Jerusalem and the Jews of Spain: Longing and Reality

Developed and Curated by Shelomo Alfassa

An Exhibition at the Center for Jewish History in New York City | On Display Fall 2009 - Summer 2010

The historic link between Spain and its Jews has been a study of contrasts. Renowned as both the historic birthplace of Sephardic culture, Spain was also the site of dark moments in Jewish history.  
The American Sephardi Federation/Sephardic House(ASF/SH)) will examine this historic link between Spain and the Jewish people in a Symposium entitled "The Jews of Spain: Past and Present" which will take place December 5 - 7, 2009 at the Center for Jewish History in New York City.

A key part of the program is an exhibition entitled "Jerusalem and the Jews of Spain: Longing and Reality," created by Shelomo Alfassa. Mr. Alfassa devised the concept and curated the exhibition, conducting research at both the Harvard University and Yeshiva University libraries.

Senior Spanish Government officials will be coming to New York to join eminent scholars from the United States, Canada and Israel in addressing both the triumphs and travails of the Sephardic Jewish legacy in Spain. ASF is organizing this international initiative with the invaluable assistance of the Consulate General of Spain in New York.  
The Saturday night opening will feature a Gala Concert and Dessert Reception with Spain's Paco Díez, who brings his voice, guitar, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, percussion, and scholarship of the folk traditions from the varied regions of Spain. The Symposium program will initially address the contributions of Jews to Spain through scholarship (Jewish thought, mysticism, Maimonides, etc.) Culture (e.g. artists, poets, etc) then focus on the darker medieval period (the Inquisition, the Dispersion, etc.) finally addressing "Spain and its Jews Today," with the participation of Enrique Múgica Herzog, Spain's Ombudsman and Jacobo Israel Garzón, President of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Spain.  A book published on the proceedings of the Symposium, documenting the deep roots of the Sephardic heritage in Spain, will be translated into Spanish and distributed to universities, libraries, etc. throughout Spain.  
The entire program has been made possible through the generous support of The Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. The Symposium has elicited the support and participation of Casa Sefarad/Israel in Madrid; the Red de Juderias in Girona, the Instituto Cervantes, New York and The Catalan Center at NYU. 
While this project will no doubt be of interest to Sephardim, the ASF/SH is committed to promoting this program to a wider Jewish and non-Jewish audience in order to enrich the public knowledge about the Sephardic Jewish experience. The Symposium is part of a year-long initiative that ASF has organized throughout 2009-2010, on "The Jews of Spain: Past and Present".

The exhibition is free and open to the public through Summer 2010.

TV Stillframes from an interview with City University of New York (CUNY TV) 

Jerusalem and the Jews of Spain: Longing and Reality

"A 23-foot-wide canvas map depicts the world as a cartographer might have drawn it in 1492, when Jews were expelled from Spain. Jews settled in all corners of the world, but they never forgot Jerusalem; poetry, religious texts, lithographs, engravings, historic photographs and reproduced documents spotlight the centuries-old yearning for the holy city. Through the summer at the American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History in New York."


—Rahel Musleah, Haddasah Magazine (March 2010)