History of the Jews in Gibraltar


History of the Jews in Gibraltar

There has been a Jewish presence in Gibraltar for more than 650 years. There have been periods of persecution, but for the most part the Jews of Gibraltar have prospered and been one of the largest religious minorities in the city, as well as making contributions to the culture, defence, and Government of Gibraltar.

History

Early History to 1492

The first record of Jews in Gibraltar comes from the year 1356, when the community issued an appeal asking for the ransom of a group of Jews taken captive by pirates. Another document indicates that a number of Jews fleeing Córdoba sought refuge in Gibraltar in 1473.

Jews were expelled from the entire Iberian Peninsula under the Alhambra decree in 1492, effectively ending all Jewish activity there, except in the cases of Conversos or possible Crypto-Jews.

British Rule

After the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Gibraltar came under the rule of the Kingdom of Great Britain, which made the area a British dependency. In the Treaty, the Spanish added the following clause barring Jews and Moroccans from the city:However, the British did not keep to this agreement. The admission of Jews was one of the infractions made on the constraints of the Treaty of Utrecht that Spanish accounted and used as argument (others were the admission of "Moors", the extension of fortifications and the alleged smuggling from Gibraltar) [cite book | first = George | last = Hills | year = 1974 | title = Rock of Contention. A History of Gibraltar | publisher = Robert Hale | location = London | id = ISBN 0-7091-4352-4 | pages = 262] to consider null the Treaty and lay siege to the city in 1727, but were unsuccessful. In 1729, an agreement was reached between the British and the Sultan of Morocco whereby the sultan's Jewish subjects were legally permitted residence in Gibraltar, this was useful in that it provided the British garrison with a commercial class. Jews were given the right to permanent settlement in 1749, when Isaac Nieto, the new community's first Rabbi, came to the country from London and established congregation Shaar Hashamayim, the oldest synagogue in Gibraltar, otherwise known as the Great Synagogue. At that date there were 600 Jews in Gibraltar, constituting one third of the civilian population. [ Jewish Encyclopedia] Three more synagogues, all of which still function on Shabbat and feast days, were built as years went by: Nefutsot Yehuda and Ets Hayim in 1781, as well as the Abudarham Synagogua in 1820. Jewish population figures continued to grow, reaching its peak in the mid-19th century.

It should be noted that some antiquated customs were preserved among the Jews of Gibraltar. For example, in 1777, Issac Aboab, a Gibraltarian Jew born in Tetuan, was listed as having two wives, Hannah Aboab and Simah Aboab. Bigamy was illegal in the Kingdom of Great Britain at the time, but the law was apparently not fully operative in Gibraltar at the time, and though many Jewish groups had abandoned polygamy, this shows that it was not the case in all groups (particularly some Sephardic and Mizrahi groups). [ [http://www.askmoses.com/article.html?h=573&o=2488 Is polygamy still allowed today?|Rabbis Answer Torah Questions 24/6 ] ]

Twentieth Century and Today

Most of Gibraltar's Jews evacuated to the United Kingdom proper during the Second World War, when Gibraltar was used as an Allied base of operations. Some opted to stay in the United Kingdom, but most returned, although there was a slackening in some of their religious practices. This trend was reversed, however, in good part by the efforts of Rabbi Josef Pacifici, who assumed the Gibraltar rabbinate and took control of Jewish education in Gibraltar. Several Gibraltarian Jews have served in important positions in the Government there in the 20th century, particularly Joshua Hassan, who served as Chief Minister of Gibraltar for two separate terms before his death. Gibraltar's current Mayor, Solomon Levy, assumed the postition on August 1st. 2008. The city maintains five Kosher institutions a Jewish Primary School and two Jewish secondary schools. In 2004, at a celebration of the 300 years since the British takeover, the congregants at the Great Synagogue (Shaar Hashamayim) performed the anthem "God Save the Queen" in Hebrew, the first time this has been done officially. [ "Jews Thriving on Peace of the Rock ," by Hilary Leila Krieger, Jerusalem Post , 2005-12-02 [http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=15072] ] [ "Gibraltar Jews feature a mix of ultra-Orthodoxy and modernism ," By Adi Schwartz, Haaretz , 27/09/2007 [ http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/907679.html] ]

Historical Demographics

In 1753, when the first census was taken, the Jewish population of Gibraltar was 575 out of about 1,800 civilian inhabitants. [cite book | first = George | last = Hills | year = 1974 | title = Rock of Contention. A History of Gibraltar | publisher = Robert Hale | location = London | id = ISBN 0-7091-4352-4 | pages = 288] This had risen to 863 by 1777. In 1787 the population had fallen to 776. Exact figures are not available for most the 19th century, but it is known that in 1805, they made up nearly half of the city's civilian population,Fact|date=October 2008 by 1830 the civilian population numbered 17,000, of which 1,300 were "native" Jews and 600 recent Jewish immigrants, [cite book | first = George | last = Hills | year = 1974 | title = Rock of Contention. A History of Gibraltar | publisher = Robert Hale | location = London | id = ISBN 0-7091-4352-4 | pages = 372] and by 1878 the community had reached its numerical peak of 1,533. In 2001, there were 584 Jews (roughly 2% of the total population), of whom 464 were self-described Gibraltarian, 63 were "Other British", 4 were Moroccan and 18 Spanish. Five Jews came from other European Union countries, and 39 did not hail from Gibraltar, the United Kingdom, Morocco, Spain, or any other countries in the European Union. A large number of Gibraltar's Jews are Sephardic, but there are a number of English Jews. Languages spoken in the community include English, Spanish, Ladino (spoken by the large Sephardic population) and Arabic (traditionally spoken by some of the historical Moroccan population).

Anti-Semitism in Gibraltar

Significantly, the Jews of Gibraltar have faced almost no anti-Semitism during their time in the city (with the exception of the period of Spanish rule). During Gibraltar's tercentenary celebration, Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, was quoted as saying, "In the dark times of expulsion and inquisition, Gibraltar lit the beacon of tolerance"," and that Gibraltar "is probably the community where Jews have been the most integrated."

Jewish contributions to Gibraltarian culture

Llanito, the vernacular language for the majority of Gibraltarians, has significant Jewish influence. Some 500 words are of Hebrew origin, and the language also has features of influence from Haketia, a Judeo-Spanish language spoken by the Sephardic communities of Northern Morocco and the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

During the sieges of the city by the Spanish and during the Peninsular War, Jewish civilians valiantly helped defend Gibraltar from invaders.

References

*Haller, Dieter. "Space and Ethnicity in Two Merchant Diasporas: a Comparison of the Sindhis and the Jews of Gibraltar." GOBAL NETWORKS: a journal of transnational affairs 2003, Vol 3. No 1: 75-96

External links

* [http://www.jewish-heritage-uk.org/gib/gib2.htm Gibraltar Jewish Heritage]
* [http://www.gibraltar.gov.uk/hol/WhatToSee/worship.asp Official Government of Gibraltar London Website]
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/12/13/wgibr13.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/12/13/ixworld.html The Telegraph: Gibraltar rocks to Hebrew 'God Save the Queen']
* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=220&letter=G Jewish Encyclopedia]
* [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Gibraltar.html Jewish Virtual Library: Gibraltar]
* [http://www.haruth.com/jw/JewsGibraltar.html Jewish Gibraltar]
* [http://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/gov_depts/Statistics/Census_of_Gibraltar_2001.pdf Gibraltar 2001 Census]
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=eng Llanito]


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