Great discussion . . . I hate to interrupt, but I would like to post in English what Jav posted in Spanish in another thread. Although in the original version, which dates back to January 6, 2009 (this one), the organization gives some advice to the Spanish government. The conference was a couple of days ago in Brooklyn, New York.
Conference: http://jewishbreakingnews.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/brooklyn-jewish-leaders-meet-to-decry-desecration-of-ancient-jewish-cemeteries-in-spain/Medieval Jewish Cemetery Excavation In Spain Garners Joint Statement From Athra Kadisha And
Conference Of Academicians For The Protection Of Jewish Cemeteries
Jewish cemeteries are sacred sites to be protected not only by the norms of Western Civilizations, but by the
many international treaties and understandings relating to Freedom of Religion. The United Nations Charter is
but one such.
For Immediate Release
BROOKLYN, N.Y./EWORLDWIRE/Jan. 6, 2009 --- The following statement is issued by Rabbi Lazar Stern of
Athra Kadisha and Dr. Bernard Fryshman of the Conference of Academicians for the Protection of Jewish
cemeteries regarding the excavation of the medieval Jewish cemetery in Toledo, Spain:
The immense strides made by the Spanish economy over the past few decades, the exciting new technologies
developed in areas such as energy and transportation and the emergence of an open, vibrant society have
been captivating. The prospect of Spain taking its place as a full partner in the family of enlightened nations has
been universally welcomed.
Against this background, it is all the more disturbing to learn of ongoing excavations in the more than 600-yearold
Jewish cemetery in the city of Toledo.
Those lying here are ancestors of a great many American Jews, and include sages and scholars whose words
and works, even now, guide the daily lives of the Jewish people throughout the world.
Particularly relevant is the shared history of Spain and the Jewish people: a glorious era up until the end of the
14th century, subsequently the pain and horror of the Inquisition and Expulsion of 1492.
This would seem to impose a special moral obligation, a debt of history, to protect all that remains of the
glorious Jewish past in Spain - the cemeteries. Instead, one reads of the removal of human skeletons and
remains - an act which causes pain and anguish, and awakens national memories of the terror and
helplessness which characterized the Inquisition.
The response of Spanish authorities to worldwide protests and communications has been cold and callous. On
the one hand, the Spanish government has claimed that there was no desecration because the bodies will be
A most inappropriate response, given that conversations and communications with Spanish authorities have
explained that a Jewish cemetery is sacred ground. Violating this ground through unearthing the dead is a
sacrilege. Even though steps are taken to rebury the remains in an orderly fashion, the desecration, the
defilement occurs at the moment the digging begins.
Jewish cemeteries are established with the understanding that they will remain intact forever. This is a
covenant with the ground and ensures that those buried there will never be disturbed.
Such considerations fall within the category of Kovod Ha Met, i.e., the Reverence (in the sense of veneration
and awe) for the Dead. Violation of this central tenet of Judaism is a serious transgression of Jewish Law.
The Spanish government has also pointed to the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain (FJCP), a local
Jewish organization of recent origin, as sanctioning its activities.
It is highly doubtful that this is so. More to the point, no local Jewish community recently established can
arrogate unto itself any authority, control, or ownership over all Jewish cemeteries - nor do they have the
authority to sign any agreements relating to these ancient sacred sites. These are matters for experts in Jewish
law relating to cemeteries, of whom there are but a handful in the world.
Insofar as Toledo is concerned, the bodies removed must be returned to their original places of burial. As for
other Jewish cemeteries throughout Spain, particularly those lost over the last 500 years, Spain should emulate
practice in the United States. An archaeological review of a proposed building site is required to ensure it is not
a Native American burial ground. Only then is a building permit issued.
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In general, Jewish cemeteries are sacred sites to be protected not only by the norms of Western Civilizations,
but by the many international treaties and understandings relating to Freedom of Religion. The United Nations
Charter is but one such.
A person's humanity and dignity do not end with death. By respecting this dignity we affirm our own humanity
Contact: Rabbi L. Stern
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203 Penn Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
KEYWORDS: Asra Kadisha, Jewish cemetery, Rabbi L. Stern, Jewish holy sites, Spain, Toledo, Cemetery,
Jewish Cemetery, Jewish culture, jewish history, ancient religion, old cemeteries, cemetery desecration, religion
SOURCE: ATHRA KADISHA