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School expansion threatens Spanish cemetery

A school expansion project is imperiling 85 tombs at an ancient Jewish cemetery in Spain, a Barcelona-based organization said.

Representatives of The Center of Studies Zachor, which protects Jewish heritage in Spain, met at the site in Toledo last week with the archeologist in charge of the excavation, as well as the director of landmarks in the region, to explore options to protect the site.

The construction of the school in the 1980s destroyed a large portion of the cemetery, as well as part of the Jewish quarter dating back to before the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.

“Our intention is to find a solution for the site with respect for its meaning and to avoid irreversible damage,” said David Stoleru, a Zachor director.

Officials from Atra Kadisha, an Israeli organization, traveled to Madrid last week with a delegation of American rabbis to meet with U.S. embassy officials and representatives of the Spanish Department of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey the  concerns of world Jewry and the special place that Toledo holds in Spanish Jewish history.

“We believe that there is another approach to handling ancient Jewish cemeteries with respect to the tradition and with appropriate research to find more about them,” Zachor said in a news release, “so that future generations can enjoy a common heritage, can understand its meaning and can integrate it in their identity.”

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