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Majorca Sorry for 1691 Killing of Jews

An official from Majorca, Spain, has issued the first condemnation of the murder of 37 Jews in 1691.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 5/6/2011, 10:32 AM / Last Update: 5/6/2011, 10:49 AM

More than three centuries after 37 Jews from the island of Majorca were sentenced to death for practicing their faith, an official apology has been made. Balearic Islands regional president Francesc Antich attended a memorial ceremony for the victims.

“We are gathered here to recognize the grave injustice committed against those Majorcans who were accused, persecuted, charged and condemned to death for their faith and their beliefs,” said Antich, who was quoted in local media.

Late as it is, the apology still serves a purpose, Antich believes. “Memory opens wounds, but also helps to serve justice,” he said. Spain's Federation of Jewish Communities praised the event, which was attended by 130 people, including descendants of Majorca's Jews.

The Jews in question were killed for having continued to practice Judaism following the 1492 Spanish edict that Jews must either convert to Catholicism or leave the country. While many Jews left, with many forming new Jewish communities in the Middle East, and others assimilated into their Catholic surroundings, there were those who publicly converted and remained in Spain, while practicing Judaism in secret.

The Spanish Inquisition sought to find and punish those who had remained secretly Jewish.

The ceremony, held on Thursday, was the brainchild of Michael Freund, who runs the Shavei Israel organization, which seeks out “lost Jews” and helps them rejoin the Jewish people. Some of the communities it works with are “Bnei Anousim,” the descendants of those Jews who kept their practice hidden for centuries in Spain, Portugal, and later, in central and south America – including the community in Majorca.

Freund expressed hope that the ceremony in Majorca, and Antich's words, would inspire similar activities elsewhere in Spain. The ceremony was “an important gesture of friendship and reconciliation,” he said.

Shavei Israel emissary to Spain Rabbi Nissan Ben-Avraham was present at the ceremony as well and read the names of those killed.