Jewish Heritage in Spain and Portugal

Hervás (W, SP)

hervasThere was a saying in the XV century: “Hervás los judíos los más”, meaning that there were so many Jews in the village that visiting travelers received the impression that they were a majority.

Hervas was founded at the end of the 12thcentury when the Knights Templar built a chapel here, and a small Jewish community was established in the 13thcentury.  Dependent on the Aljama (Jewish quarter and institutions) of nearby Bejar, they worked primarily in the textile trade, as weavers, carders and clothiers.  The community grew, and eventually had their own butcher shop, bakery, and kosher wine press.  After the Expulsion Edict, only fourteen of its forty Jewish families remained in Hervas.

The present-day inhabitants of this town are very proud of their Jewish heritage, as evidenced not only by the well-preserved Jewish quarter—declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1969-- but also Jewish symbols one can see in the streets, one of which is called Calle de la Amistad Judeo-Cristiana (Jewish-Christian Friendship Street).

Every year the town pays tribute to its past during the festival called “Los Conversos”.  The locals adopt the dress and customs of their Jewish ancestors, there is a medieval-style crafts fair and the local taverns serve typical tapas.  The highlight of the festival is the performance of the play “La Estrella de Hervás” (“The Star of Hervás”).  Based on a medieval legend of passion, jealousy, insanity and impossible love, it is performed in a natural open-air venue by the townspeople themselves.