Work halted in medieval Jewish cemetery

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Spanish government has ordered a freeze on a building project in a medieval Jewish cemetery in Toledo.

The decision made Dec.19 follows high-level meetings at the Spanish Foreign Ministry in Madrid with representatives of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, the Conference of Spanish Rabbis, the Conference of European Rabbis and the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE).

More than 100 graves have been exhumed from the building site, an expansion of a nearby state school, according to Rabbi Abraham Ginsburg, executive director of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe.

Toledo regional authorities are currently storing more than 100 skeletons in separate boxes, Ginsburg told JTA Thursday. 

"At present our main aim is to ensure that no further desecration is taking place and we are committed by Jewish law and tradition to ensure that those graves are being preserved in their sanctified and dignified manner in perpetuity," Ginsburg said.

Spanish authorities have set the freeze until Jan. 15, 2009. But Ginsburg said that at a scheduled meeting in Toledo on Jan. 12, the Jewish organizations will request that the freeze be extended until the issue is resolved.

A local rabbinic board is currently in consultation with higher rabbinic courts around the world to determine what can be done to preserve the sanctity of the remains according to Jewish law. There are still many graves that remain intact inside the cemetery that dates back to the 13th century. 

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