History shows that Bejar and its county, which occupied part of the Salamanca, Avila and Caceres provinces, had a continuous jewish presence from the 12th century until their expulsion. Their presence has also been recorded since Medieval times in towns and villages whose landlord was the powerful Duke of Bejar, such as Becedas, Gilbuena and Solana (Avila); Bejar, Candelario, La Cabeza, Fuentes, Navalmoral, Peromingo, Santibanez and Sorihuela (Salamanca) and Hervas (Caceres). Only Bejar and Hervas, however, had documented ‘aljamas’ (official jewish neighborhoods) and therefore, main services such as synagogue, talmudic school, ritual bathing house, butcher shop, oven, hospital, cemetery, and so on.
The Charter of Bejar contained the laws for cohabitation of new (jewish) villagers, the majority of whom came from Avila. The law established the right of the town’s Jews to use the Torah for swearing purposes in any trials against christians. They were also entitled to have their own judge (albaladi) working alongside the christian judge in all legal matters. The Charter also identified fridays and sundays as days when the city’s jewish residents could use the use public bathing houses.
There is no evidence of a wall that would separate the Jewish quarters from the Christian quarters in Bejar; in fact, we know that some Jewish households were located are located around the Duke’s palace and also close to the Churches of St Mary, St Gil and St Johns.
In 1391 the pogroms against spanish jews spread in the Iberian Peninsula. The violence caused an exodus toward from South to North. It was then that the Jewish population of Bejar and Hervas grew considerably. The jewish quarter expanded into a new area, called el Barrio Nuevo (the new neighborhood). This is evidenced by many purchase and sale documents.
Memory has retained the names of notable or humble Jewish residents of Bejar, such as the physician Rabí Ça, the shoemaker Samuel de la Tetilla; Isaque Albuer, farmer; and even a tax collector like Simuel de Medina, and others. Among those names, three are of special importance.
Scholar Raby Hayyim ibn Mussa was born in Bejar at the end of the 15th century..His prolific activity led him to work as doctor, translator, poet and fighter for his faith in several theological battles. Some of his arguments are collected in his book Magen va-Romav (The Lance and the Shield). He died in 1460.
Lady Faduena’s history came to us with a stone. She lived in Bejar between the 12th and the 14th centuries. Her gravestone appeared during public works in 1879. The granite stone shows this inscription in Hebrew characters “Miss Faduena, rest in peace, glorious princess”.
Frances de Zuniga was born in Bejar shortly before the expulsion of the Castilian Jews. He was an important personality during the reign of Charles V. He was a member of his court, and author of a burlesque chronicle of outstanding quality. In his writings Mr. Frances obliquely refers to jewish ancestry.
After the expulsion, and at least for next two centuries, the Inquisition conducted many investigations in Bejar and its county in search of “secret-jews . As late as 1665 the archpriest of St the Church of the Savior, Jeronimo Gonzalez de Lucio, expressed the common idea that “it’s hard to found old Christians in Bejar”.
Many of the jews that were forced to live Bejar in 1492 decided to carry with them the name of their city. This gave rise of family clans such as: Bejar, Behar, Bejarano, Becerano, Bicerano and other derivations of the original name that spread, even today, throughout Europe, North Africa, the Americas. Many of them travel to Bejar every year to meet their homeland and visit our museum.