By Aurora Guzmán
Jaén, a city in the region of Andalucía, in southern Spain, recently hosted the first–ever gathering of Abulafias (spelled also Aboulafia, Abolafia, Abolafio), organized by Iuventa, an all-volunteer cultural organization whose goal is to promote and preserve Jaen’s Jewish history, and Alejandra Abulafia, author, journalist and director of Sefarad Experience.
Iuventa awarded the Premio Asociación Iuventa 2022 to Abulafia for her work organizing the event.
Thirty-five people who share the surname, and its different spellings, came to this city from Israel, France, the United States, Argentina, Uruguay and Australia. Twenty residents of Jaén with the name Abolafia participated in the event, held from May 12th to May 15th.
“Curiously, the name was kept in the Iberian Peninsula by converso families after the expulsion [of the Jews] from Spain in 1492, which is really strange,” said Rafael Cámara, president of Iuventa. “That there are Spaniards by the name of Abulafia was motivating enough to promote the gathering.”
In Jaén, some residents have also kept the name for five centuries, which aroused interest in the city abroad, he said.
According to Cámara, the best part of the event is that “the Abulafias of all the countries [who attended] left excited to have met Spanish and Catholic Abulafias, with whom they were “reunited.'”
The event allowed people of two different cultures, but with common roots, to get together, he added, and also gave them a chance to learn more about the three cities of the Red de Juderías in Andalucía: Córdoba, Lucena and Jaén.
“They had a great time,” said Cámara.
A Shabat dinner, in which Sefardic food was served, was held Friday night at the Parador de Jaén, a hotel that sits on top of the Santa Catalina hill.
The activities for Saturday included lectures about the city at the old San Juan Hospital and a visit to the judería.
“A group of volunteers set out to beautify the judería’s streets and painted symbols of Jewish culture, which made a good impression on the visitors, as well as Iuventa’s struggle for the neighborhood,” Cámara said. “Many tears were shed.”
In 2005, Jaén joined the Red de Juderías de España—Caminos de Sefarad, a non-profit organization created to preserve Spain’s Jewish quarters. Twenty-one towns and cities, among them Barcelona, Segovia and Tudela, are members.
Translated by Daniel Santacruz.