Spanish Jews ask Catholics to return ancient synagogue

(JTA) — Representatives of Spain’s Jewish communities at an interfaith conference in Madrid asked Catholic Church officials to return a former synagogue in Toledo.

Isaac Querub, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, or FCJE, made the request Sunday during the 22nd meeting of the Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, a body set up by the Church in 1971 to serve as its official point of contact with worldwide Jewish communities.

“What would be a better act of generosity and reconciliation than the return of the Grand Synagogue of Toledo to the Jewish people and particularly to the Jewish community of Spain, as a symbol of dialogue between Jews and Christians,” Querub said, according to the El Razon daily.

An FCJE statement said that “in addition to fine words, Querub made a concrete request.”

The building, which is owned by the Spanish Catholic Church, “is not being used as a house of worship of any kind these days,” FCJE’s communications director, Maria Royo, told JTA. She said the federation has not received a response from the Church.

Originally known as the Ibn Shushan Synagogue, the 833-year-old building is one of Spain’s most popular museums. It drew some 300,000 visitors in a recent year, half of them locals.

The four-day conference in Madrid aims to enhance Jewish-Christian cooperation on combating intolerance, organizers told JTA. Twenty-two Jewish community leaders from countries such as Panama, Poland, Argentina, Israel, France and Canada are attending.

The Jewish leaders met with Church officials including Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Spain.

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