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High-ranking Priest in Spain Meets with Jews; First Since Expulsion

December 24, 1965
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A high-ranking Spanish priest representing the Franco regime met with a group of American Jews, including two rabbis, probably for the first time in 473 years, and was extremely cordial to the Americans, it was reported here today by the National Jewish Welfare Board.

The meeting was held in the Madrid Naval Ministry last month on the invitation of Rev. Fidel Gomez Colombo, chief chaplain of the Spanish Navy. The Jewish participants were Rabbi Selwyn D. Ruslander, of Temple Israel, Dayton, Chio; Lester Emoff, a member of that temple; and Rabbi Nathan Landman, U.S. Air Force chaplain serving Jewish personnel in France, Spain and North Africa. Present also was Cesar F. Pardo de Cela, curator of the Spanish Naval Museum.

According to Rabbi Landman’s report to the JWB, it is believed that no such official meeting between Spanish Catholic leaders and Jews has been heldin Spain since 1492, when two Jewish leaders tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Spanish authorities to revoke the order for the expulsion of Spanish Jewry.

“Only a year has passed since Franco’s Government officially tendered recognition to the Jewish community of Madrid and its synagogue,” Rabbi Landman reported. “The official reception of two rabbis by a high church official signifies an additional step in the process of the reestablishment of Jewry after a hiatus of almost 500 years in the Iberian Peninsula.”

The Madrid meeting, Rabbi Landman said, had been initiated by Father Gomez Colombo after the U. S. Air Force chief of chaplains notified the Spaniards that the American rabbis would visit Madrid in the course of a series of Torah convocations for European bases in England, Germany, France, Spain and Turkey. During the visit to the Naval Museum, Rabbi Landman also reported, the curator told the Jewish visitors that Christopher Columbus was a Marrano.

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