 in the year 1492, were banished from Spain by royal decree of Ferdinand and Isabella. (Ferdinand’s grandmother was Jewish.) (For a description of the 1492 expulsion as written in 1495) The Jews of Portugal, were banished by royal decree several years later. Relief from the banishment decrees and restoration of civil rights was promised to those Jews who remained and converted to Catholicism.
Jewish Heritage programs & tours in Spain
Barcelona’s Jewish past
El Call, Jewish quarter: visit a remnant of the city’s Jewish past, with comments on the area’s history from its origins until the present
Oldest synagogue: found and restored under the basement of a XVII century building, is available to visitors and for Jewish ceremonies
Tablets from the Jewish cemetery, dating back to the X century
City History Museum: itinerary through the ruins of Roman Barcelona, under the present city, where some Hebrew inscriptions can be seen on the walls
Barcelona’s ancient synagogue
The oldest synagogue in Barcelona reopens in 2002 after a long restoration process led by the Associació Call de Barcelona
Some remaining cellar structures, dating from the V to XV centuries, are located below the four flights built in the XVII century
A mezuzah from Israel, the ‘hand dressed’ Aaron HaKodesh; a menorah sculpted by artist Ferran Aguiló in Mallorca; a welcome inscription skillfully painted, and visitors from all over the world that will celebrate Judaism in this space
A joint effort to bring back the soul of the synagogue, honoring from now on the memory of Rabbi Shlomo ben Adret
Barcelona’s Jewish present
Visit the Holocaust Memorial, dedicated on the 50th anniversary of the Shoah by the Jews of Barcelona
Visit Anne Frank Square, dedicated in 1998 by the City of Barcelona to the young writer
Exchange experiences with the local Jewish community. Comunidad Israelita de Barcelona (orthodox), the first community building in peninsular Spain since the expulsion of 1492; and Comunitat Jueva Atid de Catalunya, first reform congregation in the country
Visit the newly established Chabad Lubavitch Center for Jewish Studies
Participate in shabbat services
Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Chanukah, Tu Bishvat, Purim, Passover, Shavuot and Sukot
Come to the International Jewish Film Festival organized by Macabi every spring
Attend recitals of Ladino and Klezmer music
Visit the Río Piedras publishing house, specializing in titles of Jewish interest from all historical periods
Learn about Librería Europa, neo-Nazi publisher, sued by both the local Jewish community and the SOS Racism organization
Meet Jewish artists, poets, musicians, photographers, designers
Take a cooking class and enjoy a meal with Sephardic recipes you prepare yourself
Stroll through the restored historic district, visit the Jewish Quarter (Call) and learn about its history; visit the Bonastruc Ça Porta Center for Jewish Studies and the Museum of the Jews of the Middle Ages, on the site where Nahmanides ran his Cabala center.
Visit this small walled city, see traces of its old Call, the market square and the buildings that remain from the Middle Ages. Its mikvah from the thirteenth century, discovered in 1964 and perfectly restored, is the only one in Spain from that era.
One of the important Jewish quarters in Catalonia, its street layout remains intact. Visit a few other neighboring towns which had Jewish life in centuries past.
The main Catalan centers of wine production have the most interesting buildings from the end of the nineteenth century. There is one cooperative that, in 1993, returned to the ancient tradition of producing kosher wine.