Republican Spain’s Bullfight in Honor of Maimonides

July 6, 2018 | Janine Stein
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In 1935, the city of Cordoba held a bullfight “in commemoration of the eighth centenary of the great Cordoban philosopher Maimonides.” The towering talmudist, philosopher, and theologian was born in that city in 1135, although thirteen years later his family fled to Morocco and from there relocated to Egypt, where he lived for the rest of his life. Janine Stein writes:

The bullfight itself was part of a five-day state festival in celebration of his life. It included receptions, cultural events, garden parties, society balls, the opening of a Maimonides museum at Madrid University, and the renaming of a square in Cordoba in his honor. Jewish representatives from around Europe were invited to attend the lavish affairs as honored guests. As part of the festivities, the centuries-old expulsion of the Jews was reversed—the Jews could now come back to Spain, and some did choose to return.

One of the Jewish visitors to the festival was a young man from northern England named Chaim Raphael. He reported that there were Jewish men from Lithuania, France, Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy, and even Palestine, in attendance. He noted how, despite their national differences, there was a palpable kinship among them.

Citing the reports of Raphael (later to become a prolific essayist and author of books on Jewish subjects), Stein suggests that the celebration, and the readmission of the Jews, were an attempt by the Spanish Republic, founded in 1931, to set itself apart from the old days of the monarchy. A year later, the civil war began that eventually brought about the republic’s fall.

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