Shalom! - Hola!
I am glad to tell you that during my visit to Madrid, Spain, on 10-16 April I had the opportunity to be hosted by and to meet the members of local Jewish community.
Beside my participation in the youth antiracist conference "UNITED against intolerance" held with the significant support of local Movimiento Contra Intolerancia (Movement against the Intolerance) I was indeed blessed by the guidence of Federico Zukierman, the director of Madrid-based Info Medio, and of Linda Jimenez Glassman, the editor of an English service of "Radio Sefarad".
My encounter with Jewish Madrid resulted also in attending of Kabbalat Shabbat service in local community center on Balmes Street, with all required advanced notifications and security questionning in the entrance. And, by the way, my Israeli Passport and the familiarity with local community members were very much helpful.
The other good thing was my visit to the office of "Radio Sefarad" and meeting with their staff.
Please, visit the "English corner" on http://www.radiosefarad.com/principal.php and listen my interview entitled as "Valery Novoselsky: A Jewish Gypsy in Israel". It features both, Roma and Jewish issues.
During my stay in Madrid I have learned that the official number of Jews living permanently in Spain reaches 48 thousands and that this number consists mainly of two groups: earlier immigrants from North Morocco (especially, city Tangier) and recent immigrants from Argentina (some of whom came there via Israel). The interesting fact that the unique language Haketia, which is a mix of old Spanish, Hebrew, and Arabic words, is still used within the first group. And the matter of fact that it has achieved partial official recognition in the Spanish town of Melilla (located on the Mediterranean Rif coast of North Africa, neighbouring Morocco).
Even so, the participation in mentioned youth conference took the significant amount of my time, the experience of meeting the people with similar background and open ethno-religious identity made me feel at home in the capital of a country with dramatic and unique history for the Sephardic branch of Am Israel. While being under the positive impression from my trip to Madrid, I view the establishment of Casa Sefarad-Israel (Sepharad-Israel House) in Madrid this February as a progressive and clear-sighted step forward in developing of links of friendship and cooperation between the Spanish and Jewish people.
Hope to have more learning experiences in other parts of Spain during my further trips there!
Hasta la vista, Espana!
Editor of "Jewish Daily News" listserve.
Editor of Roma Virtual Network.