Jewish Heritage in Spain and Portugal

Madrid (E, S, W, SP)

MadridOriginally founded as a Moorish fortress in the 9thcentury, Madrid first began to grow in size and importance when King Philip II moved his capital there from Toledo in 1561.  Somewhat isolated and provincial during Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975), with the advent of democracy Spain’s capital has flourished, becoming one of the most open, vibrant and multi-cultural cities in Europe.

Known for its late hours—dinner is typically at 10 p.m.--and exciting nightlife, Madrid is also an important center of art and culture.  The famous “Golden Triangle” encompasses Madrid’s most important museums (the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza), as well as many art galleries.     

Madrid also has a little-known Jewish history with two historical Jewish neighborhoods, as well as one of modern Spain’s largest Jewish communities.  Bet Yaacov, the modern main synagogue (Sephardic and Orthodox), was opened in 1968, one year after the Freedom of Religion Law was passed.  There is also a Masorti (Conservative) community, primarily made up of Ashkenazi Jews from Argentina.

In 2007 a Museum of the History of the Jewish Community of Madrid was opened in the Bet Yaacov Synagogue.  Madrid is also home to a Jewish school and two kosher restaurants.