Spanish Government Formally Rescinds 1492 Decree Ordering Expulsion of Jews

The Government of Spain has finally publicly rescinded the 476-year-old edict of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that expelled Jews from Spain in 1492. A document to that effect was presented by the Ministry of Justice on Friday to Samuel Toledano, vice president of the Madrid Jewish community, who is a direct descendant of Rabbi Daniel Toledano, the Rabbi of Toledo at the time of the expulsion. It was formally read today from the pulpit of Madrid’s new synagogue, the first Jewish house of worship to be built in the Spanish capital since the 14th century. The synagogue, which will serve Madrid’s 2,500 Jews, was consecrated today in colorful ceremonies attended by more than 600 leaders of the local community and rabbis and Jewish dignitaries from London, New York and Buenos Aires. They were joined by representatives of the Government, the Madrid municipality and by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Protestant churchmen.

The document acknowledged the legal entity of the Madrid Jewish community and placed on record the fact that the expulsion edict was abrogated by the Constitution of 1859 and by subsequent laws. But until now it was not publicly endorsed by a Spanish Government. It repeals the long-standing regulation that required Jews to obtain official permission to hold religious services.

The new synagogue opened its doors officially when Rabbi Benito Gershon of Madrid affixed a mezuzah to the doorpost. Seventeen Torah scrolls were carried into the synagogue by elders of the community. The edifice contains a main sanctuary seating 550 persons, classrooms, recreation rooms and a smaller chapel. It cost $250,000, part of which was raised by the local community over the past four years and the balance of $150,000 provided by the Joint Distribution Committee and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany which allocates funds for the restoration of European Jewish communities destroyed during the Hitler era.

Present at the ceremonies were Max Mazin, president of the Madrid Jewish community; Theodore Feder, associate director-general of the Joint Distribution Committee; Dr. Salomon Gaon, of London; Claude Kelman, chairman of the European Council of Jewish Community Services; Rabbi Kohana of Argentina; William Nahmias, president of the World Sephardic Federation, and representatives of the New York Board of Rabbis, the American Jewish Committee and the World Jewish Congress.

Speaking on behalf of the Jewish community, Mr. Mazin noted that the Jewish population of Spain has grown over the past ten years from 3.000 to 8,000 and in Madrid from 300 in 1959 to more than 2,500 today. He attributed the growth in part to the immigration of Jews from former Spanish Morocco, descendants of Spanish Jews who fled from Spain to North Africa in the 15th Century. They have developed a whole range of community services, including synagogues, day schools, vacation camps, two youth clubs and Talmud Torah classes. Mr. Mazin said these developments had to be viewed in the context of the gradual liberalization of the Spanish Government’s policy toward religious minorities which has developed from “a climate of tolerance” that began after the first World War and culminated in the granting of religious freedom to all minorities by the Constitution of 1966.

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