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The Jewish Community of Madrid

Madrid

The capital of Spain

The Jewish Community of Madrid (La Comunidad Judia de Madrid, CJM) is the major Jewish institution governing Madrid’s Jewish community. The community offers a wide range of services, from Jewish education to youth activities to cultural activities. Religious services are held in Bet Yaacov Synagogue, which follows Sephardic traditions.

The Museum of the History of the Jewish Community of Madrid opened in 2007, as part of the ceremonies marking the 90th anniversary of the establishment of Madrid’s first synagogue. The museum is located within the Community Center, and tells the story of Spain’s Jewish community in general, and Madrid’s Jewish community in particular. The museum focuses on the return of Jews to Spain after their 400-year absence, through the 21st century.

HISTORY

A small Jewish community existed in Madrid during the 11th century; additionally, the town of Alluden, a name derived from the Arabic “Al-Yahudiyin” (“the Jews”), was located very close to Madrid, evidence of a Jewish presence in the area. Most of the local Jews worked as merchants and lived in the Jewish Quarter.

The community began to flourish during the 13th century. Nonetheless, during the 13th and 14th centuries the Jewish community of Madrid experienced a number of persecutions. In 1293 Sancho IV ratified a series of restrictions against the Jews, including barring them from holding official positions, limiting the interest rate they were permitted to charge, and forbidding them from buying property from Christians, or selling property to them. These restrictions were confirmed in 1307 by Ferdinand IV and endorsed by Alfonso XI in 1329. Later, in 1385, John I imposed a series of further restrictions; these included prohibiting Jews from holding official positions, a 15-month moratorium on debts owed to them by Christians. In 1391 a series of violent pogroms took place, during which many Jews were killed or forcibly converted, and Madrid’s synagogue was destroyed. Indeed, municipal authorities sent a report to the crown complaining of the “pueblo menudo” (“little people”) who continued rioting and pillaging for an entire year. Several of the rioters were arrested and tried, but most faced no consequences. In the wake of the riots the Jewish community of Madrid temporarily ceased to exist.

The Jews were famously expelled from Spain in 1492 by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castille. On October 7, 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella ordered an investigation into reports on attacks of local Jews by people who had promised to assist them in fleeing to the Kingdoms of Fez and Tlemcen.

Jewish life in Madrid was renewed only in 1869, after the enactment of the Spanish Constitution and the subsequent arrival of Jews from North Africa and, later, Europe. Among the first Jews to settle in Madrid was the Bauer family, whose members played an important role in the organization and development of the community. A synagogue, Midras Abarbanel, was established on Calle del Principe in 1917. The official Jewish community of Madrid was established shortly thereafter, in 1920; the community’s was granted a designated area within Madrid’s civil cemetery two years later, and again in 1979. The community’s development was further stimulated by the law of 1924 granting citizenship to individuals of Spanish descent, and less than 10 years later the community also received an additional boost with the arrival of refugees from Nazi Germany.

However, in spite of this progress, with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) most of Madrid’s Jews fled and the community fragmented. The synagogue was closed, and its ritual objects were moved to the Provincial Museum of Murcia. With the rise of Francisco Franco to power in 1939, the Jewish community of Madrid once again ceased to exist.

Nonetheless, in spite of the volatile political situation, and the dissolution of Madrid’s Jewish community, there were still reminders of a Jewish presence in the city. In 1941 the Arias Montano Institute for Jewish Studies was founded, and a Department of Jewish Studies, led by Professor Francisco Cantera-Burgos (and later by Professor F. Perez Castro), was established in the University of Madrid. Madrid also gave asylum to war refugees, who were supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

After the war, the community began to reorganize. A synagogue was founded on Calle del Cardinal Cisneros. A Jewish Center, which included a synagogue, was opened in 1958. A year later, an exhibition on Jewish culture in Spain was held in the National Library of Madrid. The Institute for Jewish, Sephardi, and Near Eastern Studies was founded in 1961 by the Higher Council for Scientific Research and the World Sephardi Federation (in 1968 the Federation would merge with the Arias Montano Institute); the institute also hosted the first conference on Spanish Jewry in 1964.

Indeed, the 1960s saw Madrid’s Jewish community grow and develop in significant ways. 1964 saw the creation of the Council of Jewish Communities in Spain. The Ibn Gabirol Center, which offered Jewish education classes, was established a year later, in 1965, and in 1968 the Community Center, which included Beit Yaakov Synagogue, was built. Other community institutions included a school and a scout movement. Dr. B. Garzon was appointed as the community’s first rabbi. Leaders of the Jewish community in Madrid during the late 1960s included A. Bauer, H. Cohen, l. Blitz, and M. Mazin (the community’s president). During this decade the community numbered over 3,000 people, and served as a center for Jewish students from abroad coming to study in Madrid as well as for Jewish immigrants from North Africa.

The military coup that took place in Argentina in 1976 led to a considerable number of Jews from Argentina immigrating to Madrid. Successive economic crises in Argentina, particularly in 2001, brought more waves of Argentinian Jewish immigrants to Madrid’s Jewish community.

With the transition from dictatorship to democracy, and the implementation of the Spanish Constitution in 1978, Spain saw an increase in religious freedom and openness. Madrid’s Jewish institutions consolidated, and Spain’s Jewish communities came together with the Spanish government to sign the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain agreement. Meanwhile, arrangements were made between the Jewish Community of Madrid (CJM) and the Autonomous Community of Madrid (Comunidad Autonoma de Madrid) allowing for the establishment of a social and legal framework for Jewish life in the city.
Place Type:
City
ID Number:
259073
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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The Jewish Community of Madrid
Madrid

The capital of Spain

The Jewish Community of Madrid (La Comunidad Judia de Madrid, CJM) is the major Jewish institution governing Madrid’s Jewish community. The community offers a wide range of services, from Jewish education to youth activities to cultural activities. Religious services are held in Bet Yaacov Synagogue, which follows Sephardic traditions.

The Museum of the History of the Jewish Community of Madrid opened in 2007, as part of the ceremonies marking the 90th anniversary of the establishment of Madrid’s first synagogue. The museum is located within the Community Center, and tells the story of Spain’s Jewish community in general, and Madrid’s Jewish community in particular. The museum focuses on the return of Jews to Spain after their 400-year absence, through the 21st century.

HISTORY

A small Jewish community existed in Madrid during the 11th century; additionally, the town of Alluden, a name derived from the Arabic “Al-Yahudiyin” (“the Jews”), was located very close to Madrid, evidence of a Jewish presence in the area. Most of the local Jews worked as merchants and lived in the Jewish Quarter.

The community began to flourish during the 13th century. Nonetheless, during the 13th and 14th centuries the Jewish community of Madrid experienced a number of persecutions. In 1293 Sancho IV ratified a series of restrictions against the Jews, including barring them from holding official positions, limiting the interest rate they were permitted to charge, and forbidding them from buying property from Christians, or selling property to them. These restrictions were confirmed in 1307 by Ferdinand IV and endorsed by Alfonso XI in 1329. Later, in 1385, John I imposed a series of further restrictions; these included prohibiting Jews from holding official positions, a 15-month moratorium on debts owed to them by Christians. In 1391 a series of violent pogroms took place, during which many Jews were killed or forcibly converted, and Madrid’s synagogue was destroyed. Indeed, municipal authorities sent a report to the crown complaining of the “pueblo menudo” (“little people”) who continued rioting and pillaging for an entire year. Several of the rioters were arrested and tried, but most faced no consequences. In the wake of the riots the Jewish community of Madrid temporarily ceased to exist.

The Jews were famously expelled from Spain in 1492 by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castille. On October 7, 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella ordered an investigation into reports on attacks of local Jews by people who had promised to assist them in fleeing to the Kingdoms of Fez and Tlemcen.

Jewish life in Madrid was renewed only in 1869, after the enactment of the Spanish Constitution and the subsequent arrival of Jews from North Africa and, later, Europe. Among the first Jews to settle in Madrid was the Bauer family, whose members played an important role in the organization and development of the community. A synagogue, Midras Abarbanel, was established on Calle del Principe in 1917. The official Jewish community of Madrid was established shortly thereafter, in 1920; the community’s was granted a designated area within Madrid’s civil cemetery two years later, and again in 1979. The community’s development was further stimulated by the law of 1924 granting citizenship to individuals of Spanish descent, and less than 10 years later the community also received an additional boost with the arrival of refugees from Nazi Germany.

However, in spite of this progress, with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) most of Madrid’s Jews fled and the community fragmented. The synagogue was closed, and its ritual objects were moved to the Provincial Museum of Murcia. With the rise of Francisco Franco to power in 1939, the Jewish community of Madrid once again ceased to exist.

Nonetheless, in spite of the volatile political situation, and the dissolution of Madrid’s Jewish community, there were still reminders of a Jewish presence in the city. In 1941 the Arias Montano Institute for Jewish Studies was founded, and a Department of Jewish Studies, led by Professor Francisco Cantera-Burgos (and later by Professor F. Perez Castro), was established in the University of Madrid. Madrid also gave asylum to war refugees, who were supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

After the war, the community began to reorganize. A synagogue was founded on Calle del Cardinal Cisneros. A Jewish Center, which included a synagogue, was opened in 1958. A year later, an exhibition on Jewish culture in Spain was held in the National Library of Madrid. The Institute for Jewish, Sephardi, and Near Eastern Studies was founded in 1961 by the Higher Council for Scientific Research and the World Sephardi Federation (in 1968 the Federation would merge with the Arias Montano Institute); the institute also hosted the first conference on Spanish Jewry in 1964.

Indeed, the 1960s saw Madrid’s Jewish community grow and develop in significant ways. 1964 saw the creation of the Council of Jewish Communities in Spain. The Ibn Gabirol Center, which offered Jewish education classes, was established a year later, in 1965, and in 1968 the Community Center, which included Beit Yaakov Synagogue, was built. Other community institutions included a school and a scout movement. Dr. B. Garzon was appointed as the community’s first rabbi. Leaders of the Jewish community in Madrid during the late 1960s included A. Bauer, H. Cohen, l. Blitz, and M. Mazin (the community’s president). During this decade the community numbered over 3,000 people, and served as a center for Jewish students from abroad coming to study in Madrid as well as for Jewish immigrants from North Africa.

The military coup that took place in Argentina in 1976 led to a considerable number of Jews from Argentina immigrating to Madrid. Successive economic crises in Argentina, particularly in 2001, brought more waves of Argentinian Jewish immigrants to Madrid’s Jewish community.

With the transition from dictatorship to democracy, and the implementation of the Spanish Constitution in 1978, Spain saw an increase in religious freedom and openness. Madrid’s Jewish institutions consolidated, and Spain’s Jewish communities came together with the Spanish government to sign the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain agreement. Meanwhile, arrangements were made between the Jewish Community of Madrid (CJM) and the Autonomous Community of Madrid (Comunidad Autonoma de Madrid) allowing for the establishment of a social and legal framework for Jewish life in the city.
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People