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El Call: The Jewish Quarter
Its name derived from the Hebrew word qahal ("meeting place," or "place to be together"), Barcelona's Jewish Quarter is just to the Rambla side of the Palau de la Generalitat. Carrer del Call, Carrer de Sant Domènec del Call, Carrer Marlet, and Arc de Sant Ramón del Call mark the heart of the 7th- to 14th-century quarter. Enclosed in this area at the end of the 7th century, Barcelona's Jews were the private financial resource of Catalonia's sovereign counts (only Jews could legally lend money). One reason the streets in Calls or Aljamas were so narrow was that their inhabitants could only build into the streets for more space. The Jewish community produced many leading physicians, economists, and scholars in medieval Barcelona, largely because practicing the Jewish faith required Bible study, thus ensuring a high degree of literacy. The reproduction of a plaque bearing Hebrew text on the corner of Carrer Marlet and Arc de Sant Ramón del Call was the only physical reminder of the Jewish presence here until the medieval synagogue reopened in 2003.
The Sinagoga Major de Barcelona (Carrer Marlet 2 www.calldebarcelona.org €2 Tues.–Sat. 11–2, Sun. 4–7), the restored original synagogue at the corner of Marlet and Sant Domènec del Call, is the principal remaining evidence of the Jewish presence in Catalonia. Tours are given in English, Hebrew, and Spanish, and a booklet in English (€5) explains the history of the community.
The saga of Barcelona's Jewish community came to its culminating moment in August 1391, when during a time of famine and pestilence a nationwide outbreak of anti-Semitic violence reached Barcelona with catastrophic results: nearly the entire Jewish population was murdered or forced to convert to Christianity.
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