The fifth Sephardic Conference of La Rioja, which took place in San Millán and the Wine Museum Dinastía Vivanco, analyzed the role of wine in Jewish religion and culture last week.
The most characteristic toast of the Jews, Lehayim, 'To life', lent its name to the conference. This latest meeting, which took place between the 6 and 9 November in San Millan de la Cogolla, was dedicated to the memory of the person the recently deceased professor Iacob Hassan, one of the most important researchers into Sephardic culture in the world who for years was its promoter and scientific adviser.
One of the most outstanding new events this year was in the Wine Museum Dinastia Vivanco, located in Briones. It housed a monographic exhibit "Lehayim: wine in the Jewish religion and culture", which was opened last Monday with a tasting of kosher wines (suitable for consumption according to Jewish precepts).
The exhibit, organized by Santiago Vivanco, includes a documentary about wine that was filmed in La Rioja, different pieces from the museum’s collection that are related to the Jews, and other items from the 19th century that were acquired on the international market and that help to illustrate how ceremonies related to the table and wine are celebrated in the Jewish religion.
La Rioja is the smallest region of mainland Spain, bordered by Navarre, Castile & Leon and Aragon.
Each year the Conference includes a seminar of readings of Sephardic texts and a monographic course based on a specific topic such as folklore or history. This year they chose wine in order to celebrate the fifth anniversary in a very special way.
"The celebration of the Fifth Conference with such a special topic brings together two internationally known points of reference from La Rioja: wine and language. There is no other evidence, in Spain or anywhere else, of similar conferences that have studied and analyzed wine and language in the Jewish culture of the Sephardim", Uriel Macías, one of the organizers of the event, told Radio Sefarad.
Macías emphasized the importance of wine both in Spanish culture and in the Jewish tradition. "Wine is a symbol of happiness and that is why it is blessed at parties and important Jewish ceremonies such as holidays, Shabbat, weddings or circumcisions."
The Conference opened on Monday 6 November in San Millan de la Cogolla with a lecture by the former Israeli President and President of the National LadinoAuthority, Yitzhak Navon. The President of the Government of La Rioja, Pedro Sanz Alonso, the General Director of the Cervantes Institute, Cesar Antonio Molina, and the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, Jacobo Israel Garzon, were also present.
From a historical perspective, the Jewish presence in La Rioja was outstanding in such important villages as Haro, Najera and Calahorra and in other towns throughout the entire region, until the expulsion.
There is a great deal of documentation in La Rioja archives on the Jewish population and the socioeconomic activities that they carried out beginning in the 11th century. King Sancho III El Mayor granted important privileges to the Jews of Najera, who had their own set of laws, which were used as a model for other Kingdoms in Spain.
La Rioja Jews were closely linked to the agricultural sector and the wine trade, so the topic of this Conference was especially appropriate.
Courtesy of the European Jewish Press