Spanish Village Formerly Called 'Kill Jews' Plans To Build A Center For Jewish Studies

The Spanish town once chastised for its disturbing name, Castrillo Matajudios (Castrillo Kill Jews), is certainly trying to mend faces with the Jewish community.

After a referendum last month that overwhelmingly voted to change the name to Castrillo Motajudios, meaning "Castrillo Jews Hill," now the mayor is announcing plans to open a Jewish studies center in the municipality.

The small village, about 160 miles north of Madrid and just a few dozen families strong, held a city council meeting on Tuesday to discuss the project, which includes archeological excavations.

Radio Arlanzon reported that mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez hoped the diggings would help clarify how the town came to receive its controversial name.

Rodriguez said the proposed center would be devoted to the study of the Sephardic culture.

Sephardi Jews are an ethnic division whose origins trace back to immigrants from Israelite tribes of the Middle East, who blended in the Iberian Peninsula around the turn of the first millennium. They established communities throughout Spain and Portugal.

The name Sephardi actually means "Spanish" or "Hispanic."

Rodriguez said the new center would offer an in-depth look into those Spanish Jews, including those who converted to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition.

Although no Jews live in the town today, Rodriguez said many residents have ancient Jewish roots and the town's official shield includes the Star of David.

Documents show the town's original name was Castrillo Motajudios. The "Kill Jews" part of the name dates back to 1627, more than a century after a 1492 Spanish royal edict ordering Jews to become Catholics or flee the country. Those who remained faced the Spanish inquisition, with many burned at the stake.

Although Jews were killed in the area, researchers believe the town got its current name from Jewish residents who converted to Catholicism and wanted to reinforce their repudiation of Judaism to convince Spanish authorities of their loyalty, Rodriguez said.

Others suspect the change may have come from a slip of the pen.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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