The truly liberal view of the religious question in Republican Spain has made it possible to realize the old Jewish wish to renew Jewish religious life in the Iberian peninsula.
During the last years of the Spanish monarchy, the Jewish communities were merely tolerated. But now the dominance of the Catholic Church is at an end, and all denominations are subjected to the same liberties.
There is no longer any need for the Jews in Spain to live as hidden Jews â€” men abroad and Jews at home â€” but openly living their Judaism they can live on a par with their fellow-citizens.
As is known, a small Jewish community was founded in Barcelona in 1917. Of the original seventeen founders, some have died and some have emigrated, leaving only two who are actively engaged in its work. Among the founders were both Sephardim and Ashkenazim, and the Community itself followed the Sephardic customs while retaining the services of an Ashkenazi chazan who used the Ashkenazi melodies with the Sephardic pronunciation. A number of the Portugese worshippers were dissatisfied with this arrangement and left, to form a community of their own under the name of “Agudat Achim” â€” Band of Brothers â€” which adhered closely to their own customs and liturgical tunes; their synagogue was well attended during the recent High Holidays.
But neither of the communities has succeeded in attracting the greater number of the local Jews who have immigrated during the last few years. These new immigrants number some 3,000 souls. They are all, without exception, Ashkenazim, and the Sephardic customs are wholly alien to them; they are two distinct worlds which it is difficult to unite or fuse together. The older community has only 120 members, while the new immigrants held services of their own during the High Holidays. Most of the new arrivals come from Germany, Poland, Hungary and Austria but little Jewish life is to be remarked amongst them; the education of the children is much neglected and there is as much Hebrew teaching as will go on the “edge of a knife”. In the field of welfare work hardly anything is done, although there are among the immigrants many in need of help that might put them on their feet. Despite the efforts of certain social workers to create relief institutions in order to assist the needy to establish themselves, success has not attended their efforts. There are a number of Jews who see no future for themselves in Spain and would return to their own countries, but there is no institution that might provide them with the means. Large numbers of Jews spend their time on the “Hotel Plaza Catalonia” â€” the euphemism applied to the seats ranged under the open sky along the most beautiful part of the city. On cold winter nights one may see them shivering on these seats, snuggling closer to each other, without hope, without a morrow.
Among the Ashkenazim there are many who have established themselves and are quite wealthy, but the greatest number lives from “hand to mouth” faced with the constant anxiety of tomorrow’s livelihood. They live without contact with the life of the community, lonely and in despair. They receive neither material nor spiritual sustenance, and none of them has either the time or means of attending to the Jewish education of the children, in