From the Archive: Spain’s Sephardic nostalgia

The Spanish government is pushing for legislation offering a path to citizenship for Sephardic Jews — an effort that is spurring demands for similar treatment for the descendants of Muslims who were expelled from Spain.

The memorial to Maimonides in Cordoba, Spain. (Wikimedia Commons)

The memorial to Maimonides in Cordoba, Spain. (Wikimedia Commons)

The citizenship offer isn’t Spain’s first expression of fondness for the Jewish community that once thrived on the Iberian Peninsula: In February 1935, the year before Spain was rocked by a civil war that ended with the ascent of a fascist regime, the Spanish government announced that it would issue a special postage stamp to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the birth of Spanish Jewish physician-sage Maimonides.

A month later, the municipal government in Cordoba hosted an international celebration feting the rabbi. JTA had a report from Cordoba:

The dedication of a commemorative marble slab in the old Cordoba synagogue marked today’s celebration of the octocentennial anniversary of the birth of Moses Maimonides, the famous Jewish philosopher and physician.

“This stone will bear witness of the peace concluded between Spain and the brothers of Maimonides,” the Mayor of Cordoba said, opening the ceremony. “Without peace with Israel there is no world peace.”

The civil governor of the Cordoba district, greeting the assembly in the name of the Spanish government, alluded to the anti-Jewish persecutions in Germany. “Certain countries,” he said, “illuminate monuments of soldiers with a flame symbolizing peace. This stone, like a flame, will recall for future generations the peace existing between the Jews and Spain.”

Senor Antonio Jean Morente, former Ambassador, who was one of the speakers at today’s ceremony, pointed out that children must often bear the consequences of the errors made by their parents.

“We Spaniards,” he said, “are glad that the Jews do not bear any resentment against us for the errors of our forefathers.”

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