06 November 2006

"Trendy" to be Jewish in Spain

According to a New York Times article, it has become trendy in Spain to be Jewish or have Jewish roots.

While communities across the country are investigating their Jewish history, some scholars say that local governments, eager to attract affluent Isreali and American tourists, are making claims about Jewish heritage not supported by evidence.

Some cities are promoting Jewish quarters that have no remaining original buildings, or "medieval synagogues that are hardly medieval if they ever functioned as synagogues at all," according to a scholar cited in the article.

Along with this comes an outpouring of new books on Jewish themes, as well as museums, cultural centers and other public expressions of Sephardic tradition.

“It’s the opposite of 300 years ago when people changed their last names to Spanish names and looked for ancestors of pure Spanish blood,” said Javier Casta×Ħo, an expert in Spain’s Jewish history at the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Madrid. “Now it’s trendy to say you have Jewish roots.”

According to the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, however, there is a contradictory element: anti-Semitism is also developing, springing from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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