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February 13, 2014 5:27 pm

American Jewish Leaders Meet Spain’s King Juan Carlos in Historic Visit

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From left to right, Robert Sugerman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, and King Juan Carlos I of Spain (holding Elijah's cup) in Madrid on Thursday. Photo: Conference of Presidents.

JNS.orgIn a historic visit, 60 American Jewish leaders traveling with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations met with King Juan Carlos I of Spain at Zarzuela Palace in Madrid on Thursday.

During the meeting, the king spoke about the Jewish cultural heritage and the major influence Jews have had in Spain, including contributions in science, philosophy, culture, and arts.

The Conference of Presidents delegation has met with several other top officials in Spain as well as leaders of Spain’s Jewish community.

“We have been deeply impressed with the Spanish leadership and other officials during our meetings. They [spoke about] how deeply rooted the Jewish community remains here and how important it is to them,” Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, told JNS.org.

Prior to the visit, the Spanish Justice Ministry announced groundbreaking legislation to give millions of Sephardic Jews descending from Jews expelled during the Spanish Inquisition the chance to claim Spanish citizenship. Hoenlein told JNS.org that he feels Spain is taking important steps to rectify troubled history with the Jewish people.

“With the recent legislation [allowing Sephardic Jews to claim Spanish citizenship], Spain is confronting its history and not avoiding it, which I think is very positive,” Hoenlein said.

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