Amid secessionist debate, Catalonia leaves Spanish network for Jewish heritage

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Five cities from the separatist region of Catalonia in eastern Spain said they would leave a national body commemorating Jewish heritage in a bid to form an independent Catalan network.

Barcelona, Girona, Besalú, Tortosa and Castelló d’Empúries quietly left Spain’s Red de Juderias last month, the New York Times reported Wednesday, as part of a series of steps that come amid growing secessionist sentiment.

The exit of five Catalan cities from the 24-city network of Jewish quarters, will also force the network to appoint a new leadership, as both its president and secretary general were Catalans.

Girona Mayor Marta Madrenas told The Times that she and her Catalan colleagues would instead create their own Catalan network soon because “we think we can do better in terms of showcasing our Jewish patrimony. We want to do it in a more serious manner, with more cultural and scientific rigor,” she said.

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The Spanish network said it was disappointed and surprised by the withdrawal, which was announced by some of the Catalan cities at an internal meeting of network officials in May. No date has been set for the creation of a new Catalan network.

The split comes amid a major secessionist tussle between Madrid and Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. Catalan separatist parties, which have a majority of seats in the region’s Parliament, are pushing to divide Catalonia from the rest of Spain and have established a road map to create the structures of a new Catalan state within 18 months, despite fierce opposition from the acting government in Madrid of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The Red de Juderias network was created in 1995 to safeguard Spain’s heritage and promote cultural, academic and tourism projects relating to its Sephardic past, as well as set up exchange projects to increase “knowledge and mutual respect for peoples, cultures and traditions,” according to the network’s website.

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