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Spain’s Returning Jews

The last 150 years have seen a chequered but eventually triumphant reintegration of Jews into a society whose heritage they helped to mould, says C.C. Aronsfeld

Spain's progress during the past century and a half has been largely her emancipation from the stern rule of the Catholic Church. Here the Holy Inquisition survived until long after the French Revolution; here the Church stood (in Raymond Carr's words) 'as a symbol of Spain's distance from cultivated Europe', and her struggle to overcome this distance was 'the whole debate of the nineteenth century'. The freedom of worship which the Roman Syllabus of Errors (1864) solemnly condemned as the 'pest of indifferentism' was to be granted to all, for the denial of that freedom was seen as the root cause of Spain's decline.

Those immediately affected were the fairly numerous Protestants, but equally entitled were the practically (in Spain) none-existant Jews whose forefathers had been expelled by the Catholic Kings as far back as 1492. The too entered the debate, and a few years after the Inquisition had been finally suppressed (1834), the first interest is shown in them. A History of the Jews in Spain is published by the learned Adolfo de Castro who had already written a History of the Persecution of the Protestants under Philip II, and about the same time the redoubtable Jose Amador de los Rios produced his Studies on the Jews of Spain. They denounce the injustice done to the Jews, and in this general spirit of toleration an advance guard of moderados begins gently to shake the reactionary regime of Queen Isabel in 1854.

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