Sephardic Graves Destroyed in Spain
Ongoing excavations in a 600-year old Jewish cemetery in the city of Toledo, Spain have sparked protests worldwide. Construction of a school on cemetery grounds began in the 1980s, and destroyed a large part of the graveyard. Current plans for an expansion would destroy 85 more graves. The cemetery is part of the Jewish quarter which dates back to before the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. Officials from Israeli organizations and a delegation of American rabbis recently traveled to Madrid to meet with representatives of the Spanish government. They expressed the concern that Jews worldwide have about preserving these important parts of Spanish Jewish history. – Correspondent Dave Gordon
Anti-Semitism at 45 Percent in Italy
The Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan, found that 45 percent of Italians had at least one of three forms of anti-Jewish stereotypes. About 10 percent reported “classic” stereotypes, such as “Jews are not really Italians at heart” or “Jews can’t be trusted.” About 11 percent had “modern” stereotypes, such as Jews control politics and the media, and another 12 percent had “contingent” stereotypes, mostly related to anti-Zionist views. About 12 percent had all three kinds of bias. About 55 percent either held no anti-Semitic prejudice or were “indifferent.” Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano spoke during a ceremony to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day, saying it was legitimate to criticize the Israeli government for its recent actions in Gaza, but it is not legitimate to question Israel’s right to exist in peace and security. – Correspondent Dave Gordon
Jerusalem Museum Resumes Construction
The Israeli Supreme Court recently issued a unanimous ruling that allows the Simon Wiesenthal Center to resume construction on its Museum of Tolerance project in western Jerusalem. The court denied the contention of Sheik Raed Salah, a known anti-Semite and Hamas supporter, that the building site, a municipal parking lot, was a Muslim cemetery. For the last 50 years, hundreds of Jews, Christians and Muslims parked their cars every day on the site, without any protest from Muslim groups or religious leaders claiming that the site was sacred, or was historically or religiously important. The small number of bones found at the site were between 300 and 400 years old, unaccompanied by any marker identifying a name, family or religion. Under the supervision of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the bones will be treated with the utmost dignity and will be re-interred in accordance with Muslim tradition. – Correspondent Dave Gordon
Arab Headdress Added to Police Uniform
The police force in London has made it easier for female Muslims to join the agency by adding the hijab (the Muslim headdress worn by women) into the official uniform. The hijab will be black, and made of flame retardant material. Female officers who choose to wear the veil will place the standard police hats on top of it.
Women make up about 23 percent of the London force’s officers. Superintendent Geoff Feavyour, who leads the Leicestershire Constabulary recruitment team, said, “Clearly, we want people from all walks of life to join the force, and the fact we have the hijab available now shows our commitment to that.” – Correspondent L. Mizrahi
Valmadonna Jewish Library for Sale
Assembled over the past century, the Valmadonna Trust Library, which consists of over 11,000 works from all over Europe, Asia and Africa, collected by Mr. Jack Lunzer and his family, is up for sale. Mr. Lunzer’s efforts have produced a library which includes books dating back to the tenth century and which rivals in prestige the British Library, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, La Bibliotheque Nationale de France and the National Library of Israel.
The collection’s most prized possession is the Pentateuch Codex Valmadonna I, the only dated Hebrew text in existence from medieval England. Other books include a Prague Haggadah from 1526, Sefer Abudarham dating back to 1516, the sole complete edition of the Mishna with Maimonides’ commentary printed in Naples, 1492 and over 60 original books printed in the first mechanical printing press – Johanees Geutenberg.
Additionally, the library has a copy of the Daniel Bomberg Talmud – the first complete printed edition of the Babylonian Talmud circa 1520. The format of the Bomber Talmud remains the model for all subsequent editions to the present day. Mr. Lunzer acquired this copy as an exchange with Westminster Abbey in London. It took 25 years for him to accomplish this nearly impossible feat. He purchased a 900 year-old copy of the Abbey’s original Charter and then presented it to them in exchange.
This library was made available for viewing in the Sotheby’s rooftop gallery between February 9-19, 2009, and is now available for private purchase. – CM Staff