Jewish city story of Toledo

Toledo, close to Madrid, is famous for its walls and its historical success in silk and sword production. It was one of the most important Jewish cities of medieval Europe, and was even Spain's capital, before this was transferred to Madrid in 1561. Toledo is home to some of the largest Jewish archives in Europe. The ancient Jewish quarter of Toledo housed the famous Escuela de Traductores (School of Translators), allowing the local population to capitalize on the Jews' knowledge of Arabic and Hebrew and translate important works into Latin and Spanish.

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Jewish Quarter

The “Sephardic Jerusalem” is known around the world for the beauty of its synagogues and its Jewish quarter. The memory of the community has remained vivid in Toledo; historians have from the thirteenth and fourteenth century onward been able to supply fairly precise information about the location and history of the city’s Jewish community. Toledo is a city of great historical and artistic importance and is listed here as a World Heritage Site. At the time of its greatest splendor, just before 1391, Toledo had ten synagogues and five to seven yeshivot. In 1492 there were five grand synagogues, two of which survive: the Tránsito, now the Sephardic Museum, and Santa María la Blanca. The quarter can be reached through a gate. One of the many entrances is the gate Puerta de Assulca, which has in its vicinity in flea market where oil, butter, chickpeas, lentils and everything necessary for daily life are sold. Then it enters the streets, adarves (dead-end streets) and squares of the quarter. The main street is called Calle del Mármol and connects the Jewish quarter with the rest of the city. There is a market, places to pray, public baths, bread ovens, palaces and a wall. Near the Tagus river is the neighborhood Barrio del Degolladero, so named because here was the designated place for the ritual slaughter (shechitah) of beef-cattle. In the neighborhood Barrio de Hamazelt the richest Jewish families lived and in the street known today as San Juan de Dios, lived the best known Jew of Toledo: Samuel ha-Levi. He was the treasurer of the king Peter of Castile and ordered the building of a big synagogue, that later was known as the "Synagogue of el Tránsito". And as in all the Jewish houses, features a mezuzah containing passages from Deuteronomy affixed to its door-post. Two Jewish places of worship are preserved today (both as museums), Santa María la Blanca (formerly the Synagogue of Ibn Shushan) and El Tránsito. In a bygone age, every Friday before sunset, a rabbi sounded the shofar (a goat's horn) three times announcing the arrival of the Sabbath.  


Samuel ha-Levi Statue

Samuel ben Meir Ha-Levi Abulafia was a public figure, the treasurer of king Pedro I "the Cruel" of Castile and founder of the Synagogue of El Transito in Toledo, Spain. He was a member of the powerful Abulafia family, who provided leadership to the Jewish community of Toledo and Castile more generally since around 1200. Samuel's parents died of plague shortly after arriving in Toledo. Subsequently, he worked as an administrator to the Portuguese knight Juan Alfonso de Alburquerque, but soon became recognized enough to achieve employment at the court of Pedro I of Castile, first as camarero mayor (chamberlain), later as almojarife (treasurer), and as oídor (judge). His employment came to an end when the enemies of Pedro I, led by Henry of Trastámara, organized a pogrom against the Toledan Jewry, enabling them to assume possession of the royal treasures. The king, accompanied by Samuel Ha-Levi, marched to Toro to demand the return of his belongings. Following this, Samuel Ha-Levi supported the King in reclaiming Toledo for the crown, and in the establishment of a peace treaty with the Portuguese at Évora in 1358. In Toledo, he lived in the palace that is today the Museo de El Greco, and with the considerable riches bestowed upon him by his employer he founded the Synagogue of El Transito between 1355 and 1357. The building, still around today, was one of ten synagogues serving Toledo's large Jewish population. The building is architecturally exquisite and has features in common with the Muslim architecture of King Pedro's palace in Seville and the Alhambra palaces in Granada, even including inscriptions in Arabic as well as Hebrew. Its construction was opposed by the Catholic church, but King Pedro permitted it. The King was constantly criticized by his rivals for his permissive stance towards Jews, compelling him to turn against Samuel, having him incarcerated and tortured on suspicion of embezzlement in 1360. He died under duress of torture. The prominence of Samuel Ha-Levi Abulafia at Pedro's court is cited as evidence of his supposed pro-Jewish sentiment, but Don Samuel's success did not necessarily reflect the general experience of the Spanish Jewry in this period which was often marked by discrimination and pogroms. Even Samuel's career showed that the opportunities for Jews were restricted to certain offices and positions whereas other forms of advancement were denied to them.

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The city of Toledo, Spain has a rich Jewish heritage and is home to one of the largest medieval Jewish quarters in Europe. Today, Toledo retains much of its architecture including synagogues and tiles that can be seen throughout the city.⁠

Interested in learning more about Toledo's Jewish history? Join our virtual tour this afternoon, May 19th at 12pm ET/9am PT. Visit the link in bio to register.⁠

#jewishlearning #jewishhistory #synagoguearchitechture #toledo #jewishtoledo #jewish #jewishculture #jewishevents

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Temple Beth Sholom in Salem used grants, donations, and creative funding to install solar panels. Inspired by Beth Sholom’s project, the Oregon Interfaith Solar Campaign has been working on expanding solar energy in both individual homes and houses of worship. Professor Elliot Malz will speak on a Zoom program organized by Oregon Interfaith and the Climate Action Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.

To learn more about the project and the Zoom program, visit the link in our bio.
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Jewish Federations support the Holocaust Education and Antisemitism Lessons (HEAL) Act of 2023.

Led by Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Kathy Manning (D-NC), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), this bill requires the Department of Education to conduct a study on Holocaust education efforts across the country.

Jewish Federations across the United States have long worked to encourage states to require Holocaust education. Together, our system has introduced best practices, resources, and methodologies to ensure generations of students understand the horrors of the Holocaust and learn history’s lessons to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.

This bill is an important next step in understanding the state of this education across the country. Use the form below to reach out to your Representative and urge them to become a co-sponsor!

Visit the following link to take part:

#jewishtoledo #jewishfederationsofnorthamerica #holocausteducation #antisemitism

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Tu B'Shevat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, is the day that marks the beginning of a “new year” for trees. This day marks the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

Read more here:


#jewishtoledo #TuBShevat #trees

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We are still over the moon from our tour of ‘LETTERS FROM ANNE AND MARTIN’ last week, made possible by the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo’s Ruth Fajerman Markowicz Holocaust Resource Center and The University of Toledo Office of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion and College of Arts and Letters.

We reached over 1600 students in the Toledo area!

Email [email protected] to learn about how you can bring our traveling performances to your community!

#jewishtoledo #highschooldiversityprogram #lettersfromanneandmartin #annefrank #martinlutherkingjr #mlk annefrankcenter

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For #TuBShevat, we welcomed our local seniors to enjoy a special tasting of dried fruits and lifelike cookie trees that were almost too pretty to eat! hallieberi, VP Innovations, Programs & Services, gave a brief lesson on Tu B’Shevat as attendees tasted the many flavors of one of our favorite traditions.

Stay up to date with all of Jewish Toledo's senior programming here:


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Getting ready for Hanukkah? Check out this quick and easy 5-minute kosher sufganiyot (jelly donut) in-a-bag recipe from sojewlish via livekosher. Let us know how it turns out if you try it! 😋🍩 #JewishToledo ...

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What are you doing to better yourself? Let us know in the comments. 👇🏽🤔 #jewishtoledo #wednesdaywisdom #goldameir #jewishlife #jewishculture #jewish #womenwednesday #womensmonth #womenshistorymonth #womenshistorymonth2017 #jewishquotes #inspiration #jewishinspiration noa728 with repostapp
Golda was superb! #jewishwisdom #goldameir

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On Shabbat Hanukkah, we #shinealight with two mitzvahs of candle lighting in our homes. We light the menorah first and then the Shabbat candles as we dispel the darkness with our illumination.

#jewishtoledo #shabbatshalom #shabbathanukkah

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