Museum dedicated to Spain’s Sephardic Jews to open in Malaga

Center aims to shed light on “unknown” heritage of the community’s leading thinkers

Malaga’s growing reputation as an arts and culture hub is about to be boosted with the opening of a center dedicated to the philosophical legacy of Spain’s Sephardic Jews. The Sephardic Cultural Center in the Mediterranean port city will focus on the legacy of the flowering of Jewish thought in Spain in the 15th century and on the thinkers of the Sephardic diaspora following the expulsion of Spain’s non-Christians in 1492 under Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the first monarchs of unified Spain.

A computer-generated image of the Sephardic Cultural Center.
A computer-generated image of the Sephardic Cultural Center.

The €2 million bill for the project is to be footed by Malaga’s Jewish community. The idea was first mooted 15 years ago but a shortage of funds put the plan on ice. But building is now set to begin toward the end of 2017 with construction expected to take two years. In the meantime, conferences and seminars are slated to begin as soon as possible.

Former US ambassador to Spain, Alan Solomont, will be honorary president of the center

Rubén Bentata, the president of the Israelite Community of Malaga, which represents the city’s Jews, says he would also like to see Malaga take the lead in 2021 with activities celebrating the thousandth anniversary of the birth in the city of the philosopher and poet Solomon ibn Gabirol, an important thinker who became influential under the Latin name of Avicebron.

The new two-story center will be located in the former Jewish quarter of Malaga, close to the Picasso Museum, which, along with the Centre Pompidou Malaga and the city’s Museo Carmen Thyssen, has made the city a hub for culture and the arts.

The center, also called the Sephardic Museum of Malaga, will house a synagogue and will operate as an exhibition space, a study center and a location for cultural activities. Different parts of the museum will focus on the great Sephardic intellectuals of Spain, the Sephardic literary tradition, the community’s architecture and the heritage of the Sephardic diaspora.

The center will focus on the legacy of the flowering of Jewish thought in Spain in the 15th century

It will be supported by institutions including the University of Malaga, while the foundation charged with the center’s management will have as its honorary president the former US ambassador to Spain, Alan Solomont.

The center will highlight the “literary and intellectual wealth of a community that has given us great thinkers, but about which we  know hardly anything,” says the future center’s curator, publisher and journalist Basilio Baltasar. He stressed that the center and museum would not just focus on Spanish Sephardic thinkers such as Maimonides but also on those born in exile such as Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher of Sephardic Portuguese origin.

The plan is to shed light on an “unknown” legacy, Baltasar said.

English version by George Mills.


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