Origins and History

The Jewish Community of Madrid, since its foundation in 1917, is the main Jewish institution of the Autonomous Community of Madrid and one of the pillars of the development of Jewish life in the contemporary Spain.

After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, a long historical hiatus was opened during which the Jews could not live in Spain.

In the middle of the 19th century, the first Jewish families settled in Madrid, mostly from Western Europe.

As World War I broke out, many Jews settled in Madrid. Among them the prominent Zionist leader Max Nordau and Abraham S. Yahuda, then a professor of Hebrew at the Central University of Madrid (now Complutense University), who promoted the creation of the Community. The city`s first Synagogue was inaugurated in 1917: The Midrás Abarbanel, cornerstone of the Israelite Community of Madrid. This Synagogue was inaugurated a few years before the Community was constituted as such and approved its first statutes (1920). In those same years the Community manages to limit its own enclosure in the Civil Cemetery. The Community was consolidated around a small number of families that settled in a stable way in the city and, with the help of its first president Ignacio Bauer, acquired a greater presence in the social and cultural life of the city. In 1938, as a consequence of the Civil War, the only synagogue in Madrid was closed. The ceremonial objects are transferred to the Provincial Museum of Murcia. The Civil War and the first years of the Franco dictatorship determined the temporary closure of the Community, and the cessation of all forms of Jewish public life in the city.

From 1947, from the hand of some families settled in the city for decades and some recently arrived Jews from various countries in Europe, the Jewish Community is re-founded. In 1949 a new synagogue was inaugurated, the Lawenda Oratory. A decade later, the Community moved to a larger floor to house the new synagogue, Betzión on Pizarro Street, and other dependencies.

From the 50s, especially in the 60s, the Jewish population of Madrid increases greatly with successive waves of migration from Morocco and Tangier. At present, this is still the majority in the Community. The creation of the Council of Israelite Communities of Spain (1964), the inauguration of the Ibn Gabirol School (1965) and the construction of the community center of Balmes Street that houses the Beth Yaacov Synagogue (1968) are three outstanding milestones in the recent history of our community.

As a consequence of the military coup in Argentina, a considerable number of Argentine Jews settled in Madrid since 1976. The successive Argentine economic crises, especially the one that worsened in 2001, have attracted another important wave of immigration to our Community. Many families from other countries in Latin America, Israel and Europe have settled more or less permanently in these years.

With the end of the dictatorship and the promulgation of the Constitution in 1978, the longest period in the history of Spain of full religious freedom and equality of all citizens was opened. All this, together with the consolidation of the Jewish community institutions in Madrid and other cities in Spain, made possible, on the one hand, the signing of the agreement of the Federation of Israelite Communities of Spain with the Spanish State, and on the other hand, the various agreements of the Jewish Community of Madrid with the Autonomous Community of Madrid, thus establishing a legal and social framework for the life of Jews in Madrid, in keeping with its historical roots.

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