Monday, 25 Sep 2023 - 10 of Tishri, 5784

Leased building in Madrid to house future Hispano-Jewish Museum

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The collection will “enrich the cultural approach of Jewish museums in the world,” per the Fundación Hispanojudía.

A Spanish Jewish organization secured a lease for a building that it says will soon become a 21,000-square-foot Jewish museum—the country’s first of that scale.

The museum will be situated in Madrid’s Salamanca district, which contains the National Archaeological Museum, about a mile-and-a-half away from three prestigious institutions: the Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum and Reina Sofía Museum.

“This museum, which will have a clear international vocation, comes to enrich the cultural approach of Jewish museums in the world,” according to a Spanish statement from the nonprofit Fundación Hispanojudía, which has been working on the project since 2016. “Its mission is to become an educational benchmark in memory and respect of difference.”

Located at Calle Castelló 21, the Hispano-Jewish Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2025, will aim “to unearth the common history between the Jewish people and 600 million Spanish speakers, exposing their shared values,” said David Hatchwell, president of the foundation.

The museum will have interactive exhibitions and “cutting-edge technology,” the foundation stated. “It will transport visitors through centuries of history and will allow them to discover the richness and diversity of Jewish culture in the Hispanic context, with a clear vocation to build a better future.”

Efforts will be made during the renovation of the building to respect the original building, designed by the Spanish architect Antonio Palacios, who died in 1945. The building is currently owned by Madrid’s transit system.

“The Hispano-Jewish Museum will become a cultural beacon worldwide,” the foundation stated.

Items on display at the Sephardic Museum at the Synagogue of El Tránsito in Toledo, Spain, which dates back to the 14th century and is home to a Sephardic museum. Photo by Menachem Wecker.

Other displays of Jewish culture can be found elsewhere in the country, including a very small one at what may have been a medieval synagogue in Barcelona, as well as a substantial Sephardic museum in Toledo at the Synagogue of El Tránsit that dates back to the 14th century. Objects with Hebrew inscriptions can be found at many of the country’s state museums and palaces (alcázares).

Some 13,000 affiliated Jews and 50,000 Jewish residents live in Spain, according to the World Jewish Congress. Prior to the expulsion in 1492, about 200,000 to 250,000 Jews lived in the country. In 1986, Spain recognized the State of Israel, after which the two created diplomatic ties.

Research has suggested that as many as 200 million people, mainly in Latin and North America and Europe, have “significant Jewish ancestry,” dating back to the era of the Inquisition.

“We believe that the history of Sephardic Jewry and its significant contribution still needs to be told,” Avi Abraham Benlolo, CEO of the Abraham Global Peace Initiative, a Canadian human-rights nonprofit, told JNS.

“Given the rising tide of antisemitism in Europe, documenting the Spanish Inquisition, if done right, can be an effective tool to showcase how Jews were impacted in the past,” Benolo said. “I would encourage drawing a parallel to contemporary forms of antisemitism so the public can come away with actionable information.”


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