Putting the J in Majorca: Finding my purpose in the Spanish Jewish community
January 3, 2020
For millennia, the Jewish people have overcome darkness. We have prevailed against those who sought to destroy us in each generation, by carrying our beliefs, traditions, culture, and most importantly our strong sense of peoplehood forward. Chanukah, the festival of lights, is a reminder that each one of us can carry the torch and lead our communities out of darkness. And this flame can continue to glow when we are connected and dare to share the beauty of our people with the world around us.
Early on in life, I had the unique opportunity to live and learn in Israel, embarking on a Masa journey with Young Judea Year Course. There, I strengthened my relationship with Israel and the Jewish people. From learning Hebrew and being able to communicate with my Israeli grandparents to training with the Israeli Air Force for a week to living in a religious kibbutz, it was the best year of my life. As I witnessed Jews from around the world come together in Israel, it opened my eyes to the value of our Jewish family—for myself, my friends, and the global community.
After returning to the States and graduating college, I had a few stints in Miami and New York but was starting to feel in need of a change. I was missing that same sense of fulfillment that I experienced in Israel. But it wasn’t until I moved to Majorca five years ago that I found my purpose in the Jewish community.
I moved to Majorca thinking I would never meet another Jewish person there. I was quickly proven wrong when I found out about a volunteer-led synagogue with a small group of followers on the island. As I sat at one of the services, I learned that not everyone there was Jewish. There’s a group of people on the island known as Chuetas who identify as Catholic yet quietly preserve the light of a Jewish community nearly forgotten. The Chuetas are descendants of Majorca’s old Jewish community and feel connected to their Jewish ancestry to this day. This finding blew me away as I thought about how powerful Jewish history is: these people are lifting a nearly dissolved Jewish legacy from over 500 years ago!
So, I became more involved, determined to instill the passion for and pride in Judaism I experienced in Israel on my Masa journey around the island. I started by hosting challah baking workshops and Purim parties, and from there, the excitement spread to others. Our numbers kept increasing, and we became a tighter knit community. In fact, we’re now up to 60-70 attendees at our Shabbat dinners.
Along with a Jewish tourism company called Jewish Majorca, my wife, Carla, and I started Limud Mallorca—a cultural association interested in sharing Jewish culture and history with anyone interested. We held a conference in May 2018 and expected around 20 or 30 people, but we ended up with over 85 attendees from around the world! Together, we were able to reignite the flames of Majorca’s Jewish community and unite the global Jewish community.
On Masa, I was fortunate to witness the beauty of Jewish life and the immense power of a connected community. And now, on the tiny island of Majorca, I hope to continue sharing that light with others, showing that anyone can come together and live in harmony. My experience in Majorca shows how the spirit of the Maccabees lives on in each one of us.
Dani Rotstein is a Masa alum and founder of Limud Mallorca and Jewish Majorca.