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More than 20 Jewish groups from Spanish-speaking countries and beyond have written to Spain’s main language authority demanding that it remove from its dictionary anti-Semitic definitions describing a good (Jew) as “a greedy person or lender of money” and the associated term judged as a synonym for “dirty trick”.

In a letter to the 300-year-old Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), which chronicles and oversees the evolution of the Spanish language, the groups urge the institution to rethink two entries in its Official Dictionary of the Spanish Language , on the grounds that they are outdated, “totally anti-Semitic” and contrary to the Spanish constitution.

The fifth definition of good which appears in the dictionary – marked as a pejorative term – is “in relation to a person – greedy or lender of money”. The first definition of judgedwhich notes that the word was originally used “with anti-Semitic intent”, is “a dirty trick or action prejudicial to someone”, while the second entry refers to “a mob or group of Jews “.

The letter, backed by the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says such definitions are part of the tradition of anti-Semitism in Spain that has led to expulsion or forced conversion of the country’s Jewish population in 1492 under the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella.

“The definitions of the word good And judged in no way reflects the true meaning of these terms,” the letter reads. “These descriptions are the product of medieval and Renaissance terminology of rejection, envy and hatred directed against Jews who, because of their work, had the highest incomes – which was one of the factors that led to their expulsion from Spain by the Catholic Church. monarchs. »

The signatories acknowledged that the RAE had attempted to explain that the use of the word good to mean “a miser or money-lender” was pejorative, but said that “as far as international Jewry is concerned, this decision has only served to confirm that we are dealing with a false definition which fuels the anti-Semitism, damaging the image of Jews by condemning them as a group of greedy people or money lenders”.

RAE sources confirmed that the institution had received the letter and would consider the groups’ requests.

In recent years, Spain has tried to come to terms with its anti-Semitic past and value the social, historical and linguistic contributions of its long-exiled Jewish population.

In 2015, the Spanish government attempted to atone for what it called the “historic wrong” of the expulsion and persecution of its Jewish communities by offering citizenship to descendants of those forced to leave their country. of origin.

This offer, which expired in October 2019, allowed 132,226 people of Sephardic origin to apply for Spanish citizenship.

Remove anti-Semitic descriptions from the Spanish lexicon and urge Jewish groups |  Spain
The village of Castrillo Mota de Judíos has been covered in racist graffiti since it was renamed in 2014. Photography: Cesar Manso/AFP/Getty Images

Nine years ago, the 52 eligible residents of Castrillo Matajudíos — which translates to Camp to Kill Jews — voted in a referendum to change the name of the village to Castrillo Mota de Judíos, which means Camp of the Hill of the Jews. Jews.

The village, located in the northern region of Castilla y León, is believed to have been founded in the 11th century by a group of Jews expelled from a nearby settlement. Although it became a popular trading center and is home to over 1,000 people, life changed dramatically after the 1492 expulsion.

Some scholars believe the name was changed to signal loyalty to Catholicism and the crown, while others believe it may have been a slip of the pen, changing Mota (hill) to mata (kill). Over the past two years, Castrillo Mota de Judíos has been the victim of two anti-Semitic attacks and smeared with graffiti: “Camp Kill Jews, twinned with Aushwitch (sic)”; “Juden Raus (Jews out)” and “Long live the Catholic monarchs”.