lunes, 30 de noviembre de 2020

Auschwitz, by León Felipe (Tábara, Zamora, 1884 – Mexico City, 1968)

To all Jews in the world,  my friends, my brethren

Those infernal poets,
Dante, Blake, Rimbaud…
keep it quiet…
don’t play so loud…
Shut up!
Any inhabitant of Earth today
knows more about Hell
than those three poets together.
I am sure Dante plays his violin very well
Oh, what a virtuoso!...
But he shouldn’t pretend now,
with his wonderful tercets, 
and his perfect hendecasyllables,
to scare that Jewish boy who has been ripped
from his parents;
he is alone.
waiting for his turn
in the crematories of Auschwitz.
Dante… you descended deep into the Inferno
guided by Virgil’s hand 
(Virgil, “Gran Cicerone”),
your Divine Comedy was a funny adventure
of music and tourism.
This is different… something else.
How should I explain it?  
if you don’t have imagination!
You… don’t have any imagination,
remember, in your Inferno
there is not a single boy
and the one you see there…
is alone.
He is alone! With no Cicerone…
waiting for the gates of Hell to open, 
a hell that you, poor Florentine,
could not have even imagined it.
This is different, let me explain. 
Look! This is a place where nobody
can play a violin;
all the violin strings in the world will break here. 
Do you understand that, Infernal Poets?
Virgil, Dante, Blake, Rimbaud…
keep it quite!
Don’t play so loud... Shh!...
Shut up!
I am also a great violinist
and I have played in Hell many times…
But now, here
I break my violin… and remain silent.  
Listen to the poem read in Spanish by León Felipe (click here)
Translation into English: Jesús Jambrina
Touchstone, Art & Literature Magazine, Vol. 82
Viterbo University, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA

León Felipe (Zamora, 1884 – Mexico City, 1968) is considered one of the major poets of the Spanish language in the twentieth century. He was also a playwright, and translator of American writers Walt Whitman and Waldo Frank. He graduated from Pharmacy, which brought him a nomadic life by working in different cities and towns. In 1920 León Felipe published his first poetry book in Madrid, titled The Walker’s Verses and Prayers. Soon after, he traveled to Equatorial Guinea to work at a hospital, and in 1922 he went for the first time to Mexico from where he visited the United States, and Panama. 

In 1936, León Felipe returned to Spain to fight in favor of the Spanish Republic against Francisco Franco’s fascist insurrection. In 1939, after a brief visit to France and Cuba, he returned to Mexico where he lived in exile until his death in 1968. 

León Felipe’s literary style was strongly prophetic with Biblical and Whitmanian influences, meaning a strong humanistic orientation. His writings delve deep into historical thinking as a call for a hopeful and socially just world. Since the arrival of democracy to Spain in 1975, León Felipe’s poetry has been valued as a testimony of the exiles during the Spanish Civil War; many of his poems have been musicalized,  and are greatly appreciated in both sides of the Atlantic as part of the Spanish American literary tradition.

 In 2002, the Zamora City Council in Spain acquired León Felipe’s original manuscripts, including many unpublished works, as the foundation for a future center of studies that will have his name. In 2010 the prestigious Spanish press Visor put in circulation the–so far–most complete collection of his poems. “Auschwitz” is included in the book Oh! This Old and Broken Violin(1965). 

jueves, 22 de octubre de 2020

Jewish, and converso last names from Zamora, Spain

Jewish and converso last names from historical archive documents in Zamora, Spain. Most are from the 11th to the 18th centuries, some are from inquisitorial cases in Portugal, mainly Tras Os Montes, but with residency in Zamora.

Spelling from the original source has been maintained, most are easily transcribable to modern orthography. When the last name is not a direct reference to the city of Zamora, location is included in parenthesis, as well as any other data or information to clarify context on the last name.

After the alphabetical list, there is a copy of Jewish and converso last names after 1492, drawn from a recent academic published article. For questions, comments or suggestions, please, email at 

A - Abadías, Abad de Aula, Abelaben, Abemiver, Abenamar, Abenahypón (Benavente)Abenjamil (Toro), Aben Baça (Baz, Vaz, Abençali), Abenbazar (Fuentesaúco), Abenamías, Aben Farax, Abenrrós, Aben Rubí, Abenzón, Abna, Abohaf (o Aboab), Ámbar, Alashkar, Alba (o Alvo), Albino (Bragança), Abolfazcan (Castroverde de Campos), Alfón, Alonso, Alvarez, Alua, Arama, Aven Sento

B - Bellamín (Villapando), Beny, Berroy (Fermoselle), Bida, Bueno

C - Cabeça (Villalpando), Cañizal, Campantón (también Canpanton, Qanpanton, Kanpanton), Cardero, Carvajal (Bermillo de Sayago y Benavente), Catalán, Castro, Colodre (Toro), Cominete, Comineto (Benavente), Conde, Chamorro, Cedillo, Corcos, Cordero, Çaragoça, Çalama, David (Toro),

D - De la Fuente (Fuentesaúco)

E - Estuñiga

F - Fernández

G - Galochero (Villalpando), Gambuayo, Garçia, Gazapo, Gómez (Toro), Gonçalez,

H - Habib, Ha-Leví (Toro)

J - Jambrina (1994 record from the Jewish Cementery in Madrid), toponym of a town 10 miles Southeast of Zamora.

L - Lopes (Trancoso), Luna

M- Manrique, Marcos (Villalpando), Maldonado, Medina, Méndez (Coimbra), Meir, Milano, Monzón (Alcañices), Musa

N - Naci, Melamed, Nuño de Fito

O- Oeb, Orabuena (Fermoselle), Ortuño (Bragança)

P- Paz, Peres, Pordomingo (Sayago), Portuguesa

R - Rico (Fuentesaúco), Rodríguez, Romi

S - Saba, Salón, San Román, Santa Ana

V - Valçina, Valencia, Valensí, Venialuo, Vida, Villalobos (Villalpando)

T- Tornero, Torralvo,


Z - Zamora (besides the city, also present in Villalpando)

The following last names along with their Christian ones after 1492 were copied from: Martialay,Teresa,  “Conversos y atribución de identidades conversas en tiempos de la expulsión de los judíos de la diócesis de Zamora” en Amrán, Rica & Antonio Cortijo Ocaña, Eds, Minorías en la España medieval y moderna, siglos XVI - XVII, eHumanista, 2017, 33-46

Abraham de Valencia (Fernando de Valencia)
Abraham aben Rubí (Maestre Fadrique)
Jaco de Medina (Fernand Pérez)
Mosé Obadías (Fernando de Miranda)
Rabí Salomón (Tomás)
Ysaque aben Farax (Pedro Osorio)
Yuçe Melamed (Luis Núñez Coronel)
Reyna Corcos (Isabel Osorio)

Abraham aben Baça (Juan de la Peña)

According to Martialay, the following names appear on the documents only as conversos without their Jewish names or last names

Clara (wife of Tomás)
Isabel Fernández (widow of Simuel of Ámbar) and her daughters
Martín Alonso (two persons with the same name)
Fernand Gómez, his wife and children
Manuel Pérez
Isabel Fernández (widow of  Simuel Gambuayo) y her children
Alonso de Zamora
Juan de Zamora
Juan de Valencia
Maese Pedro

sábado, 22 de agosto de 2020

Why supporting Centro Isaac Campanton?

1- We are a group of community Scholars studying Jewish legacy in the region of Zamora, Spain, where Jews lived for more than a millennium
2- Lines of research include:
· Documented Jewish presence from the 10th to the 15th centuries
· Jews from Zamora in the diaspora
· Crypto Jewish communities from 1492 to the present
· B´nei Anusim memories and stories
· Homage to twenty-two antifascist fighters from Zamora incarcerated in Mauthausen
· Help families building their Jewish genealogies
3- Centro Campanton has organized eight international congresses (2013-2020) along with annual cultural events & activities related to Jewish life
4- Collaboration with local organizations, government and academic institutions to recuperate Jewish historic landmarks in the city and in the region
5- Centro Campanton have sponsored books publications, peer reviewed papers, and presentations at conference and events.
6- Current projects we are trying to advance:
· A Jewish Museum in Zamora, to also house the Center
· Publication of congresses proceedings
7- This website chronicles our major programs and if you need more information you can reach us via email at

sábado, 22 de febrero de 2020

Zamographies, July 2-3, 2020 (postponed)


City of Zamora, Spain

Call for Participation
                                                                           Our 2020 annual meeting wants to explore different Jewish branches of the Zamora last name, transliteration included, for example, Zamiro, Zamory, Zamir, Zmiro, Zamero, Zamorano*, in Spain and abroad. 

Genealogy, and the stories around it, allow us to explore itineraries across time and space; our goal is to present live connections among people researching their Jewish ancestry.   

Zamora had an important Jewish population in the Middle Ages, specially between the 11th and the 15th centuries. The first Zamora last name is registered for philosopher, and Kabbalist Abraham ben Solomon of Zamora (13th century), well known to his peers during his time.
Before and after 1492, this toponymic last name was used by judeocoversos, including Gabriel of Zamora, trialled by the inquisition in Seville 1481 (First seizure of marranos), and Alfonso of Zamora, founder of the Hebrew Language Studies at University of Salamanca (16th century), and later professor at Alcala de Henares. At the end of his life, he called himself “the last sage of Sefarad” (reference in Spanish).           
We invite you to share this Call for Participation with all persons interested in this topic. Enrollment is open to the public and, like every year, it covers several related events and activities like visit to historic Jewish Quarters, book presentations, Sephardic culinary demonstration, concerts and more.

For updates in the coming months you should visit this page or if you have questions, you can email us at or send a WhatsApp to +34 609 740 116

*Transliterations are changes in the word with the same linguistic root (Zam), for example: Zambrano, Zamatto, Zamero, Zamerro, Zamie, Zamlug, Zamra, Zamor, Zamorani, etc. In Portuguese language, Z usually changes to S. Here reference for Zamora last name at The Museum of the Jewish People (click here)

To know more about our previous events, see the pages with summaries: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII

lunes, 23 de diciembre de 2019

Tales of Sefarad

By Karen Sherman, La Crosse, Wisconsin

Prof. Jesús Jambrina and Dr. Abraham Haim
Lucky La Crosse for having higher learning institutions to be able to share benefits of international research. Jesús Jambrina, one of my former Viterbo University’s World Languages and Cultures Department colleagues’s research of the Jews of Zamora, Spain led to being awarded the Medal of the Four Synagogues 3 years ago, and Dr. Abraham Haim, President of the Council of Jewish Sephardi Community of Jerusalem returned recently with a Diploma of Recognition for the inclusion of the topic of Sephardic Jews in courses, research and campus activities at Viterbo.

During Dr. Haim’s weeklong visit he gave numerous presentations throughout our area regarding the Sephardi ( Spanish Jews) and their Ladino language. The Thursday of his visit he had a meeting breakfast followed by a road trip to talk on Decorah’s Luther College campus before speaking to our La Crosse Congregation Sons of Abraham that evening, where he received a warm welcome and dinner. 

During that visit Dr. Haim gave a brief talk of Ladino history accompanied with examples of Ladino music. He sang some songs a cappela, and others accompanied on guitar by spiritual leader Brian Serle along with some group singing.

The following morning courtesy of our public library, I attended a more extensive overview of the Sefardi, Spanish and Portuguese Jews who in 1496-7 had to go into exile with their culture of music, foods and Ladino language.

Using the basic "W" question Dr. Haim answered the them regarding the Sephardi, the Jewish Spaniards:

Where did they live? They lived on the Iberian peninsula but not limited to the Andalucia geographical location although it was the center of Jewish life in the Middle Ages close to Granada, the sea, in the capitals, towns and cities, Majorca, the Canary Isles, etc.

When did the Sephardi exist? Differing opinions as to whether it 586 BCE after the destruction of the first temple or the same date the 9th of Av in 70 AD after the destruction of the second Temple.

Who were the Sephardi? After the 15th century these Spanish Jews were numerous proud, cultural and creative ~600,000 of the world’s 1.5 million world Jews integrated Spain. They were culturally moderate without losing their identity. 

During the muslim 7 centuries of rule after invading and conquering Spain (except for Asturias in the north) Muslims, Jews and Christians coexisted. The Jews’s position was affected but treated better than living under the visigoths and even North African Jews also immigrated to the Iberian peninsula like Western European Jews who would eventually move where they could practice their Judaism in Iberia.

Between the 10th and the 12th centuries -the Golden Age- the Sephardi were accepted in society and flourished religiously, culturally, and economically. It wasn’t until the end of the era in the mid 12th century, and new Berber rule that Jewish persecution, and a massacre occurred in Granada, and both Muslims and Jews fled to Toledo which had been reconquered by Christian forces (~1086) 

After the reconquest (of Toledo and other northern christian cities), the Jews translated Arabic texts into the Romance Languages and “also contributed to botany, geography, medicine, mathematics, poetry and philosophy.” Several synagogues were built in Toledo. 

“The anti-Jewish riots of 1391 and the Alhambra Decree of 1492, as a result of which the majority of Jews in Spain (around 300,000) converted to Catholicism and those who continued to practice Judaism (between 40,000 and 80,000) were forced into exile, although many thousands including Moroccan Jews returned in the years following the expulsion.”

Ferdinand and Isabel united with nobility for the 1492 Inquisition forced the Jews to either convert to Catholicism, be killed (buried alive)/ be expelled. 1/3 of the Jewish population left Spain.

Jews had been previously expelled also from France and Germany in the 13rd  and 14th centuries. In 1492 Spain Jews lost their property, careers, but their culture was left in tact. The same thing happened in Portugal 5 years later. 

The Ottoman Empire controlled most of southeastern Europe from the 15th- early 20th Century… The Jews continued to begin new lives elsewhere.

What language did they speak? They spoke dialects of Iberian languages (Castilian, Catalan, Gallego, Leones...) but moved so much that their ladino language which is a mixture of Spanish and Yiddish served as a common thread. Language changes include j-ch, the change of the r and d sounds, u vs o. Those who speak Spanish can understand it due to its Spanish roots.
Some converts returned to Judaism in the 16th and following centuries all across Europe and the Americas. Other Sephardi who survived the inquisition, immigrated to Israel at the end of the 19th Century. Many people of Spanish descent are still discovering their Sephardi roots today.

In 2014, the descendants of Sephardi Jews, who were exiled in 1492, were offered Spanish citizenship, without being required to move to Spain and/or renounce any other citizenship, which they currently may have.” 

Like yiddish, the future of the ladino language is in danger of disappearing. Dr. Haim reminded us the written word will live on forever…

Thank you for returning to La Crosse Dr. Haim and sharing your Sephardic heritage.

lunes, 26 de agosto de 2019

Pictures from 2019 Congress in Jerusalem & Zamora

Cartel del evento, realizado por el Ayto de Zamora, por primera vez desplegados en vallas en el centro y casco histórico

Sesión Jerusalén, 21- 25 de Junio

Para el primer tour nos reunimos en el hotel Agripas de donde salimos a visitar algunos de los barrios sefardíes como Ohel Moshe y otros

La visita estuvo animada por miembros de la comunidad hablante de judeoespañol. Aquí, en el centro, Aharon Palti, quien nos relató historias de su vida en Jerusalén  
Visita a Yad Vashem, Museo del Holocausto, nuestra guía fue la especialista mexicana Hilda Fainsilber
Sesión de apertura en las Cuatro Sinagogas Sefardíes a cargo de Abraham Haim, presidente del Consejo de la Comunidad Sefardí de Jerusalén
La prof. Margalit Bejarano, Universidad Hebrea de Jerusalén, presenta la conferencia inaugural

La poeta sefardí Margalit Matitiahu leyó varios de sus poemas dedicados a ciudades españolas donde existieron importantes juderías en la edad media, entre ellas León, Zamora, Cuenca y Madrid.

Abraham García, genealogista en Jerusalén, especializado en árboles de familias conversas, compartió sus experiencias ayudando a descendientes de judíos españoles y portugueses a encontrar sus antepasados judíos como parte de la solicitud de nacionalidad para sefardíes. Curiodisdad: según García, basado en sus búsquedas en los archivos, a su llegada a las Américas entre los siglos XVI y XVIII muchos conversos usaron apellidos vascos para despistar a la inquisición. También, como promedio, sólo en la generación 15 o más se pueden encontrar indicios o de procesados por la inquisición o de antepasados que se fueron de España con el de decreto de 1492
Joshua Mendes, director de S&P Central, habló sobre las comuninades sefardíes occidentales, sobre todo las que se establecieron en Inglaterra y Estados Unidos a partir de los siglos XVII y XVIII 

Eugenio A. Alonso presenta sobre casos inquisitoriales de Judaizantes en La Habana entre los siglos XVI y XVIII a partir del Archivo Historico de Madrid referente a Cartagena de Indias  Dato poco conocido: María Nuñez, una mulata cubana que fue procesada y absuelta en México entre 1649 y 1655, toda su familia fue igualmente acusada. María era una mujer de negocios, lo cual era muy avanzado para esa época. 

En Jerusalén contamos con un reducido, pero altalmente comprometido público integrado por académicos, escritores y miembros de la comunidad de hablantes de judeoespañol.

Panel en el Centro Sefarad - Israel, Madrid, 27 de Junio

Presentación del libro La isla de Abraham (2018) de Jaime Einstein (1947-2015), María de Miguel, Centro Sefarad-Israel da la bienvenida a los asistentes y ponentes Pilar Diez, albacea literaria del autor, y Jesús Jambrina, Viterbo University, quien comentó la novela.

Nuestro grupo de Zamora Sefardí aprovechó la oportunidad para una foto colectiva en el Centro Sefarad-Israel

Concierto "Sefarad en el corazón de Turquía" de Mara Aranda,  Museo Etnográfico de Castilla y León, Zamora

Sesión Zamora, La Alhóndiga
El docmental Adio Kerida (2002) de Ruth Behar, Universidad de Michigan - Ann Arbor, se presentó tanto en la sesión de Jerusalén como en Zamora, seguido por un conversatorio con su directora quien estuvo presente en la puesta en España. La película cuenta la historia de los judíos cubanos desde comienzos del siglo XX hasta inicios del siglo XXI, a través de historias autobiográficas de su autora en ciudades como La Habana, Nueva York y Miami. Interview with Ruth in English

Como cada año la mayoría de nuestro público es zamorano y también personas llegadas de otros países y regiones de España y Portugal

Entre las nuevas actividades de este año estuvo el Filandón Sefardí en la Plaza de la Leña en Zamora, que estuvo animado por Alicia Valmaseada, Marifé Andrés y Judith Cohen. El tema fue Los romances de Doña Urraca, que también son cantados en la diáspora sefardí.

El historiador Suso Vila, presentó sobre las conexiones con Perú de una familia conversa de Tuy, Galicia 

Alicia Valmaseda  reflexionó sobre las relaciones linguísticas entre los idiomás leonés y judeoespañol

Panel de judíos hispanoamericanos que se han mudado a España (Sefarad) en los últimos años: Sandras Chakjin (Uruguay), Selbastián Elka (Uruguay) y Luisa Morely Bendahan (Tánger-Venezuela). Moderó Judith Cohen.

Conversatorio de Ruth Behar, Universidad de Michigan - Ann Arbor acerca de sus libros que estuvieron disponibles en la librería Jambrina, en Zamora.

Resume  de cobertura de prensa

Unidos más allá del Atlántico (Leer)

Tradición e historia judía en Zamora (Leer)
La presentación de dos libros de Ruth Behar pone broche final al VI Congreso Sefardí (Leer)

Mara Aranda: "La música conecta a los sefardíes con una patria por la que sienten nostalgia" (Leer)

"Aunque queda mucho de la mentalidad inquisitorial en la sociedad actual" (Leer)

sábado, 17 de agosto de 2019

A Jewish Path in Zamora

by Jesús Jambrina*, Special for The Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2016

On March 6 I gave a presentation titled “Uncovering Jewish Zamora” at the La Crosse Synagogue in Wisconsin. When in 2010 I began to look into the subject of a Jewish presence in this Spanish city of the rocky northwest, crossed by the Duero River an close to the border with Portugal, I never dreamed of the results that my curiosity would lead to. 

My first Google search on the subject of the Jewish legacy of Zamora, turned up only two results. The first was a reference to the well-known Concilio de Zamora of 1313, in which many of the prohibitions regarding the Jews that had been stipulated at the Council of  Elvira at the beginning of the fourth century were repeated. The second search result was related to the case of the “Niño de la Guardia,” a 1491 blood libel set in Toledo, in which a Zamoran Jew named Abenamías had allegedly participated. This accusation was disproved over half a century ago by Yitzak Baer, and shown to be one of many anti-Semitic fictions created by members of the infamous “Santa Inquisition” of the 15th century. [The 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia states that the entire episode is “one of the most notable and disastrous lies of history.”]

Apart from these two references which are to be found in most medieval history books which mention the subject of the Jews, there was not much more available at first glance on the Internet. This lack of information surprised me, as I personally already knew of at least one essay – dated 1992 – signed by the then-director of the Provincial Archive of Zamora, Florián Ferrero, in which bibliographies related to the Jews of Zamora are mentioned.

A few weeks later I read two books which I now consider to be classics on the subject: Juderías de Castilla y León (1988) (“Jewish Quarters in Castilla and Leon”), by Guadalupe Ramos de Castro, which has a section dedicated to the city, and El pasado judío de Zamora, (1992) (“Zamora’s Jewish Past”), by Prof. María Fuencisla García Casar, which offers a historical chronicle of the Jewish presence in the provincial capital. It was through these works – which from my present vantage point I consider to be in need of editing to update the information and perspectives on the subject – that a picture began to emerge.
There are other authors which also lent substance to my research: the studies of the late Prof. Carlos Carrete Parrondo of Salamanca University, and of Julio Valdeón Baruque of Valladolid University. In his book, Judíos y Conversos en la Castilla Medieval, (“Jews and Converts in medieval Castille”) Valdeón Baruque presents an excellent study of Castilian and Leonese Jews. 

To this Spanish bibliography one would also have to add medievalist Manuel Fernández Ladero, who has published several notable articles about Zamora and the subject of Conversos, as well Prof. Yolanda Moreno Koch and Prof. Ricardo Izquierdo Benito who have compiled several conference proceedings on the subject of Jews of Spain.

A wider bibliograhy would be incomplete without authors like the late Benzion Netanyahu (father of the present prime minister), the late Haim Beinart, and Professor Abraham Gross of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, whose book on Abraham Saba is indispensable.

When I visited the city for the first time in 2010, I was shocked by the absence of references to anything Jewish. Since I have always been interested in Jewish literature and culture from Spain, and by then knew of something of Zamora’s prestigious position during medieval times, I was curious as to why this was the case. I asked a couple of colleagues and friends in the city, including a relative of mine, and some information immediately surfaced, along with various books and articles.

Following a fruitful conversation with Ferrero Ferrero I decided to write a paper on the subject. When I returned to the United States I started to research further and realized that I had stumbled upon something more complex and that I wanted to devote more time to delve into it. Additionally, the project was a good reason for me to return to Zamora, the birthplace of my paternal grandparents.

On that first trip I also met with Mario Saban, president of Tarbut Sefarad, in Barcelona, as well as the organization’s representatives in Madrid, José Manuel Laureiro and Anun Barriuso (descendants of Crypto Jews), who encouraged me to continue with the project and offered their help. I have to say that these three friends were originally somewhat skeptical about Zamora having a significant Jewish history. 
Located at the heart of Old Castile, this is a city known for its strong Catholic culture. Celebrations around saints’ days and the Virgin Mary are very common and dominate popular festivities all year long. More importantly, its 24 Romanesque churches (the largest number of any city in Europe) drive national and international tourism. So “Good luck with anything Jewish”, I can imagine my friends and local family members thinking back then. 

However, in 2013, together with colleagues Genie Milgrom (author of My 15 Grandmothers) I organized the first international congress on “Zamora Jewish Life: History and Re-encounters” which was covered by The Jerusalem Post and local media, and caused ripples in Zamoran society. The result of the congress was a promise by then-mayor Rosa Valdeón, to signpost several areas of Jewish interest in the city. This promise was kept at the end of the 2014 congress.
Five locations, crucial to the Jewish history of a city (which until 2013 barely appeared to have any at all) are now marked by metal pillars erected by the Zamora Municipality as a direct result of the interest evidenced through the presence of these congresses in Zamora. 

Illustration included in the Bible of Cervera (Castile, and Leon, 1300) used to identified Zamora Jewish Quarters signpostings
I never imagined, when I began my research six years ago, that my efforts would bear  fruit to the point of bringing together increased numbers of local and international students of and experts in Sephardi culture and history every year since.
Among the esteemed colleagues who have taken part in our congresses are the aforementioned Gross, New York University Prof. Jane Gerber, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Prof. Ruth Behar and Universidad de Lisboa Prof. Jorge Martins, as well as many other experts on the subject of Jews and Sephardim from Spain, Portugal, the United States and Israel.

Looking towards our fourth annual event this summer, I am pleased to note that writer Gregorio G. Olmos, author of the book Yucé, el sefardí, 2016 – winner of the XXXIV Novela Felipe Trigo prize – has agreed to be our key note speaker. We also hope to see the author of the prologues of Olmos’ book: author José Jiménez Lozano – who received the renowned Cervantes Prize in 2002 – at this year’s congress.

Towards the end of 2013, and riding on the success of the first congress, the Isaac Campantón Center was created as a Jewish research center for Zamora, named after the sage Isaac Campantón (1360-1463), known as “the gaon of Castille.” The name was chosen because Campantón, as author of Darche ha-Gemara, or Darche ha-Talmud (“A Methodology of the Talmud”) he represents the flowering of the Zamoran Jewish Community in which he carried out his educational labor during the last century before the exile of the Jews from Spain.

Campantón’s book was published in Constantinople (ca. 1520), Venice (1565), Mantua (1593), Amsterdam (1706, 1711 and 1754) Vienna (1891) and Jerusalem (1981). And yet, the present residents of Zamora had never heard about him until our first congress, so far-reaching was the ethnic cleansing that occurred in Spain following 1492.

Throughout the 15th century, Zamora had attracted the most brilliant thinkers in Spain and Portugal, with Campantón being the guide of a generation and clearly responsible for the later transmission of Jewish tradition to the Sephardi Diaspora.
Among his students were Samuel Valensí, Issac Abroab II, Isaac de León, Jacob Habid and his son Leví, Moshe Alaskhar, Isaac Arama, Joseph Hayyum, Abraham Saba and the well-known converso hebraista Alfonso de Zamora, among others. No other Castilian or Leonese city can count such a battery of sages among its rosta of Jewish personalities, whose influenced can be found from Amsterdam to Safed and Istambul, and from Portugal to as far away as the Americas. A large number of the visits we get on the Campanton Center webpage are from Lithuania and parts of Russia, where the work of the Zamoran sage is well-known.
All of these subjects are discussed at our congresses, which have now become real “Sephardi days” because in addition to academic presentations we have offer concerts, exhibitions and guided tours of the Jewish quarters, along with Shabbat dinners that are open to all the participants in the congress, as well as to residents of Zamora who are interested in knowing more about this celebration – so central to Judaism.
These meals, as well as others, which organized to introduce various Jewish holidays, are directed by Abraham Haim, president of the Sephardi and Oriental Communities of Jerusalem, a regular visitor to Zamora during the year.
Other frequent visitors to Zamora include Canadian ethnomusicologist Judith Cohen, who has given various concerts in Zamora. She studies the Sephardi musical tradtion in the Mediterranean Basin, including the Zamoran-Portuguese region of Tras Os Montes, especiallly the area of La Raya (“the line”), as the border with Portugal is known. 

Judith Cohen (center), Mara Aranda (right) and Guy Mendilow (left) during a concert of Jewish Sephardic Music at the Theatro Principal of Zamora, 2014.
The second congress, in 2014, was dedicated to this region in particular, where Crypto-Judaism is second nature in various rural communities, among them Carçao, Vimioso and Braganza (in Portugal), where thousands of Castilian and Leonese  Jews took refuge in 1492.

This year, in addition to the July congress, this time titled “The North of Sepharad: Perspectives and Definitions” which will take place in Zamora city, we will once again have a panel meeting at Centro Sefarad-Israel, in Madrid, on June 27 at 7 p.m. in which experts who will speak at the Congress will preview of their subjects and answer questions.

On June 29, there will be a guided tour of the Tierra del Vino (Land of Wine) area, where, according to historic documents, the Zamoran Jews had their vineyards, and which today produces Protected Designation of Origin quality wines.

On June 30 there will be the usual tour of the Old and New Jewish quarters: Another annual activity which attracts many locals.
The congress itself will be held July 1. This year’s preliminary events will conclude with a Shabbat dinner at the Trefacio Hotel, where, as in earlier years, we hope to reaffirm the commitment to continue working for the recovery and value of the Jewish legacy of the city of Zamora.

The Isaac Campantón Center, which organizes international presentations and is a repository of all my investigation thus far can be found online at 
*The writer, a Cuban American whose grandparents hail from Gema del Vino, a village in the province of Zamora, is a professor at Viterbo University, Wisconsin. In 2014 he was presented with Medal of the Four Sephardi Synagogues by the board of the Sephardi and Oriental Communities of Jerusalem for researching and publicizing Zamora’s Jewish past. His book The Jews of Zamora. An Annotated Chronology is scheduled to be published this year by Editorial Verbum in Madrid as part of the Hebrew Letters Collection. Jambrina can be contacted at