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Encyclopedia Judaica:
Cervera, Spain


Spain: Virtual Jewish World | Madrid | Pamplona


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CERVERA, city in Catalonia, N.E. Spain. Around 1300 there were 30 to 40 Jewish families in Cervera. The Jewish quarter was located between Call del Vent and Call de Agramuntell and had its own cemetery. In the 13th and 14th centuries the community in Cervera was quite important. At times it formed part of the collecta of Barcelona. Due to the increase of the Jewish population Alfonso IV allowed them to occupy their quarter near San Miguel Place. Cervera was noted for its Jewish physicians, including Abraham des Portell (d. 1407), Abraham b. Isaac Shalom, author of Neveh Shalom (Constantinople, 1538), and Cresques Adret, physician of John II (1458–79). In 1341–42 the royal treasurer fined Astruga, the wife of David Adret, and their son Shealtiel for journeying to Ereẓ Israel in violation of a crown prohibition. In 1348 the bishop confiscated the house which Jews residing in the New Street had rented for use as a synagogue. During the *Black Death (1348–49), the Jewish quarter was looted and set on fire; 18 Jews were killed, some of the survivors fled to the citadel and others moved to neighboring communities.

The community had evidently revived by 1350, as in that year Pedro IV levied a sum of 400 Barcelona sólidos from the Jews in Cervera. During the civil war in Castile they had to pay 3,000 Barcelona pounds (1363). In 1369 Infante John restricted the Jews to their own quarter, and gave detailed instructions to ensure that it was sealed off from the rest of the town; it was to be rebuilt within two years so as to meet the requirements of all the inhabitants. However in 1384 Infanta Violanta asked the bishop of Vich to agree to the building of a second synagogue in Cervera, as some Jews were living outside the city walls. It was built the following year. After the anti-Jewish riots of 1391, John I ordered the bailiff of Cervera to give details regarding the property of Jews who had been killed in the riots and requested a list of those who had died. In 1392 the municipal authorities tried to expel the Jews from their main street of residence, where they had built new houses and a synagogue, to the old street where the houses were in disrepair and on the verge of collapse. However, the king countermanded the order. At the beginning of the 15th century payments were made by the community for protection. Besides the material prosperity that the Jews of Cervera enjoyed and wished to protect, there was also a flourishing Jewish cultural circle that turned Cervera into an important center of learning. An inventory from 1422 suggests familiarity of Jews with Judeo-Arabic philosophy and Greco-Arabic sciences. That this was typical of Catalan communities in general we can deduce from another library that originated in Perpignan and ended up in Cervera in 1484. The discovery of some sources in Hebrew and Judeo-Catalan has immensely enriched our knowledge of the Jews of Cervera. In the mid-15th century the community was relatively well established for the times. The communal regulations for 1455 in Hebrew and Catalan are extant and a list of the assets of Cervera Jewry shows that Jews still owned land, vineyards, and farmland, and there were some artisans. This list was used in May–June 1492 in a lawsuit between the municipal authorities and the Jews of Cervera on the eve of their expulsion from Spain. After the death of John II, who was kind to the Jews, representatives of the Jews of Agramunt, Bellpuig, Tárrega, and Santa Coloma de Queralt met in Cervera, where they held a memorial service. They were all dressed in black, as a sign of mourning. The Jews organized a procession through the Call Mayor, carrying a coffin and reciting Psalms in memory of the king. When the procession arrived at the Market Place, the coffin was placed on a platform, where Crescas Ha-Cohen, physician of the late king, pronounced an elegy. This entire impressive ceremony was undoubtedly staged to express the feeling of gratitude and recognition of the Jews of Cervera and those of the environs who had suffered heavily in the period prior to John II's reign. The Jews suffered much as they were identified with John II and his son Carlos, whose position was challenged by the supporters of the king's second wife, who was a descendant of a Jewess from Toledo. Carlos' death caused, from June 1462, severe attacks against the Jews of Cervera, many of whom were killed. This episode is barely mentioned in the sources.


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Baer, Spain, index; Baer, Studien, 40, 120, 139ff.; Baer, Urkunden, 1 pt. 2 (1936), index; A. Durán y Sanpere, Discursos llegits en la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona (1924), 16ff., 33ff.; Piles Ros, in: Sefarad, 10 (1950), 96f.; Rius Serra, ibid., 12 (1952), 339, 344ff.; LóPez de Meneses, ibid., 14 (1954), 113; 19 (1959), 101, 106–15, 324ff., 328ff.; idem, in: Estudios de Edad Media de la Corona de Aragón, 6 (1956), 69, 123. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: P. Bertran i Roigé, in: Ilerda, 44 (1983), 189–205; A. Durán y Sanpere and M. Schwab, in: Sefarad, 34 (1974), 79–114; M-M. Sanmartí Roset, in: Universitas Tarraconensis, 4 (1981/2), 87–93; J.M. Llobet i Portella, in: Espacio, tiempo y forma, 4 (1989), 335–50.

[Haim Beinart / Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

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