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Reflections on Our Journey to Spain

04/30/2019 03:08:29 PM

Apr30

by Am Shalom member Phyllis Victorson

Traveling to Spain with Am Shalom was a lot of fun. Our friendly group bonded quickly thanks to the warmth of Rabbi Steve and the inspiring music of Craig Taubman. Mike Hollander, our educational leader, added depth and Jewish perspective to the history our competent local guides shared. All in all, it was a very rich experience.

Despite the fun and richness, for me, there was sadness too. As we toured, there was barely a trace of the vibrant Jewish life that once existed in Spain. No scars on doorposts where a mezuzah once hung; no stars of David permanently etched on buildings. Maybe a hidden trace could be found in a house of worship that clearly was once a mosque but later became a church. And, yes, there was a Jewish Street in Toledo and a statue of Maimonides in Cordoba. But considering Jews were influential advisors, doctors, poets and philosophers intermittently for nearly 1500 years, evidence was scarce. In our 600 year absence, we had all but disappeared!

But I was not to dwell on the down side of our history in Spain for long. Following the death of Franco, the Spanish Constitution of 1978 granted all Spaniards the right to religious freedom. Furthermore, in 2014 the Spanish government passed a law offering Spanish citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled by edict of expulsion without having to renounce any other citizenship they might have. Once again, times were changing for Jews who roots are Sephardic.

While these events are encouraging, the most powerful moments for me came while we shared Kabbalat Shabbat with a fledgling progressive congregation. Services were conducted and a d'var was given by young lay-leaders. Rabbi Steve shared his heart and perspective with us as well. The congregation even sang songs written by our very own Craig Taubman! Worshipping with this group of people who are re-discovering their Jewish roots moved me; I felt as if Jewish life was returning to Spain after 600 years in exile. We can be jailed, mistreated, tortured and expelled but we keep coming back. Am Yisrael Chai!

Thank you to Am Shalom for offering such a rich and inspiring trip, a trip that added depth and beauty to my own Jewish journey.

 

Wed, May 22 2019 17 Iyar 5779