4th Ellul – our determination to return, however hard the path, will keep us located in our source.

4th Elul – massacre of the Jews of Barcelona 1391

Across Europe the conditions for the Jews deteriorated between the late 13th and 14th centuries.  Expelled from England in 1290 and intermittently from France from 1306, the most violent deterioration was across the Iberian Peninsula. Barcelona, which had a substantial Jewish population with roots going back to at least the year 870, suffered a terrible pogrom on this day and for 500 years no Jews lived in Barcelona.

The riots began in Seville on 15th March 1391. Public opinion had been stirred against the Jews for some years, Jews had been discriminated against by both Church and Monarchy  in law – unable to enter work in finance or medicine, not being allowed to have Christian servants or otherwise “have power” over Christians etc. Special items of clothing marked them out, and in law courts their testimony was worth less than those of Christians.  This atmosphere was stoked and fuelled by the sermons of a Christian Monk, the Archdeacon of Ecija, Ferdinand Martinez, who preached his hatred eloquently, and who incited his flock against what he saw as the perfidious and untrustworthy Jews – to the point that the aljama of Seville complained about him several times, and the King of Castile Juan 1st wrote to him urging him to moderate his behaviour. The king tried to keep the peace, but in 1390 he died, leaving his heir, a minor, to rule.

Martinez’ Ash Wednesday sermon in 1391, demanding that Jews either convert or die, incited the crowds into the Juderia, the Jewish section of the city. When the mayor tried to control the rioters, Martinez spoke out against him. In Jun of that year, the rioters came back to finish the pogrom, blocking the exits of the Juderia and setting it alight – four thousand Jews died, the few survivors either converted or left. Their property was expropriated. After this, the pogroms spread across the peninsula, and as Jews lost their property and their lives, it became clear to many that conversion to Christianity was their only option to stay alive.

It is estimated that up to half the Jewish population of the Iberian Peninsula converted, including whole communities, their leadership and rabbis. The violence against the Jews that began in 1391 culminated in the Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

The Jewish community of Barcelona, destroyed and murdered on 4th Elul 1391, disappeared. There may have been hidden or crypto Jews, but essentially it was a space inimical to Jewish life until the 20th century, when a few Jews came to the city from North Africa and from Eastern Europe. Today there are an estimated 3,500 to four thousand Jews – the highest concentration of Jews in Spain, and it has synagogues, a day school, an old age home and even a Jewish literary festival and Film Festival.

The stories of pogrom, of the rising anti-Semitism that led to them, of the lack of good government to control the growing violence and hatred, of the lack of good people to challenge prevailing narratives of xenophobic rage – Jews are conditioned in our very DNA it seems to me, to sense this in our world and to be early responders to the threats.

But we also have a different conditioning – we respond by continuing to hold to our identity, by supporting each other in community, by retelling our stories and transmitting our values. By recording our realities and teaching our truths.

It never fails to move me when I visit synagogues that were destroyed deliberately – or worse when they have been renovated by the State back to their former glory, but with no Jews to pray in them, study in them, and create community in them – this seems somehow to make a travesty of our history and our survival – albeit in a different world. But it never fails to move me when the descendants of the forcibly converted come forward to reclaim their lost and dislocated identity. And working as I do in Europe, seeing people come back to Jewish community either informally or more formally after such dislocation, working through brit/mikveh/beit din, I know that however dangerous it might sometimes be to be an “out” Jew, there is another force that drives us. In Ellul it is said the gates to the Divine are open, the possibilities of return are infinite. Be that teshuvah the return from a state of alienation back into a state of connection and however we understand and locate ourselves in those terms, now is the time to record, remember and continue our Jewish journey. And God waits to welcome us home.

image from the Barcelona Haggadah, Jews praying in synagogue




A beautiful Muslim Prayer for Peace


This prayer deserves to be read and shared as widely as possible. And with a few appropriate edits of the language, we may all add our voices in prayer

The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board call on our members and their affiliates across the United Kingdom to adopt the “Prayer for the Nation” as part of their services and sermons, on Friday 20th November 2015.
One of the first and most fundamental ways Muslims show feelings of commonality and brotherhood is through prayer.

Imam Shahid Raza OBE, Chairman, Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board said:
“The prayer is thought to be an opportunity for British Muslims to express a national identity in their own way. The prayers ask God to keep Britain a harmonious nation that protects the marginalized, upholds strong moral values and to promote loyalty among our diverse communities.”
“My colleague and I have given our full support to establish the “Prayer for the Nation”, and through our network of 1500+ faith leaders across the UK, we will be launching the Prayer at our sermons on Friday 20th November, but not exclusively our attention will also be at those who may not regular visit the Mosque, we will share on our Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp Accounts, we will get our young people to share on Instagram and SnapChat.”
“The prayer is not exclusive to faith leaders. We encourage it to be recited at our homes, madrassahs, community events, social gatherings and in our hearts and minds. We hope this will help nurture future generations of believers and contribute positively to the wider British society.”

Mustafa Field MBE, the Director of the Faiths Forum for London, said:
“The prayer could perhaps cultivate and give a voice to sentiments of amity and fraternity with British society at large.”
“The notion of citizenship revolve not only around moral values and legal obligations, but also around cultural narratives about identity and loyalty.”
“The concept of Britishness is fluid, but is based on our consensus around our shared values, and as a spiritual identity that favours cultural inclusiveness as an antidote to narrow nationalism.”
“The “Prayer for the Nation” is a contribution to the strengthening the sense of citizenship the holds our nation together.”


Prayer For The Nation

Oh Allah, our lord, unite our nation around the principles of justice, peace, love and faith.

Put peace and love in our hearts for the diversity that makes our country so beautiful

Oh Lord, most Strong, Give us the strength to protect and care for our neighbours.

Oh Lord, we pray for our nation, the United Kingdom. to remain loving, compassionate, remove prejudice from our hearts, and enable us to love our brothers and sisters of all faiths and none

Make our hearts and minds aware of our heritage, fulfilling duties and responsibilities as a citizen of our country!

Allah, Most Merciful, allow us to show kindness to those most vulnerable in society.

Protect us from evil, inspire and guide us in defending those open to abuse.

Lord, Most Generous allow us to give in charitable activity, and to help those most in need.

Lord give our Government vision and wisdom, as they take decisions affecting peace in our world.

Allah, our Sustainer, allow us to care for our environment and sustain this world for future generations.

Lord, Most merciful, Most Generous, please give us the patience to continue to learn from one another and work towards a more peaceful and kind world.

Make true in our nation the ideas of freedom and justice and brotherhood for all those who live for them.

Make our hearts generous so that we may treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Help us to share that which we have with others, for your sake. Strengthen us, love us and be kind to us all.

For media enquiries email mustafa@faithsforum4london.org or call 07946 515 987