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Groups urge removal of anti-Jewish definitions in Spanish dictionary

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain and the Simon Wiesenthal Center are leading the campaign.

Anti-Israel graffiti spray-painted on the side of the Maimonides Synagogue in Barcelona, Spain, on April 17, 2023. Source: Twitter
Anti-Israel graffiti spray-painted on the side of the Maimonides Synagogue in Barcelona, Spain, on April 17, 2023. Source: Twitter

The Spanish Royal Academy (RAE) received a letter signed by more than 20 Jewish organizations from primarily Spanish-speaking countries calling for an update to the official Spanish dictionary to remove bigoted entries.

Examples of definitions the groups point to as hateful include judio (“Jew”) and judiada (“Jewish”). 

One entry for Judio describes the person as a money lender or greedy person. Judiada also refers to “a dirty trick or an action that is detrimental to someone.” Collins dictionary defines the term as “cruel thing” or “extortion.” 

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain and the Simon Wiesenthal Center are two groups leading the campaign.

The letter to the RAE stated that the definitions are “the product of a medieval and renaissance terminology of rejection, envy and hatred directed at Jews who, because of their work, had the highest incomes, which was one of the factors that led to their expulsion from Spain by the Catholic monarchs.”

In 1492, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, who would be known as the first queen and king of Spain, forced the country’s 200,000 Jews to flee. Tens of thousands of Jews would die in efforts to escape, some murdered in search of gold and diamonds in their stomachs as rumors claimed.

The most recent survey of antisemitism in Spain, conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in 2023, showed a rate of 26% anti-Jewish bigotry across an adult population of a little more than 10 million. The rate of antisemitism in Spain has fallen from 29% in 2015 and 28% in 2019.

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