A ‘Magnet’ For the Community: Bringing the Torah to Naval Station Rota

Living in Southern Spain, Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota community members routinely walk in the footsteps of the past. The white-washed villages and Andalusian countryside are imprinted with the struggle between the different religious groups that had laid siege and ruled the Iberian Peninsula through the years.

The Moors, or North Africans, ruled this portion of Spain for over 700 years while the Spanish Christians slowly fought and reclaimed their way south. When the Moors were expelled from their final foothold on the Iberian Peninsula by the Catholic Monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel, the focus then turned to the Jews of Spain who were ordered to convert or leave.

“When the Jews left Spain in 1492 they took the Torahs with them,” explained Rabbi Irving Elson, director of Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) Jewish Chaplain Council. “Now as Jewish communities grow, Spain is opening and welcoming Jewish communities back so the Torah is also returning.”

Elson and his wife, Fran Elson, recently visited the installation to present the NAVSTA Rota Jewish community with a Torah scroll during a dedication ceremony, July 2, 2019.