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6,000 visit Sephardi Jewish exhibition held in Spanish Catholic museum


More than 6,000 people visited an exhibition about Sephardi Jews that was featured in a Catholic museum in southern Spain over the past few months. The exhibition, “Sephardi Portraits: From the Past to the Present,” is the work of Malaga-born artist Daniel Quintero, who is himself Sephardi.

His collection was displayed at the Diocesan Museum of Religious Art, which is situated in the Episcopal palace of Orihuela. It serves as a Jewish- Christian encounter and a way to shed light upon Spain’s Jewish history, which the artist says is little known.

The exhibition showcased 13 paintings, which in the context of a Jewish-Christian encounter “offer a positive vision of the relationship between two religions that emanate from the same root,” Quintero said.

“I think this is the first exhibition of a solely Jewish subject in a Catholic museum,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. He aimed to bring to life the memory of Spain’s Jewish history to spark interest and inspire to visitors to read and learn more on the subject.

“The exhibition seeks, above all, to pique the curiosity of people and to encourage them to learn and investigate more about the 10 centuries of Sephardi culture in Spain, which disappeared in 1492,” Quintero said, referring to a royal decree issued to the Jews of Spain to either convert to Christianity or leave the country.

Quintero has spent some 25 years working on this topic. He aimed to showcase not only the Golden Age of Jewish life in Spain but also to highlight present-day Jews involved in Spanish society and to portray a society that existed and still exists now.

The exhibition was made possible due to a friendship between museum director José Antonio Martínez and Quintero. Martinez, who is invested in interfaith relations, told the Post the exhibition marked a strengthening of Jewish- Catholic ties, which he described as already having been “fantastic.”

He said the site of the museum is also the home of Bishop Jesús Murgui, who was thrilled at the opportunity to present Quintero’s work. Murgui delivered a speech at the inauguration of the exhibition in the presence of Quintero, which Martinez says was a “touching moment” for him.

Quintero said he thought it was a “good moment” to approach the relationship between the Catholic Church and Jews.

“I believe Jews and Christians are getting closer. Both have suffered persecution,” he said, referring to persecution of Christians in various countries in the Middle East. The temporary display opened in March, and its closure this week will be marked on Sunday by a concert featuring both Catholic music and Jewish folk music. The museum described the 45-minute-long free concert as an effort to “reconcile the two cultures, Christian and Jewish, who lived together for centuries in the city of Orihuela.”

The exhibition was also accompanied by lectures on Sephardi books and cooking. “Interest is growing, and that’s what makes me really happy,” Quintero said, expressing optimism that knowledge of Jewish culture in Spain will gradually increase. “The church is not only accepting it, but it’s accepting it with pleasure.”