Some orthodox Jews refuse to enter such a building (A Madrid rabbi warns them, "If it says 'Blanca', do not enter!"), others feel uncomfortable, but the majority, like myself, take it in stride. It is part of a historical cycle that continues and is not much different from what it used to be. Now it is in the open, sugar coating or not, Toledo is a city that does not want Jews. It is a city that breaks windows of Jewish bookstores and restaurants. It is a city where tourist guides rather not deal with Jewish tourists. We are “a difficult lot, specially the Americans and Israelis.” What they do want from us is the dollars and the shekels. With those in hands, they will look the other way and swallow hard when they want to say that it was really the British historians that exaggerated about the seriousness of the Spanish Inquisitions, and that really we Jews bring it on ourselves like we always do. Of course, they are not anti-Semitic. They, the Toledans, are truthful, and Jews are good for high-end tourism. If you do not believe me, ask the mayor and the councillor of tourism, both “socialists and lovely people”!
A House that Does Not Belong to a Jew
No one is supposed to know, outside of a few citizens of Toledo, about the existence of the old Synagogue of Sofer, which is located across the street from the 15th century palace/convent of the Catholic King Fernando and Queen Isabella, and covered with water filtered through it wooden cover that lets not only rain through, but also garbage. The Synagogue of Sofer was “found,” after it disappeared from sight in 1480, by Professor Jean Passini, whose articles and book about Toledo and its Jewish Quarter I highly recommend. Today only a tourist guide can unlock the site that has no remains of the synagogue, which whatever has left--one wall--is covered.
Aquí está la puerta de Yahveh, por ella entran los justos. Gracias Te doy, porque me has respondido, y has sido para mí la Salvación.
Here is G_d’s door, through it only the just enter. I give thanks because You have answered my prayers and have been my Salvation. (My translation)
A Lost Synagogue
French Professor Passini, has a photo of this beam in his latest book on the Judería of Toledo, but does not say much about this find. His photo is very different from the one I received from a Toledano and the one I took. Moreover, the official photographer of the construction site, José María Moreno Santiago, has no photos of this particular beam. Some, who prefer to remain nameless, believe the beam was not found in this particular property but near the wall of the Sofer Synagogue, located across the street from El Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes. Most think that this is was placed at the entrance of this “possible” miqvah, "mostly used by men" (at least most guides do not say that the miqvah was sometimes used for ocio, relaxation, like one of mine did!). In my humble opinion, I believe that this was a place where only the “just,”the Jews, entered to be literally saved during pogroms. These basements-there were others similar to this one in the Judería—offered strong protection against the onslaught of Christian masses after Catholic priests such as Ferrer stirred them up in the 14th and 15th centuries.
A Legend That Survives
The 21st century Jewish tourist who reads, researches, and asks questions leaves Toledo with a bad taste in her mouth. No wonder the Spanish official tourist guide does not want to deal with her! "Too opinionated," he says. "Too belligerent for no reason," he emphasizes. How can someone who has grown up with symbols and words that point to anti-Semitism understand? How can someone look at the frescos of Bayeu in the Cathedral and lecture the poor tourist about its beauty forgetting its subject, the horrible legend of the martyrdom of a Christian child by Jews during Passover to drink his blood.
It is in the plans for the near future for more Jewish tourists to come as part of a deal that the mayor of Toledo talked about during his most recent trip to Israel in March 2012. I wonder how the official tourist guides will deal with the mass of Israeli tourists expected or will they bring their own experts? It is not clear if they will be visiting the church that wants to be a synagogue, la Sinagoga de Santa María la Blanca. Will their Rabbi advise them to do so? Will they visit “La Casa del Judío” or will they consider it part of the Disneyland the government of Toledo has built in order to attract Jewish tourism, which they believe to be rich. I would hate to disappoint them by telling them otherwise. Do they know that it is highly cultured? This group of tourists will then keep asking those difficult questions and informing them of the palpable truths.
- Bosch¸Lynette M. F. Art, Liturgy, and Legend in Renaissance Toledo (History of Jews in Spain, including 14th-15thcentury pogroms and the Spanish Inquisition, 1492-1834).
- Duncan, Ronald, “St. Vicente Ferrer and the Anti-Semitism of Fifteenth Century Spain,” Society for Crypto Judaic Studies.
- El Museo Sefardí, Toledo, España.
- “El turismo judío de EEUU, el objetivo del Ayuntamiento,” La Tribuna Digital de Toledo (27 September 2011)
- Encuentros en la Judería de Toledo, 13-15 Abril 2012.
- Estudio sobre antisemitismo en España, CasaSefarad-Israel, 2010.
- Fraternity Mary Morning Star.
- Go on a Tour and Meet the Anusim Father Abraham Kron (See May 12)
- Padre San Juan de la Cruz (Abraham Kron), Santa María la Blanca, Toledo, Red de Juderías.
- “La Casa del Judío,” Rutas Patrimonio Desconocido-3: Consorcio de Toledo.
- "Page viajará la próxima semana a Israel para estudiar proyectos de promoción turística," La Tribuna de Talavera(11 March 2012).
- Palomero Plaza, Santiago, Historia de la Sinagoga de Samuel Ha Leví y del Museo Sefardí, Toledo: Ediciones del Ministerio de Cultura, 2007.
- Passini,Jean, La Judería de Toledo, Madrid: Ediciones del Sofer, 2011. (There is a French and English edition of this book. See #s 12, 13 and 14).
- Passini, Jean, "La Sinagoga del Sofer," Sefarad 64(2004) 141-157.
-“Photo Gallery: Toledo, Spain,” National Geographic (It includes a 1982 photo of the Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca).
- Roth, Norman, “New Light on the Jews of Mozarabic Toledo,” JSTOR, 1986.
- Santa María la Blanca, Turismo de Castilla y La Mancha.