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Spain gets Jewish Internet radio

MADRID, July 20 (JTA) — Raquel Cornago isn’t Jewish, but she has been fascinated by Judaism since she wrote a report back in high school on the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. So when the 35-year-old Spanish journalist heard about a new Jewish radio program that would be broadcast over the Internet from Madrid, she immediately got in touch and applied for a position. “Please! Please! Please! I want to help,” she begged. Cornago recalled the story with an eager smile during an interview from the studio of Radio Sefarad, which has been broadcasting for about six months. “I know many people like me who are not Jewish but are very interested in Jewish culture and Jewish issues,” she said, noting that many Spaniards have Jewish ancestors. Growing up, Cornago found information about Judaism hard to come by in a country that for centuries had all but obliterated its Jewish heritage. Even today, as Spain has changed from a fervently Roman Catholic country to a more secular one, there is widespread ignorance here of Judaism and other faiths. Cornago echoes the sentiments that many Spanish Jews feel — that anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in society and that the media is reflexively anti-Israel in its coverage of Middle East affairs. Solly Wolodarsky, Radio Sefarad’s Argentine-born director, said the station’s news format is partly aimed at satisfying the craving for Jewish news among non-Jewish Spaniards who want to know more about their country’s Jewish heritage. Radio Sefarad streams every weekday on The broadcasts include a bulletin of news and review of the press, music, humor and an interview — often conducted by Cornago — with a local Jewish leader or cultural figure. Recent highlights have included items on Sephardi, klezmer and Jewish jazz musicians, biographies of Jewish Nobel laureates, and tasty Sephardi recipes. It’s underground radio, both literally and figuratively. The studio is located in a windowless space several floors below street level, in the basement of Madrid’s main Jewish community center. And it gives an alternative view of news pertaining to Jews and Israel. Wolodarsky says the news programming not only keeps people abreast of Jewish events in Spain, but also provides news on Israeli current affairs. He says many people in Spain crave another perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We want to provide a source of news that is not tendentious, like what you read in the Spanish press,” he said. The station’s Web broadcast gets more than 100,000 hits monthly. Half of the Spanish-language program’s listeners are in the United States. The other half is divided between Spain and Latin America. “Every day we get e-mails from Sephardic Jews in Latin America and North America who are delighted to hear songs in Ladino,” Radio Sefarad reporter Alex Baer said.