The fiftyfive year old woman walked cautiously to the small bedroom in the back of the house situated in the juderá­a of Toledo Doña Robledo stroked the altar cloth her grandmother made for the synagogue It was a cream colored silk cloth embroidered with fine silk strands from Granada depicting the Tree of Life Her grandmother told her that Tree of Life symbolized the Ten Commandments Although outsiders often commented on the obvious conclusion that the tree was representative of the Garden of Eden few individuals grasped the hidden significance of the teaching of the Law Her grandmother always adorned the embroidery with pomegranates because the fruit represented fertility and life

Doña Robledo gently touched the golden brown eagle with extended wings on the fine silk cloth Her grandmother said the phoenix and eagle of Toledo were the same bird because it never died After living a thousand years and being consumed by fire the eagle rose from the ashes to live another thousand years She often said that despite many trials the eagles like the Jewish people would survive Lamenting the pogroms across Spain forcing Jews to become conversos the grandmother said that Jews and conversos were one people

On this Shabbat Doña Robledo lit the olive oil clay candle holders with the raised menorah ceramic motif Closing her eyes and moving her hands to inhale the holy smoke she prayed

Bendito seas Tú Eterno nuestro Dios Rey del universo que nos
santificaste con Tus mandamientos y nos ordenaste encender las velas
de la fiesta

She prayed silently that El Eterno would always protect her children and grandchildren She prayed that even though her family had been baptized under duress she asked that Gd would remember how she washed off the Catholic baptism of all her children and grandchildren

The priests told Jews that only Catholic baptism would save their souls but Doña Robledo always washed off the Catholic baptism because this religion did not believe in one Gd The Ten Commandments did not include a Jesus Christ or a Virgin Mary The statues of a melancholy mother and a suffering bloody son in the churches frightened her She had to debaptize her children because her own identity was shaped by the traditions of her mothers living the language of Jewish rituals Her own mother sponsored the medieval Sephardic custom of the hadas’ celebration for newborn babies Hadas were the fairies bringing good luck and prosperity for the recently born baby

In June 1391 eight synagogues in Toledo were destroyed Jews were murdered and mass baptisms took place Few Jews returned to the old juderá­as but sought safe residences in outlying areas of the city At this moment in 1449 citizens of Toledo accused the Jews of requiring the menores to pay higher taxes Several conversos were recently condemned to death by fire

On January 27 1449 murder robbery and confiscation of property took place in the juderá­a of Toledo As the voices of the angry menores were heard in the streets as they ravaged the juderá­a Doña Robledo rushed to the Cathedral of Toledo to be baptized Her altar cloth was burned in the looting Nothing of her house was left The aging old woman left to find a home with friends and family outside of the city once regarded as the prized jewel of Sephardic Judaism

Effective 1449 Jews in Toledo could not hold any public office or have any authority over any Christians or the Holy Catholic Church It was a time of persecution of people believing in El Eterno

The Inquisition became more active in Toledo to signify the”Act of Faith” sentiment On February 12 1486 750 women and men from seven parishes filed in a procession through the streets sentenced to numerous penances Over 900 penitents from six parishes were punished on April 2 1486 Another 750 men and women Jewish penitents repeated the same procession on June 11 1486 By May 1487 twentythree Jewish persons were executed Archival material was not gathered to record this massive conversion and abuse

Above the juderá­a the golden eagle of Toledo was consumed in the fire of the martyred Jews It was a time for weeping

(Excerpt from a new book tentatively titled Toledo Tradition Keepers by Isabelle MedinaSandoval to be published by Gaon Books)