The Golden Age

Moorish Conquest

With the victory of Tariq ibn Ziyad in 711, the lives of the Sephardim changed dramatically.

Both Muslim and Catholic sources tell us that Jews provided valuable aid to the invaders. Once captured, the defense of Córdoba was left in the hands of Jews, and Granada, Málaga, Seville, and Toledo were left to a mixed army of Jews and Moors. The Chronicle of Lucas de Tuy records that “when the Catholics left Toledo on Sunday before Easter to go to the Church of the Holy Laodicea to listen to the divine sermon, the Jews acted treacherously and informed the Saracens. Then they closed the gates of the city before the Catholics and opened them for the Moors”

In spite of the restrictions placed upon the Jews as dhimmis, life under Muslim rule was one of great opportunity in comparison to that under prior Catholic Visigoths, as testified by the influx of Jews from abroad.

From the second half of the 9th century, most Jewish prose, including many non-halakhic religious works, were in Arabic. The thorough adoption of Arabic greatly facilitated the assimilation of Jews into Arabic culture (Dan, p. 115; Halkin, pp. 324–325).

Although initially the often bloody disputes among Muslim factions generally kept Jews out of the political sphere, the first approximately two centuries which preceded the “Golden Age” were marked by increased activity by Jews in a variety of professions, including medicine, commerce, finance, and agriculture (Raphael, p. 71).

By the ninth century, some members of the Sephardic community felt confident enough to take part in proselytizing amongst previously Jewish “Catholics”. Most famous were the heated correspondences sent between Bodo Eleazar, a former deacon who had converted to Judaism in 838, and the converso Bishop of Córdoba Paulus Albarus. Each man, using such epithets as “wretched compiler”, tried to convince the other to return to his former religion, to no avail (Katz, pp. 40–41; Stillman, pp. 54–55).


European context of this expulsion

Jewish expulsion is a well established trend in European history. From the 13th to the 16th centuries, at least 15 occasions of European countries expelling their Jewish populations occurred. The expulsion in Spain was preceded by England, France and Germany, among many others, and succeeded by at least five more expulsions

I am no fan of spanish people, either!

Modern Jewish community

There are currently around 50,000 Spanish Jews, with the largest communities in Barcelona and Madrid each with around 3,500 members. There are smaller communities in Alicante, Málaga, Tenerife, Granada, Valencia, Benidorm, Cadiz, Murcia and many more.

Barcelona, with a Jewish community of 3,500, has the largest concentration of Jews in Spain. Melilla maintains an old community of Sephardic Jews. The city of Murcia in the southeast of the country has a growing Jewish community and a local synagogue. Kosher olives are produced in this region and exported to Jews around the world. Also there is a new Jewish school in Murcia as a result of the growth in Jewish population immigrating to the Murcia community PolarisWorld.

The modern Jewish community in Spain consists mainly of Sephardim from Northern Africa, especially the former Spanish colonies. In the 1970s, there was also an influx of Argentine Jews, mainly Ashkenazim, escaping from the military Junta. With the birth of the European community, Jews from other countries in Europe are moving to Spain because of its weather, lifestyle as well as for its cost of living relative to the north of Europe. Some Jews see Spain as an easier life for retirees and for young people. Mazarron has seen its Jewish community grow as well as La Manga, Cartagena and Alicante.

There are rare cases of Jewish converts, like the writer Jon Juaristi. Today there is an interest by some Jewish groups working in Spain to encourage the descendants of the Marranos to return to Judaism. This has resulted in a limited number of conversions to the Jewish faith.

In 2014 it was announced that the descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain by the Alhambra Decree of 1492 would be offered Spanish citizenship, without being required to move to Spain and/or renounce any other citizenship they may have. In 2014, residents of a village in Spain called Castrillo Matajudios voted to change the name of their town due to confusion on the etymology of the name. “Mata” is a common suffix of placenames in Spain, meaning “forested patch”, but it also means “kill”, thus rendering a name which could be interpreted as “kill the jews”. The name was changed to an earlier name which would be less subject to surprise by newcomers Castrillo Mota de Judíos (Castrillo Hill of the Jews).



  1. vikinglifeblog · March 2, 2017

    Reblogged this on VikingLifeBlog.


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