Oldest House in Barcelona Becomes Jewish Cultural Center

02 Jul 2019

A home in Barcelona, Spain, that was originally owned by Astruch Adret, a Jewish businessman who was forced to sell the property and convert to Catholicism in 1391, is now known as Casa Adret. The building houses a four-story Jewish cultural center that attracts hundreds of visitors a month. It’s also the headquarters of Mozaika, an award-winning magazine seeking to revive Barcelona’s Jewish culture.

Following jihadist attacks in the Catalonia region in 2017, the community’s chief rabbi encouraged local Jews to buy property in Israel on the assumption that Jewish life in Barcelona was “doomed.” Now, Casa Adret serves as torchbearer for Jewish identity in a city that is seeking to restore its Jewish heritage.

“Most of my classmates had never met a Jew in their lives, they didn’t know what being a Jew was and were filled with very old, Catholic stereotypes,” said Victor Sorensen a political scientist and one of the five founding members of the project.

According Manuel Valentin, another founder and a historian specializing in Jewish persecution in Barcelona during and after the Spanish Civil War, Jews in Spain have kept a historically low profile, especially during the end of the 20th century, largely because of scars left from Franco’s authoritarian reign.

“All synagogues and Jewish centers were closed between 1939 and 1949,” Valentin said. “[A]fter that, the country was run by a hyper-Catholic regime which, although outwardly open to Jews and Israel…drew its inspiration from Italian fascism. So Jews lacked a voice in public life.”

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