lunes, 3 de marzo de 2014

Uncovering Jewish Zamora

By Jesús Jambrina

Full citation: Casa Shalom, Journal of the Institute for Marrano and Anusim Studies, Vol. 14, pp. 11-13, Dec. 2013, Netanya Academic College, Israel. 

"(Zamora) Fair in situation, the uttermost parts of the North"
Isaac Arama (1420-1494)

Zamora is a mid-size city of around 60,000 inhabitants in the northwestern region of Spain. It is well known for its more than 20 Romanesque churches, its celebration of the Catholic Holy Week and its Modernist buildings. Among food and wine connoisseurs, Zamora is known for its excellent wine and its gourmet cuisine. However, until recently, a visitor arriving on a package tour to its Plaza Mayor would never have considered the city one of the richest in Spain's Jewish history.

Last July more than 20 scholars from various disciplines met at the NH Palacio del Duero Hotel, located in one of the two former Jewish Quarters, to present their research on the city’s Sephardic heritage. Among those presenting were Prof. Abraham Gross, (Ben Gurion University), Ruth Behar (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor), Prof. Leandro Rodriguez (University of Geneva), and Virginia Labrador (University of Valladolid). 

The sessions included the premier of the documentary Zamora Sefardí (2013), a set of interviews with scholars either from Zamora or with family backgrounds connected to the city, who discussed their personal stories and research projects exploring the Jewish history of the region.

The event was well attended by local residents and visitors from other Spanish regions such as Galicia, Valencia and Cataluña. Other countries represented were Israel, the United States, Portugal, Cuba, Brazil and Switzerland. Officials from the city of Zamora and the province of the same name welcomed the participants and promised to publish the conference's findings, as well as to signpost the Jewish Quarters in order to raise awareness of local Jewish history, long forgotten. 

Three organizations also came to the conference: The Sephardi Council of Jerusalem City represented by Abraham Haim, Casa Shalom and the Institute for Marrano and Anusim Studies represented by Gloria Mound, and Tarbut Sefarad, represented by Mario Saban.

A conference's highlights was July 5's Shabbat celebration at the Hotel NH Palacio del Duero. It was an ecumenical service attended by 26 people: Jews, Catholics, non-denominational, atheists and unaffiliated persons.  In addition to the traditional Shabbat liturgy religious chants, regional folklore and Judeo- Spanish songs were sung by locals, and even Kosher wine was served, provided by a Zamoran who openly stated his commitment to Jewish practice and study. Earlier in the day, Abraham Haim had read an afternoon prayer at the conference Congress including remembrance of the Jewish martyrs from the time of the inquisition (several of Zamora's residents were prosecuted during the Madrid's 1680 Auto de Fe).

After the conference, as a follow-up to many of the formal and informal conversations that took place during and around the sessions, I presented a project to the city and the provincial authorities. My suggestions were: 

  1. To signpost several places within the two historically documented Zamoran Jewish quarters
  2. To establish a Plaza de los Rabinos honoring the 15th century Talmud Torah School where many of the major Sephardi scholars from before the expulsion came to study
  3. The creation of the Center Isaac Campanton dedicated to the preservation of the Jewish heritage of Zamora, and of Castile and Leon.

Presently, these three proposals are being considered by the City Council. I have reason to believe that we will be able to achieve the allocation of a space to honor this tradition and promote its study. 

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