The Fundación HispanoJudía is a non-profit organisation that promotes understanding, dialogue, and cooperation between the Hispanic and Jewish communities. It was founded on the belief that these two communities have much to learn from each other and much to gain through collaboration. Saffron is working with the Fundación HispanoJudía to create the brand and holistic experience for its most important initiative: the Museo HispanoJudío, a digital and physical museum that will explore the indissoluble relationship between the two communities.
Leading up to January 27th, I spoke with David Hatchwell, Chairman of the Fundación HispanoJudía, to hear his reflections on this international day of remembrance and its relevance to the Museo HispanoJudío initiative.
Jacob Benbunan: In what ways is the bond between the Hispanic and Jewish communities unique? How can the two larger communities encompassed within the Hispanic Jewish community (the Hispanic and Jewish communities, individually) learn from each other?
David Hatchwell: There is a historic relationship between the Jewish and the proto-Hispanic world that dates back 3,500 years with the first people travelling from ancient Israel to the Iberian Peninsula on sailing trade routes. There is an account in the Haftarah of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, a liturgical text that has been read for thousands of years during the Jewish new year celebration Rosh Hashanah, of Jonah travelling from the Port of Yafo (current-day Tel Aviv-Yafo) all the way to Tarshish (Tartessos in the Iberian Peninsula); it’s on this journey that he encounters the whale. This legacy is unique in its antiquity. Yafo is considered one of the oldest cities in the world and travel to the Iberian Peninsula was taking place 1,500 years prior to Christianity.
I believe that we can all learn from each other today from the perspective that our past is still being unearthed, literally, at this moment in time and we are still discovering new elements of our identity. It is important to note that in 1492 with the Alhambra Decree (Edicto de Granada), many Jews, some say more than half, converted to Christianity in a matter of months and essentially adopted a new identity. They became part of the new Spain, the new Spanish-speaking world, along with the colonisation of the Americas and what is called Latin America today; they created something new. The history of our joint origin, a Jewish origin, is the sort of thing that we can learn from each other in addition to the Judeo-Christian values that are part of the Spanish-speaking countries and their identity. It’s a great moment to learn from each other. We think that the Museo HispanoJudío project, both digital and physical, will provide a great base in terms of education for young people and others to know more about that past.
Jacob Benbunan: Why is the importance of brand experience emphasised in the Museo HispanoJudío project and how will it be used to connect with new audiences on a deeper level, specifically through memory and heritage?
David Hatchwell: The significance of the Museo HispanoJudío has everything to do with the museum’s ability to deliver an experience that is memorable. We’re working on making experiences that are comprehensive but that are not intuitive. These experiences need to be emotionally-driven because we want people to understand that there’s an emotional attachment coming from their legacy, and for them to understand what it meant in the past to be Jewish. I’d like to provide a quote from the recently deceased historian Paul Johnson that describes something I feel strongly about in terms of why the Jewish world is relevant to the western world’s development:
“Certainly, the world without the Jews would have been a radically different place. Humanity might have eventually stumbled upon all the Jewish insights. But we cannot be sure. All the great conceptual discoveries of the human intellect seem obvious and inescapable once they have been revealed but it requires a special genius to formulate them for the first time. The Jews had this gift. To them, we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of human person; of the individual conscience and so a personal redemption; of collective conscience and so of social responsibility; of peace as an abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice, and many other items which constitute the basic moral furniture of the human mind. Without Jews it might have been a much emptier place.”
– Paul Johnson, Historian, author of A History of The Jews
Jacob Benbunan: While commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, why is it important that we ensure that the unique historical experiences and memories within the Hispanic Jewish community are given a voice and preserved?
David Hatchwell: January 27th marks the Shoah Remembrance Day internationally. It’s powerful not only because it represents a date that is key in order to remember the horrors of the Shoah and the courage of those who stood against the Nazi regime’s terrible practices, but also because it represents a stance toward remembering. As the philosopher and historian Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana used to say, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The Shoah is obviously a tragedy inflicted upon the Jewish people. Every Jew was a victim. All Jews were persecuted, not only Ashkenazi Jews, but also the Jews that originated from Spain and that settled throughout Europe and Northern Africa in places like Libya and Tunisia. However, Jews were not the only ones affected-the Roma and other minority groups were victims too and through the crazy application of euthanasia, disabled persons as well. These sorts of practices were genocidal.
On this day, when I remember and reflect, I also think of the Nazis’ attempt to get the list of Jews living in what is currently Morocco from the Vichy regime of France and how King Mohamed V prevented that from happening. He was heroic by saying that there were no Jews in Morocco, only his subjects – Christians, Muslims and Jews – and he didn’t provide that list. I also think of the incredible cities of both Salonica and Sarajevo who had unbelievable Jewish and Sephardic history that suffered a lot from Nazism. So yes indeed, we have a shared history of suffering and there were also partisans who fought bravely that we commemorate on January 27th.