Jewish Heritage in Spain and Portugal

BĂ©jar (W, SP)

BejarThe first people to settle this area were the Vettones in the 5thcentury B.C.E.  Subsequently, it was conquered by the Romans (2ndcentury C.E.), Moors (8thcentury) and Christians (12thcentury).  In the 13thcentury the manufacture of cloth was begun, giving rise to the textile industry for which Béjar would become famous.

The first evidence we have of Jewish presence in Béjar is a tombstone dating from the end of the 12thcentury.  Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together in this town for hundreds of years, and by the 15thcentury it is estimated that 20% of the population was Jewish.  Jews here worked at the same occupations as their Christian neighbors:  there are documents referring to Jewish shoemakers, doctors, and farmers, especially vine growers.  They also worked in crafts related to Bejar’s important textile industry, as weavers, dyers, and tailors. 

In 2005 Jewish philanthropist David Melul founded the museum which bears his name.  Located in a 15th-century mansion, its exhibits tell the story of the Jews from the time of their first arrival on the Iberian Peninsula until the expulsion, and the conversos who remained in Spain, subject to the scrutiny of the inquisition.  Special attention is paid to the descendents of people from this town--those with such family names as Behar, Bejar, Bejarano…

A curiosity:  the bullring in Béjar is the oldest functioning one in the world, dating from the beginning of the 18thcentury.

More about Bejar

Jewish Bejar