A tiny Jewish community in Las Palmas, Spain is endangered and threatened with closure. Spain’s entire Jewish population is comprised of 13,000 – 50,000 Jews, although this community in the Canary Island’s capital numbers only about 15 people.
“We had about 50 families around the time of the High Holy Days in 1997,” said Dr. Paul Brami, Vice President of the Jewish Community of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – and also its chazan (cantor) and Baal Koreh (Torah reader). He and his family moved from France to Las Palmas, via Lanzarote in 1995. As with many communities, emigration (mostly to Canada and Israel) and attrition rates due to old age, meant a steady decrease in the community’s numbers. “Our “Rabbi, a wise and accurate Talmudist, passed away near 2 years ago,” Brami added.
The tiny community is hospitable, welcoming travelers who vacation on the island and go the synagogue in search of a minyan (prayer quorum) or a meal. Despite this, on a week-to-week basis the synagogue struggles to get enough people to sustain a prayer service on Shabbatot (Sabbaths) and Holidays. The island also has no kosher store, butcher or mikve (ritual purification bath). Individual community members do what they can – including bringing food from Madrid and sometimes from Israel. And because Gran Canaria is an island, one is permitted to use the sea as a means of purification, even though there is no designated ritual bath.
The Jewish Community of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a Zionist one – in which many of the elder’s children have made Aliyah – but they keep their allegiance quiet (there isn’t even a sign pointing out the community’s whereabouts). “There is a large muslim community, most of them from Morocco and Southern Sahara and Mauritania, but also some from Syria and Lebanon and many Palestinians,” Brami explained. The community did run a website, but now its creator maintains a Facebook page, Judios en Canarias (Jews in the Canaries). He added that the small Jewish community has good relations with local Spaniards, who do not consider them a threat, as well as a good relationship with the local newspaper La Provincia.
The threat to the community’s viability stems from the location of their synagogue. Since 1993, the community has paid rent on time every month. At one stage the owner proposed that the community bought the apartment, but there was never enough money available for that to be a viable solution. And now, the owner would like to sell the apartment for 200,000 Euros ($228,000). Brami would be delighted if a donor would come forward, purchase the apartment and rent it out to the community. “Another idea is to get a sponsor that could buy it and donate as a philanthropic gesture with the condition we should donate back the money to any organisation the sponsor likes,” he added.
One of the most interesting parts of this story is they way that Dr. Brami got in touch with Breaking Israel News. Having seen a recently posted video about a Dutch synagogue being forced to close its doors, he reached out with the community’s story.
Brami is sanguine about the community’s fate arguing that “perhaps it is the destiny of all small communities to disappear.” There is something poignant though, about the potential further diminution of the Spanish Jewish community. The country has to an extent not recovered from its expulsion of Jews (and also its Muslims) – it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to save a tiny community hanging on for dear life.
Contact: Dr. Paul BRAMI – Vice-President of the Jewish Community of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – SPAIN