Sunday, July 17, 2016

Spain 11C -- Closing Program

Tonight, Wednesday July 13
We closed our joyful journey with an evening of Flamenco (by guest artists!!!!)

Followed by an Am Yisrael Chai celebration featuring

Mimi Haselkorn, Itzhak Zherebker, Matt Klein, Fredda Mendelson, Zach Mondrow, Eliot Vogel, Table Ben-Yehudah, Ofer Barnoy, David Lipp and Aaron Bensoussan....most of them accompanied by Alan Mason. Also Luis Cattan and Jonathan Schultz, percussion and Phil Barron, guitar.

And finally a Shirah B'tzibur program led by concert participants.

Photos! and Videos! at

Jack Chomsky

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Jews and Spain -- A Final Preliminary View

Now that I am on the plane back toward the U.S. and have reviewed my blogposts, getting ready for publication those that haven't yet been offered up, and had a little sleep, I begin to try to make sense of this experience.  

Speaking with someone else who was on the tour, I heard that some people "really liked it and some people didn't" -- and among those who were disappointed, the feeling was that the trip "wasn't Jewish enough."

There are some Jewish people (presumably not too many who aren't) who only travel to see Jewish things in the world, and who might be disinclined to visit places where there isn't a Jewish narrative.  I know that I myself have more interest in the Jewish sites and perspectives than some of the people I sometimes travel with.  It's a fine balance -- to look deeper for the unique Jewish corners around the world and its culture and history -- and not to miss the fact that the world isn't ONLY about Jews and our history.

Yet of course the raison de voyage of this Cantors Assembly Mission was JEWISH Spain.  

Personally, I think I'm probably a little -- or a lot -- more open to the lacunae in this story than many others -- or than I might have previously been -- having spent 4 months in Asia during my recent sabbatical.  Many of us Jews obsess over "what do they think of us?" and "what do they think of Israel?" It was a bit mind-bending to spend time in places (Vietnam and India mostly, and also Japan) where they simply DON'T think about us.  This was something I feel like I have almost never imagined -- at least not during the last 30 years. Being the only Jews that people had ever met or are likely to meet within the next 10 or 20 years gave us an opportunity to consider "what would we LIKE them to know about us or Israel?  What's necessary?  What doesn't matter?" etc.

So a trip to "Jewish Vietnam" or "Jewish India" or "Jewish Japan" would be a fool's errand, a con, except for places where there really IS Jewish history.  There ARE places in India and Japan especially that have significant stories in times ancient (India) or modern (Japan).

Spain, though, gives us a different kind of challenge.  There is a profound, rich, joyful Jewish history in most of the places that we visited, but it's a history that is long gone, and has, until recently, had no one to preserve or collect it -- and, except by finding remnants of it elsewhere -- no one to recall it.  

When we visit Germany or Russia or other Eastern European countries, or even Turkey, Salonica, Morocco, Italy and others, the fragrance remains one way or another.  Ironically, of course, the story of the Jews of Turkey, Salonica, Morocco, Yemen and others is largely the continuation of the Spain story -- but with different host cultures -- and usually an outcome of a later re-expulsion to Israel or elsewhere.  

For most of the people in my corner of the Jewish world, the stories of Germany and Eastern Europe are familiar and deeply personal.  Their music and literature and language are much closer to my music and literature and language.  

I felt that, traveling with my cantorial colleagues -- especially a cadre of Spanish-speaking hazzanim, most of whom are from Ashkenazic tradition (which isn't as on point as people actually "dripping" in Sephardic tradition) would help us connect emotionally to what we would see in Spain.  I would love to have attracted more people to our trip -- but so many people have already been to Spain and "seen the Jewish thing" in Spain.  I really believed that they would be moved more deeply to travel in the company of my talented colleagues.

And I think that we really delivered beautifully.  High points were the joyful concerts that included a large number of songs in Ladino, pieces that sprang from the culture that was here -- or the culture that developed when it was expelled and grew elsewhere.  And it seemed like Aaron Bensoussan, a member of the Cantors Assembly who DOES exemplify the Moroccan tradition that emerged after Spanish expulsion, served as the sun that shone on multiple events.  Aaron is an amazing force of joy and commitment to this tradition, though his fascination with Ashkenazic hazzanut (despite having come from a distinguished tradition of Sephardic Moroccan hazzanut) provides a complicated composite kind of singing that doesn't necessarily exemplify anything about what was here -- but does say huge things about how culture develops and moves forward, sideways, upward and more.

It was nice to have two lecturers -- an increase of 100% -- over previous missions (though there are times some might seem to have preferred zero lecturers -- a 100% DECREASE! Still, the learning and background are among the key elements distinguishing our missions).  Professor Stephen Berk always has cogent and understandable and straightforward takes on what happened here and how we got here.  Professor Eliezer Papo was a little harder to fathom.  I suspect that he's much clearer in Hebrew.  I found that I often didn't know whether he had said A or the OPPOSITE of A...And as he sought to speak about Sephardic culture (as opposed to history), it might have been easier to connect with more direct demonstrations of what he was talking about -- perhaps with some of the "talent" on our trip.

But the challenge remained: there's a huge gap here.  We Jews haven't been here -- almost at all -- for 500 years.  And as Moses Hassan, our guest lecturer in Seville, someone who really does have a successful Jewish life history (his father was prominent in Seville's "Jewish community" and so is he -- he speaks Hebrew and is raising a Jewish child) put it:  "Do I think that there is a future here? Do I want to make a future here?"  There isn't -- at least not yet -- a population to build a future.  And Spain's future (unlike, for example, Germany's) isn't at all tied to the idea that it will matter if Jews are welcomed back and choose to come back.  And yet the Spanish government has been making efforts to identify descendants of those expelled so many years ago.  Do they really want them to come back? Do they want them to build a Jewish life here?  Or is it just something that looks good in the international framework of nations?  Too early to say.  Nobody, I think, thought that Jews were going to return to Germany by the thousands -- tens of thousands -- it was unimaginable. 

If Jews do end up starting to return here, will they rebuild any element of Sephardic Golden Age culture?  It seems unlikely -- and remember that today's Jews in Germany have an almost complete disconnect to what happened before the Holocaust.  It's a new population that has found a remarkable place to live in tremendous freedom -- and Europe's best economy -- attracting Jews from Israel, the U.S. and everywhere and also serving as a welcome basket to Russia's Jews, who knew nothing about being Jews anymore but certainly have taken advantage of moving to a new place that teems with freedom and opportunity.

So in terms of the future of Jewish Spain. . . If the economy improves, anything could happen.  Whether that will make it easier to explore the Jewish culture of 500+ years ago is another matter.

Traveling in a group of over 350 presents significant logistical challenges (nightmares?). In my view, the Ayelet folks did great, great work: The people on this trip were likely to be, on the average, somewhat wealthy and spoiled, impatient with having to wait for OTHERS but completely intolerant of not having events held up for their own particular needs or tardiness. At the same time, they had signed up for something extraordinary and kind of pricy, and could certainly be forgiven high expectations.

Could we have delved more deeply into the real Jewish history that has evaporated here...meeting Ramban/Nachmanides in Gerona, etc.? There's the challenge--hard to do for such a big group, but difficult to deliver special things for a small group. I can't quite get out of my mind the possibility of Simon Spiro dressed as Nachmanides, telling us his life story in prose, poetry, song and dance. And perhaps that lays out the difficulty--that almost everything that happened here morphed into other things and places. That what STARTED here either disappeared or was built into something else somewhere else at a different time.

Which brings me to another conclusion I made on a previous visit to lost Jewish worlds: After our Germany Mission, I went on a Rhine River Cruise with my family. It was on those visits to onetime medieval Jewish addresses (as opposed to 18th to 20th century and Holocaust sites) that it occurred to me that although the Jews suffered terribly in being abused, murdered and driven out, it was really the "host culture" that deprived itself of things that would have made it better.

What if the Jews hadn't been expelled from Spain? How much better off would Spain be today?! True, our culture is always enhanced by exposure to and distillation of host cultures when given the opportunity and when we take the opportunity, and the influences of the European and North African nations to which the Jews of Sefarad were exiled are an important part of what Sephardic culture is today. But time after time, when given the opportunity, Jews are a tremendously positive influence on host cultures.

Perhaps the world will figure that out, and some day we'll be able to organize "Jewish Heritage Tours" celebrating the history  and culture of the Jews of the Arab they were exiled from Spain but continued to develop their culture in these new countries, but were expelled again from 1948 (or earlier) forward, but were eventually welcomed back, etc. etc. IMPOSSIBLE to imagine. But...who could have imagined what would ultimately become of the Jews after the destruction of the Temples, and after the expulsion from Spain?!

We are still here to tell the story. We are still here to sing the songs. We are still here to live Jewish life according to the understanding of Joseph Caro, of Rambam, of Ramban.

For those of you who came with us to Poland and/or to Germany and/or to Spain, I hope that you were half as inspired as me by our ability to move forward beyond heartbreaking life and death historical challenges.

And I hope next time we say "we've got a mission" coming, you'll sign up and pack your bags!

God bless the visionary Nate Lam. And the tireless chairs Jetemy Lipton, Steve Stein and Alberto Mizrahi. And thanks to the dozens of colleagues who participated, organized, prepared and inspired, and to the hundreds who braved the hot Spanish summer to MAKE SOME HISTORY!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Spain 11A Tour of Seville

Vision Seville Tour
Guide:  Carmen

Seville is 750,000
Spain's 4th largest city

Golden Tower built beginning of 13th century by Muslims.

St. Elmo School once training for navigators, later a palace, Maria Teresa

1929 International Exhibition. Some of the grand buildings remain.

Annual Flamenco Festival
Visited (see photos)...

Maurilio Gardens
Roman aqueducts were restored by Muslims and Christians.
Jewish Quarter Santa Cruz
1248 Ferdinand conquered city and gave mosques to the Jews for synagogues
Synagogue became church and was destroyed by the French in 18th century.
Convent: St.Teresa de Avila
"Kissing Street"... balconies so close across from each other
Cathedral of Santa Maria ...3rd largest in Europe.... foundation dates from Roman times
Cathedral de Sevilla
Though most cathedrals are built in shape of a cross, they retained the shape of the mosque.
Vision of St. Anthony of Padua (famous painting in  Cathedral)
Remnants of Ferdinand flag 13th century.
15th century singing book.
Burial place of Christopher Columbus Died in Spain in 1508. Got moved around a lot. When French invaded, they moved him to Cuba. Moved back here in 1898.
On the way out, some more remnants of the mosque.

Palace....Real Alcazar
Arab word means palace. 3 palaces here. 14th century by Peter I.
Christian king but built in Moorish Muslim style
Alfonso 10 Gothic palace partially destroyed by earthquake

(We visited Peter's area)
A few faces included in show that it's Christian not Muslim?
Diverse pillars
Has never been abandoned
Ambassador's Room

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Spain 11 -- Seville. Final Lectures, Papo and Berk

Final Papo Lecture
Musical Traditions of Ladino Speaking Jews

Gerush Sefarad (leaving Sefarad)....linguistically misleading. Seems like it should be MI-Sfarad.

Rabbis explained this by saying that they "needed to get the Spain taken out of them." Jews were very integrated in Spanish life and culture. They adopted/adapted ballada, romanza and copla. Romanzas were associated with women, coplas with men.

"Blessed be the one who ordered his world in such a way that the man are in his shop and the children are in school."

Ladies didn't need to pray in Hebrew. They wrote their Ladino in Latin script.  Ladino as if it were French or Serbo-Croatian or Turkish. But men wrote in Hebrew letters.

Book of poetry and song La Mujera Sephardi. Chapters: Childhood. Marriage. MotherInLaws. Widowhood. Why? Typically the women married early (to bear children) and men married late (after being established).

Romanzas were exposed to them because the women sang them to the children. But society taught the boys and men to ignore and forget because they were mama's songs for children.

Coplas had too much Hebrew for women to follow.

Sephardic community tends to be more unified than Ashkenazim. Traditional and less traditional. To them, Orthodox is a term about a church. Conservative and Reform not pertinent terms. A la Turka vs. a la Franca.

My endowed lover.
The queen is looking through the window and preparing her hair. The king comes and touches his member to her butt.
"My lover I have 4 sons, 2 by the king and 2 by the lover. I've sent the King's 2 to war but "yours" are safe here with me.
How do you like the dream I had?
The king isn't sure about this and kills the lover to play it safe. (Queen hadn't realized that she was singing to the king, not her lover.) Understandable that the rabbis weren't too keen on this literature...but after expulsion, it was different, and the rabbis became the collectors and disseminators.

17th century Salonika law question....I was eating a worm in a nonwormy (no expectation that it could be wormy) fruit. I told the Beit din in Salonika and they said don't worry it wouldn't happen. In the Ashk community, there would be overreaction and banning. In Seph world you have erred by checking and making trouble. Making fun of the rabbis, going away from the community, saying that previously communities weren't sufficiently religious enough.

Coplas: anonymous or by famous rabbis. First Jewish musical: 17th century Istanbul: Coplas of Joseph the Just by Toledo

Wives' names are typically Spanishization of tribal name

Yissachar: Merchant=Money brings Kavod:Kvudah
Dan: Justa

Hazzanim should see to the re-creation of this musical.

There are musical notes and instructions.

Finally about tachrichim (burial shroud)....Today we are in denial about death. Sephardic tendency: when someone goes to a next part of life, they would gather together, sing songs, he would lie on the ground and they would take his measure. Step by step by step. Acknowledging that death is a stage of life.

Final Berk Lecture
After the Spanish Civil War
As a Fascist he comes close to Mussolini and Hitler in 1940. Hitler wants a pass through Spain and wants Gibraltar and North Africa. Franco wants those places. Neither yields to the other.

Hitler's 2 biggest mistakes: going to war in Russia and not taking Gibraltar.

Hitler wants Spain in on Barbarossa but Franco just sends some troops.

Franco was a visceral anti-Semite throughout the 30s, but he had a fluctuating policy. Sometimes he lets them pass. But if they miss their ship, they may end up in Spanish concentration camps, or worse France and Germany.

Walter Benjamin is turned back from Spain and commits suicide.

Spains few thousand Jews don't go to Germany/Poland. Franco and Spain considered pariahs after the war.

Stroke of luck for Spain: February 1945, Yalta.1942, Churchill convinced Roosevelt not to invade France. We're not ready. But by June 1944, the Soviets are coming from the east and it's becoming clear that they will have their way in Eastern Europe.

Molotov emerges from Yalta insulted, angry and powerful.

1948: Humphrey...It's time to move away from states rights to civil rights.

Cold War. And fear that if Stalin isn't checked, Soviets will roll all the way to England.

This busts up the Democrats. Ultimately, the advent of the Cold War works for Spain.  America now needs Franco.
Adenauer and Brandt also benefit in Germany.

Spanish Economy begins to improve. Franco jettisons some of his loyalists. Opus Dei (Church) benefits.

Franco perceives that security will be found in Spain through of the Monarchy. Juan Carlos comes  to Spain, is educated,....and reestablishes
the Monarchy.
Spain enters Common Maker and NATO.

In the short run in American foreign policy, we make accommodations with some really creepy characters.

After Franco's dear, the whole apparatus
falls apart.

1981 Coup d'etat is foiled by King Juan Carlos. He promises he will never again intervene in politics.

Spain has PROBLEMS: 2parts of the country don't want to be part of the country. 25% unemployment here. France over 10%.

Look on the bright side: European Union is one of the great accomplishments of modern history.

70 years after the Holocaust, Jews are fine in the east and in Germany. Not as safe in France! and Germany!!

The country DOES have a lot of troubles, but it's OK. We SHOULD help Spain succeed.

Berk says we need to twin with congregations all over Europe. Where does Joint's money go? Mostly Orthodox. Not fair. Not smart.

Spain 10B -- Seville

oses Hassan
He was born in Seville, his parents in Morocco.

In Morocco, there werent movements, just more traditional and less traditional.

Seville is the oldest modern Jewish community in Spain since the Expulsion.

Jews were here in end of 2nd century CE. 1st remain a tombstone in Latin, which shows that there was already some organized Jewish life during the Roman

Rome then became Christian and replaced by Visigoths, Aryans who tolerated the Jews. In 586, the Visigoth king converted to Roman Catholicism and turned on the Jews, enslaved them.

Jewish life under Islam was better. They weren't free per second but were able to live their lives, and some to succeed to a very high degree.

Rambam actually came later when Islam was intolerant. He was just 13, left Cordoba and went to Morocco, then Egypt, so Rambam isn't really part of the Golden Age, but perhaps a product of it. Europe is going through Dark Ages, but Islam is promoting learning.

Seville in Christian times 2nd only to Toledo in Jewish population. How do we know what we know about population? Census and taxes. Not very complete info. Once 700,000 Jews in Spain. Today 45,000 in a population of 29(?) million.

After 1483, no Jews left on Seville
Massacres of 1391. Started in Seville 6 June. 15th century was a disaster for Jews. Nobody likes the Conversos. The Inquisition happens under the authority of the Monarchy. 1st trial in Seville 1491.  Last burning 1781.
Inquisition lasted until 1834. The 1812 Constitution stated clearly that Spain is Catholic. Not until the 1960s is full tolerance proclaimed. 1968

Today 25-30 families. Jews used to meet once a week (when his father came to town) at someone's house on Friday night and on Yom Kippur.

1991 Jewish community buys an apart, and to today, this is where we have services. Most of the time we don't get a minyan.

So few of us ... but we have 2 congregations. 10-12 families have created an egalitarian liberal congregation.

Gets kosher stuff from Marsha, Gibraltar, US.

Future? I don't know. Government over counts Jews by about a factor of two. Europe is becoming a tough place for Jews again. "I don't know what will happen." Only growing community is frum Gibraltar.

"I don't see why I should leave, but I don't see why I should stay."

Then a "Moroccan Maariv" led by Aaron Bensoussan and colleagues and an El Malei Rachamim sung by Dov Keren in memory of all the Jews of Sepharad.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Spain 9B -- Granada Alhambra

Our guides, Rosa and Juando

Thanks to new roads, it's half hour to beach from Granada and 45 minutes to the mountains.

Cypress street to the site.
We can still see  the ancient canal...6km long when built. 17th century

After Romans, Visigoths, then Moslems

Guaranat. Jewish neighborhood here.

11th century, 1st pogrom here.
1212 started beating back fundamentalism. Granada became the capital of what remained in Muslim Spain castle
Buildings destroyed in 19th century by Napoleon. Only here for 2 years. On to Barcelona, they destroyed the walls on their way our.

After church took power again, monks lived here until 1834. Nationalized. Became hotel in 1914.

Toward city center and main mosque.

Spain 9 -- Cordoba

Guide: Maria Jose
Monday, July 11

Some photos at

2000 years ago, the Romans were here. There are significant remains, buy they are far down. The Jews came with the Romans

In the middle ages, Cordoba was capital of Islamic Al-Andalus, beginning 711.

Center of Andalusia (Andalucia).

When European cities were 15-20,000, there were a half million here. In 10th century, there was real coexistence and cooperation between Jews, Muslims and Christians.  But it didn't last much more than 100 years. 20,000(?) Jews lived here in the good times.

1236:  reconquest by Christians.

Muslims developed the water system from their earliest days, though Romans had also built aqueducts.

Unemployment rate almost 30% here.

The Medina was the central part of the city.

Roman bridge was only bridge across the city's river from 1st century until modern times.

Jail and Place of the Inquisition
Former Grand Mosque

When Christians reconquered here, many Muslims fled to Granada. Christians reconsecrated onto Holy Mary Cathedral.

Juderia--Jewish Quarter
Those who stayed purchased Christian family history to secure themselves from the Inquisition .
Narrow streets, cul de sacs, not much order. For security.

Rambam... Maimonides....
Doctor scholar philosopher polyglot. He had a good life here until age 12, leaving because of new regime. Father was a judge. Physician to Saladin.

Sinagogo ... Synagogue
This was private for its family. No windows, so it could be secret.
Built 14th century in Moorish (local) style. (Influence, fashion, not security.)
Used as a women's hospital in 16th and 17th centuries.

Casa Sefarad
Our guide sang  Psalm 121 Esa Einai

Inquisition Abolished 1833
To hang someone in a sambonito (Sp. expression): to give someone a kind of guilt they cannot escape.

Back to the mosque. Enlarged 3 times. When it was a mosque, it was much more open. 19 open arch entrances  Built with new and reused materials. The mosque was built to move water (like aqueducts).

Christians lit candles in their dark cathedral, creating fires and fire hazards. So what didn't burn from the wooden roof, they removed.

10th century was golden age in Cordoba. Jews, Christians, Muslim together.
Took almost 350 years to build the central cathedral.

Andalucia is Spain's largest region, and the source of a great deal of what the world considers to be Spanish culture. And they speak faster than anywhere else.

Granada was the last city to form under Muslim rule and was strongest and longest. (We have ARRIVED in Granada. More about that in a subsequent post.)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Spain 8B

Concert at Teatro Goya.
Greetings from Israel's Ambassador to Spain and the President of the Jewish Community of Madrid

All accompanied by Alan Mason

Nate Lam and Marcus Feldman with Ensemble conducted by Jeremy Lipton

Appropriate scenes from around the world projected behind the performers throughout the concert.

Photos are available at

Henry Rosenblum
Dan Gross--his own composition
Alisa Pomerantz-Boro --her own well-known composition.
David Propis and Alisa Pomerantz-Boro duet
Alberto Mizrahi
Jack Mendelson
Marina Shemesh
Beny Maissner
Marcelo Gindlin with surprise guests Sandy Bernstein and Penny Myers
Ravi Frieder
David Propis
Elizabeth Shammash
Nate Lam
Simon Spiro as Zorro and himself.
Mendelson and Mizrahi duet
Lewandowski Psalm 150

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Spain 7 -- Shabbat

Shabbat was spent in Madrid. Though I have many, many photos (a growing number posted "alongside" this blog through shared GoogleDocs addresses) of almost every other day of the Mission, Shabbat is of course a different matter.

Fortunately, the services were completely planned, with many leaders. Having a preprinted program distributed both Friday evening and Saturday morning enables me to recollect clearly as I write now, almost a week later.

A recurring theme of our services was the use of music from Ruach HaDarom, a new Cantors Assembly publication that features music popular in Latin and South America and music written by its cantors and composers. The broad range of musical styles still has an overall lilt to it. I have enjoyed using quite a few melodies from this anthology already in the last several months.  Hearing colleagues, some of whom might be the creators themselves, perform the pieces in a service gives a lot of insight into possibilities and attractive performance practices.

Shabbat services provided the opportunity for many colleagues to stand and be heard, many of whom might not have been included in the various concerts throughout the Mission.  Among the pieces that I heard Friday night that I will want to revisit are a setting of one of the Kabbalat Shabbat psalms by Suki Berry, chanted by David Lipp at our service. And Jesse Holzer's own Havu Ladonai (Psalm 29) had a deeply inviting swing that I'll want to bring home to my congregation. Jesse isn't from Latin America and his piece isn't, of course, published in the compilation. But he really captured the feel of joy and rhythm that is a characteristic especially of our Argentinian colleagues, a style that has been enjoyed by a growing number of North American congregations.

Leon Sher seamlessly accompanied the throng of participating hazzanim: (in service order) Luis Cattan,  Jen Cohen, Marcelo Gindlin, Matt Klein, Norman Brody, Steven Hevenstone, David Lipp, Mimi Haselkorn, Jesse Holzer's, Beny Maissner, Zachary Mondrow, and Phil Baron. Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback of Stephen S. Wise Synagogue of Los Angeles gave divrei Torah Friday evening and Saturday morning.

The Shabbat morning service was led by (in order of the schedule) Jonathan Schultz, Penny Myers, Stephen Stein, Eliot Vogel, Sandy Cohn, Annelose Ocanto-Romo, Henry Rosenblum,Abe Lubin, Ofer Barnoy and Marcus Feldman. Leon Sher accompanied those who didn't sing a Capella. The Torah was read by Alan Sokoloff, Bonnie Streigold, Galit Dadoun-Cohen, and Annelise Ocanto-Romo. I had the honor of chanting the haftarah. 

I chanted the haftarah somewhat dramatically, in keeping with the clear meaning of the text. Sometimes, we fail to see the possibilities in the holy that are right in front of us. If there weren't drama inherent in our sacred books, we wouldn't still have them at the heart of what we do in synagogue and Jewish life.The prophets were a pretty dramatic bunch prose-wise and deserve, when possible, to have their messages delivered with some of the urgency of ancient days. When I provide a little spice to a Torah Aliyah or haftarah, I try to find the right balance, drawing attention to the text, not the performer. Can we draw people closer to our texts in this way, and enable them to connect to Torah and Neviim more deeply? Yes but. yes, but not everyone is prepared to chant in this way, and not everyone is necessarily prepare to recognize what's going on. Because the haftarah is typically chanted by a 13-year-old child or by someone moderately versed in Hebrew, we're not likely to hear it is way every week. But showing the possibility at least from time to time seems an important course. Thanks to the many who were so appreciative of my "prophecy" that morning.

Following Kiddush lunch, some chose to visit the Prado Museum, one of Madrid's (the wotld's, really) great treasures of art. Others had the option of visiting on Sunday afternoon, after our Sunday morning visit to Toledo.

There was also a visit early Sunday evening (Sunday "afternoon" Shabbat time-wise, as Shabbat didn't end until 10:45 p.m.) with a leader of the local Jewish community in which he described the challenges and possibilities of trying to nurture vibrant Jewish life in Madrid and in Spain. We also had the unexpected privilege of a lecture by Judith Cohen, a renowned ethnomusicologist and performer, who was herself spending some time in Spain performing this summer (as she does EACH summer).

Spain 6

Our hearts are with Americans after two days of violence which seems to be on the cusp of mushrooming...shootings by police in St. Paul and Baton Rouge and now shootings OF police unfolding in Dallas.
This morning in Madrid...the Royal Palace of Madrid.
711:  Muslims.invaded Spain
The fortress at this site was regained in the 11th century. In 1734,
King  Philip V ordered a palace built in thr image of Versailles, where he grew up.
Carlos III was the first to live in the Palace.  After King Juan Carlos abdicated a few years ago, Spain has a young king--his son Philip VI.
Italian architects (3) and painters (many)
Highlights: Guards' Room,
Reception Room---Hall of Columns, where the 1982 Middle East Peace Conference, the abdication of Juan Carlos, and ceremony for Spain joining the European Union all took place.
Carlos III's antechamber included portraits of Carlos I and Queen Luisa. The poor, grim-looking woman had 24 teeth after all that.
Gala Dining Room....capacity 145
(Obama coming to town tomorrow.
Another special room....Royal Chapel
5 Stradivarius instruments in Music Room. They use these decorated instruments in concerts.
Crown Room
They don't sit in the thrones or wear the crowns. Real power is vested in the President. The king is a symbol.
Throne Room!
Reina Sofia
Open in 1986
National Museum in 1988
Modern Art Museum
1st gallery in which we spent time....
The cusp of modernism
Picasso and others.
Woman in Blue, other early ((1901) Picasso
Spanish impressionism
Contemporary art is difficult to explain. Very subjective.
Concept: Perfection already exists. The artist is aiming at something else. Analyze the elements.
Cubism includes simultaneous points of view.
Magic realism: Traditional rules plus mystery
Angeles Santo THE WORLD age 17
Miro: I wanted to kill painting. Painted feelings. Colors. Automatism
Beginning of 20th Century, Spain is a hot mess.
1936: Outbreak of Spanish Civil War
1937: International Exhibition in France. Became in Spanish Exhibition Propaganda . Picasso is asked to decorate the main wall.
Guernica was bombed by its own government. In 24 days he painted Gueenica. Artist, but not specific. 17 shades of b/w. No color. 4 women, 3 men and animals. Pain, years, but also a hand holding a flower. Lamp illuminating room? Spain? God?
Guernica is a premonition of the disaster that lay ahead. Returned to Spain in 1981. From MOMA in NY
Salvador Dali. The great provoker.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Spain 5

Thursday, July 7

This morning, we took an early morning train to Madrid.  After a get-a-little-acquainted-with-Madrid-bus-tour we had another lecture by Professor Eliezer Papo -- "Yishma'el and 'Esaw, the Jews of Spain and Tor ha-Zahav"

He said. . . . People say that the Inquisition punished Jews. Is that true? Not so much. The inquisition punished Jews who had become Christians. The Catholic Church had no jurisdiction over Jews.
Unlike Judaism, where someone typically becomes a Jew as an adult (Papo's statement, I'm not sure I agree), baptism makes a different path.

1391: After a mass pogrom across Spain, hundreds of thousands leave. This wasn't perpetrated by the government or the Church. Uneducated people were at the heart of these actions.

Approximately 1/3 of Jewish Spain was converted. Captured, brought to church, baptized.
This brings huge problems for the Jews, but also some problem for the Church. They weren't really looking for 200,000 educated new members who didn't really believe.  (Educated people -- again, according to Papo's view -- present an unfamiliar challenge to the Church, which is used to having people who are illiterate, not worldly and aren't likely to question Church doctrine.)

4 categories of the Jewish converts to Christianity across a spectrum:
1 We didn't want this. We'll be secret Jews.
2 In between. We'll follow Christianity in THIS world, Jewish in world to come.
3 In between toward:
4 I'll go along. Maybe this IS God's will

1392 Christian Spain passes for the first time Laws of the Purity of Blood

(Sidebar:) Why do Spaniards have such long names, and women don't take their husbands' names? To demonstrate their heritage. Paternal grandfather and Maternal grandfather.  So you really know the legitimate Catholic lineage of your partner or neighbor.

The Inquisition was established to determine whether the Jewish converts to Christianity were faithful.

(Sidebar): Joke: You baptized ME. I baptized the LAMB.
(Priest smells something suspicious at the home of a Jewish convert to Christianity -- on Good Friday.  "Why do I smell.. . Lamb?"  "Father, how could such a thing happen?  Of course, it's fish."  "It smells like lamb."  (Keep in mind that the lamb is likely to be for Pesach, considering the season.) "Father, you baptized ME.  I baptize the LAMB."

Inquisition...Saving your soul. They would torture to get "truthful" responses. Denunciation was also a path. Also a convenient way to get rid of creditors and other unwanted neighbors and relatives. People would give names under torture and those would do the same and so would those.

Jews fled in various directions.

Papo says that the key message is: We have never really studied the connection between forceful conversion of Jews and growth of secularism.

1492 Jews expelled from Spain, creating a disaster for World Jewry. Because it had been the heart and soul of Jewry.  4 responses:

1 The beginnings of a form of  political Zionism
2 Lurianic Kabbalah. Most popular and soothing answer for the masses. God is suffering? Makes ME feel a little better. This also works against Jewish involvement in the real world.
3 Messianic. Shabbetai Tzvi. Judaism is LEGO. You construct it however you like. Everyone dismissed him, but today all groups make their own LEGO.  (Again, this is Papo's point of view.  I'm not sure that I agree or find it illumative.)
4 Let us be. Let us live like you and contribute to your state. Conversos.

Papo says that the same thing happened in Islamic world.
Check out Atatürk Jew on YouTube or Google and you will find lots of stuff.
Shabbetai Tzvi becomes a Muslim (convert or die). But he still believes he is Messiah.
Conversos are at the root of all progressive Islam. (Again, a Papo claim that I think could draw a lot of argument.)

Later that day we had a lovely reception at Casa Sefarad, an institution that builds relations between Spain and Jews and the State of Israel.

Free to roam the city for dinner...

Spain 4

This morning, we headed for Girona (pronounced Dgee-RO-nah) -- the birthplace and major residence of Nachmanides -- Ramban -- a major figure in Jewish rabbinic history and a major figure in Jewish Spanish history.

Girona was a small city near what is today France. Population began to build in the middle of the 11th century on the Main Street (calle Mayor).  (In signs in Girona's Jewish museum, the neighborhood was referred to as "the Jewry" -- repeatedly.  A little peculiar in English; not sure if it has the same texture in Spanish or Castilian.  For some centuries, Jews and Christians lived in harmony -- but at the end of the medieval era a wall was built around the Jewish neighborhood, reducing its size somewhat, and Jews were prohibited from living beyond it.  

There are two synagogues documented in the 13th and 15th centuries, augmented by a mikveh as well as a school and hospital.

The Girona museum had a fairly large amount of Jewish sacred objects -- but most of them were from elsewhere, certainly of interest to non-Jewish visitors who would like to learn about Jewish life and culture, but not as much to Jews who are seeking to get a feeling for what life was like in Girona and what its artifacts were like.  

One that stood out -- a commemorative "gravestone" from the Girona synagogue, 14th century, found in 1888 in a house on a nearby street.  The white-ish letters on stone in clear legible Hebrew say, "Beit Yaakov (House of Jacob), come, let's walk toward the light of God.  Trust in God for all time, oh people, pour open your heart befor Him, for God is our refuge. Selah"

The stone seems clearly to be a DEDICATORY stone for the synagogue.  As far as relics from Jewish burial places, there are remnants of a number of gravestones from the local Jewish cemetery (located some distance away and long ago forgotten and/or repurposed, given the fact that the small to modest size Jewish community has been gone for over 500 years).  And one finds fragments of old gravestones involved in building materials in a few places, as well as at least one ancient mezuzah indentation in a current-day doorway.

The museum exhibit is quite extensive in terms of accounts of the Inquisition and the various ways in which Jews were humiliated in this process.

Back in Barcelona that afternoon, we had a lecture from Professor Eliezer Papo and a memorable concert that evening of the Soul of Sefarad.  I have now posted photos from the concert in a separate Blogpost -- Soul of Sefarad Concert!

Professor Papo's talk was "How and When the Crown of Torah Moved to Spain."  Alas, through technical error, my notes on that talk have disappeared. . . I would welcome someone commenting a more thorough account of his talk -- or e-mailing it to me at and I will re-post -- but he might go along with the simple summary "The question of where Jewish life is centered is determined by whether a place imports or exports rabbis."  Papo traced how it came to be that Spain became a place where there were yeshivot and where Jewish culture was exported elsewhere.

Soul of Sefarad Concert

Photos of the performers from the wonderful concert on Wednesday July 6th at Palau De La Musica Concert Hall in Barcelona.

Featuring Alberto Mizrahi, Galit Dadoun-Cohen, Alisa Pomerantz-Boro, Nate Lam, Sara Geller, Jen Cohen, Elias Rosemberg, Luis Cattan, Alan Mason,  Ben Tisser, Marcelo Gindlin and Marcus Feldman.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Spain Photos Day 2

Sights...Jewish and Gaudi-ish---in Barcelona

Spain 2-3

Today we were led by Susana...our local Barcelona guide
First the Old City. Later the more modern part of the city.
Our hotel is near some of the remnants of the medieval walls. City founded by the Romans 2000 years ago.
The Columbus Statue 1888 given by the French. 1st World's Fair. Most of this area built for 1992 Olympics.
Since 1978 Spain is "a Catholic country welcome to all."  In other words, Catholicism is the OFFICIAL religion, but all religions are tolerated and accepted -- which of course is a marked change from the past.
There are 2 ancient Jewish districts.  The main one ("Call") had 4 or 5 synagogues.
Smaller district was founded by French Jews fleeing their Inquisition in the 1300s.  (Barcelona was capital of kingdom of Aragon, 10th to 12th centuries.). In 1391, Jews from this region which is today France (Provence?) fled here and created their own smaller neighborhood.  Jews living here spoke Catalan and Hebrew (not French.  Not Spanish.) 1918 No Jews in Barcelona (resettling people after World War I is what brings a few back.  Jews have money and the capability to help rebuild the country after the WWI calamity. . . So they are considered welcome at that point.)

1716 Unification of Spain.
Synagogue may date to 3rd century
Visit to the Ancient Synagogue (in the larger Jewish Quarter).  Our host was Carmen
Discovery of this place came in the late 1970s.
In medieval times this was an important street. In 1996 this was a warehouse for electronica....Dating to 2nd 3rd century, Roman times.
Later, we visited the location of the (in)famous 1263 Disputation between Ramban  (Nachmanides) and the apostate Paulus was arranged by James I.  Publishing his arguments afterward was Ramban's downfall. Freedom of Speech? Yes. Freedom to publish? No.
(When I upload photos, look for the Barcelona foundation stone and remains of Roman Temple)

Tomorrow we'll visit Girona, Nachmanides' home town and greatest center of influence.
STEPHEN BERK Lecture #2:
1492 was good for Spanish Catholics.
End of Muslim influence (Ferdinand & Isabella come into Granada on January 1), expulsion of Jews, Columbus' journey.
All 3 were outcome of long-standing processes. In 711, the Arabs left their peninsula. Why? Jihad has traditionally meant spread of the faith by war.  Was it to spread the faith, to conquer?  Or because of something lacking at home?  Not entirely clear.  Not until Charles Martel defeats them in France in 732, do they stop. By this time, they controlled 97% of Spain.
Much better to be a Jew under Islam than under the Church.
To Muslims, we are dhimmis. Protected, but inferior.  We made God like human, describing human emotions. Islam doesn't tolerate this. We would explain that nonetheless, God speaks to us only through Torah.
Some Jews rose very high in the somewhat sometimes permissive Muslim empire.
It was a relatively good time for some Jews, but the reconquest of Spain will be the opposite. Disunity against the Arabs/Moors against the unifying and rising church.
Muslims are also expelled in the rerise of Christianity.
Matthew 27: Core text of Christian anti-Semitism. Pilate: What should I do with him? Crucify him. "May his blood be on the blood of our descendants".
When you hold a people in contempt for a period of time, the mythology develops and then inheres or adheres.
The ideas of ritual murder and host desecration begin in England and make their way here.
As long as Christian Spain needed the Jews, they were fairly well off. But when no longer crucial, it became a catastrophe for the Jews.
There is an intense fear in the Church that the Jews will subvert Christianity.
Ultimately, some Jews including Rabbis decide it's better to convert. Like us (Jews), the Church holds that conversion is full and permanent. A Rabbi could become a Bishop, a Cardinal, and did.
Crisis of Faith in Islam: Their biggest contribution to the world was science and (the rediscovery and learning of) Greek culture and learning. This leads toward rationalism, loss of faith.
In western Europe during the Crusades, most Jews will die. But in Spain, a 3rd of the Jewish population converted.
The older Christians resent the New Christians. Are they REALLY Catholics? Conversos, Marranos . How do you find out? Inquire. Leads to an inquiring. INQUISITION.
Dangerous Concept: Spain Can't Be Great Without Religious Unity.
Torquemada may have forced the hand of Ferdinand & Isabella: Don't sell out Our Lord for silver and gold.  We'll never know what was or wasn't said.
Columbus: They KNEW the earth was round. But Columbus thinks he can find a shortcut. But he's not in China. He's in the Caribbean. Then the Spaniards bring God, Gold and Glory. And smallpox.
If you kill off the indigenous population and you need workers, you're then going to need slaves. This is the source of the slave trade.
1/5 of all the gold and silver come to Spain.
After combing the neighborhood for our lunch, we continued with the afternoon tour, visiting two of Gaudi's great triumphs --the Park Guell and the basilica Sagrada Familia.
The story of these remarkable places will be told mostly and most effectively through the photographs. Look for them soon!
Gaudi worked on the Park from 1900 to 1924.
Antoni Gaudi --1852-1926
1898-1904 was a period of building of much of Barcelona's most famous architecture.
Sagrada Familia is the most important monument of the city...a minor basilica, but....a major (that's an understatement) building. . . an "expiatory" church. They bought a block in the city and started building in 1882. Gaudi replaced original architect in 1883. After finishing La Basera in 1912, he worked until his death in 1926. Private project paid with private funds, so no interference from Church or government.
Still being built today, and there are still 10 years of work left in it. 8 of 12 towers have been built. (Well, there will be 18. . . "chai" as noted by our guide. . .so I don't know if it's 8 of 12 or 14 of 18 or what.  Anyway. . . ) 70% of the construction is done. In 10 years, 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death, should be finished.
We saw the east façade first...nativity: Hope, Charity Faith l to r
To my taste, this was the most endearing side.  The eventual entrance is very modernist and not as welcoming.  The west facade has the last parts of Jesus' life -- and again, in a much more modernist (kind of Star Wars-y style).  But this isn't my religion. . . And I don't get a vote!
That's it for today.  Tomorrow. . . Off to the home of Nachmanides (Ramban).