By Imi Kim
Majorca is home to a budding young Jewish community that is reviving its scarred past and exploring its hidden history. It is quietly forming a multi-lingual, non-denominational kehillah that is being led mainly by Jews and their partners in interfaith marriages – the current reality of those who have moved to the island. Yet with the appearance of more and more children, they are also building a cohesive, innovative and dynamic future. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a group of native Islanders known on the island as Chuetas. They are descendants of Majorca’s Jewish Conversos of the 16th and 17th centuries. Long strides are being taken to be open and inclusive not only to those on the island interested in returning to their ancestors’ faith, but also to expatriate Jews by birth (including numerous Israeli families) who have been so disenfranchised they don’t want to keep their ancestors’ faith. In this spirit, Dani and Carla Rotstein recently organized a Shabbaton to celebrate and help continue building this diverse community. The below essay was written by one of the attendees, Imi Kim.
What was I doing last weekend on my home island of Majorca, you ask? Why, nothing less than celebrating a super modern Shabbat weekend with native islanders and expat residents from all over the world, in a villa with paella cooking, games playing, spiritual bonding, excursions, joyful family time and more.
As a newly converted Jewish family, though not our very first Shabbat, it felt like a defining one for us. We were welcomed into a group so diverse, we could have ratified a UN resolution together.
We were in the company of people coming from multiple ethnic groups, multiple continents, the local country of Spain and the home country (Israel). While the heritage stories of the adults were complex enough, one can imagine the stories of the kids that they will tell one day. “We went to a rental house with a pool for the weekend with families from Iran, Mallorca, Turkey, UK, USA, Israel, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Argentina, India, Colombia, Venezuela, Korea, Dominican Republic – half Jewish and half not.”
Friday night was marked by remembering who we are, why we are together and why we deserve to celebrate ourselves. The religious traditions, including Kiddush, were performed both in person as well as virtually. Appropriately named ShaZoom, the virtual forum added further international clout as it is a space where Jews from all over the globe gather virtually every other week to share song, Shabbat dinner blessings, and thought-provoking discussions. Different rabbinic and cantorial leaders log in on different language breakout rooms – English, Spanish, and Catalan (the native language of Mallorca).
Afterwards, all that were present in person listened patiently, as I recalled our personal story in joining the Jewish family.
My story is simple. The Jewish family values most what I value most: education. Though the Jewish family has such positive values and has a proven track record of being a positive force for the world, it is also the family most misunderstood and under attack. This family deserves all the help it can get, and together it shall shine an even brighter light in the future.
Shabbat itself was a day leaving everyone fulfilled. In the morning, we embarked on a mini-trip to the Jewish community’s cemetery. That was breath-taking, realising how generations before us came together just as we did, as Jews on a small island, and decided to stay together even after death. They’ve left children and grandchildren that no longer live on the island. It is the handful of volunteers from the one local synagogue on the island that tries its best to maintain the cemetery in spite of lacking adequate funds. It reminded us how all of us are pieces of a long chain. There were some before us, and there will be others after us.
Upon return to the villa, we received more guests from the Jewish community, some of Chueta descent, joining back with their modern-day family. It was a BBQ on Shabbat – so we call it… a “ShaBBQ.”
By Sunday, this amazing group had demonstrated that the concept of the future was modernity, openness, education, and inclusiveness. All in a weekend’s work! We are proud of what we have achieved together as a community, and we hope you will come visit us – or at least join a ShaZoom – to see what we’re all about.
Imi Kim is half Indian, half Russian and his wife is Korean. A father of two, he has, after living in over ten countries, settled in the best of all places: Mallorca. By education, he is a mathematician and scientist, and amongst other things, he runs a hedge fund professionally.
The next ShaZoom gatherings are July 31st, August 14th, August 28th. Feel free to email [email protected] to register for the upcoming events. You can sign up to our monthly newsletters on www.jewishmajorca.com