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‎8 Tammuz 5784 | ‎14/07/2024

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Alcañices: A Border Town with a Jewish History, with Sergio Rodríguez

Alcañices: A Border Town with a Jewish History, with Sergio Rodríguez

ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: What did conversos in Alcañices put on their doorframes to cover the place where the mezuzah had been?

Dr. Sergio Rodríguez López-Ros is vice-rector of the Abat Oliba CEU University in Barcelona. He worked in a number of positions in the Spanish Foreign Service including as Director of two Cervantes Institutes.  He is considered to be an expert on cultural and corporative diplomacy, ethics and AI, transparency and sustainability, among other areas.  Since 1994 Dr. Rodríguez has worked to improve the conditions of the Roma population in Europe and has collaborated with Greenpeace and Amnesty International, among other NGOs.

Dr. Rodríguez was born in Barcelona, but his family was originally from Alcañices, a small town in the Spanish province of Zamora, about 310 kilometers or 190 miles to the northwest of Madrid, right on the Spanish-Portuguese border.  In fact, in 1297 a treaty was signed there, establishing the border between Spain and Portugal.  As happens with many small towns in Spain, it has a Jewish history that is practically unknown, because until recently it had never been researched.  Rodríguez became interested in that history and began to study it.  During its recent conference, Zamora Sefardí organized a visit to Alcañices, in which Dr. Rodríguez told us about his findings and gave us a tour of the town, with emphasis on its Jewish past.  He told us about typical Jewish occupations, which were mostly leather and other crafts in contrast to the non-Jewish population, who were mostly farmers.  We saw what had been a Jewish house and the tanneries, and he spoke about other Jewish sites, such as the cemetery. Near the river, which flows between high rocky hills, we saw two small flags, which mark the border between Spain and Portugal.  This remote frontier was an escape route for Jews at the time of the Inquisition and also during World War II.

In this program, Dr. Rodríguez tells us about the town of Alcañices and its place in Jewish history.