By: Lawrence Collin
In 2003, during excavating for the construction of a new Parador Hotel in Lorca in the Murcia region of Spain, the remains of a synagogue were discovered. Now lovingly restored within a wooden framework, the rectangular synagogue (which dates back to before The Expulsion of 1492) is the only one known to exist in Spain which has not been re-used as a religious building. Standing within the fortified walls of Lorca castle, high above the surrounding plain, the medieval Jewish community was protected from the unpredictable violence which could arise further afield.
Fast forward now to the present day when a thriving Jewish community has, for over a decade, been in existence along the southern Costa Blanca. Comprising both permanent residents and second home owners who come and go, the group, led by Alan and Jackie Harris, has grown from strength to strength. Regular monthly Shabbat Services, led by Alan, are held once a month on Friday evenings and other festivals like Hanukkah and Simchat Torah are celebrated during the year. Through Alan’s perseverance and connections, the community have also acquired two Sifrei Torah – thus now setting the stage for the culmination of possibly the most inspiring and moving event that Spain, in its current zeitgeist of Jewish Renaissance, has seen. For, on 2nd October, the first service (Simchat Torah) in over 525 years was celebrated at the Lorca Synagogue. Almost seventy people came along to reunite the shell of the medieval synagogue, recently arisen phoenix like from oblivion, with its very soul – the Sefer Torah scrolls - on what, appropriately, is one of the most joyful days of the Jewish calendar. For, just as Simchat Torah marks an end and a beginning, a continuity, a spiritual rebirth, last night bore testimony to the great resilience of the Jewish people in surviving adversity, in coming through yet another cycle of persecution and resurrection.
Photographs and videos of the service can be viewed in the Gallery section.
Click HERE to view them.
Friday 29th January 2021