El Tránsito Synagogue and the Sefardi Museum
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Yesterday, I went to the Esnoga del Tránsito and Sefardi Museum (Museo Sefardí), the place I had most been looking forward to in Toledo. El Tránsito is incredible, truly the most beautiful synagogue I have ever seen; the intricate carvings coupled with the wooden ceiling and small displays of Moorish stained glass create an environment that is breathtaking and really reflects Sefardi Jewish history and culture; and unlike many American synagogues, it doesn't just look like a mainstream protestant church!
In the photo above you can see the detail in the carvings and the Hebrew text that is located on the walls.
In this photo, there are some remnants of the original floor of the synagogue. All of the floor, save this section, has been lost. We can think of what the original tilework might have been, with black and white geometric designs, especially featuring triangles.
In the back of the synagogue there are many artifacts, some from this synagogue, some from other synagogues across Spain, and some from the Sefardim post-expulsion. These Hebrew inscriptions are mostly headstones, I believe, there were many Hebrew carvings in the exhibit.
Some tiles found near the synagogue and a reproduction of a chanukah menorah. This would definitely be an oil menorah, to fill the cups with oil and have a wick sticking out of the groove!
This is a washing basin. The drawing of the birds and menorah on the front make up Museo Sefardí's logo. This is a copy of it, I do have a photo of the real one, it is the same size and of a lighter rock, maybe some type of marble, but the drawings are much harder to see. The sign says it is trilingual and you can definitely see Hebrew and Latin letters on it, though I do not know what the three languages are (but one of them is likely Hebrew).
This carving has similar symbols with the plants and the menorah.
They had some items from the Inquisition and this inkwell belonged to someone from the Inquisition. I'm not sure what the G and Y stand for, maybe a name, none of the signs said, but I got a laugh out of how it definitely looks like it says goy.
A silver Sefardi torah case and a menorah. These are both from the Sefardi diaspora.
Jewish tombstones excavated from Cerro de la Horca, the Jewish cemetery in Toledo. Sadly, this part of the museum was closed for construction so I could not take better pictures of them.
Sefardi wedding attire. The wedding dress is called Keswa el Kbira, and I have always wanted to get married in it one day but it is tied between that and a Vaqueiro dress. This one looks like it could fit me!
Some Sefardi chanukah menorahs. These are also oil menorahs. One of these looks very similar to a menorah I have!
Some of the jewelry that belonged to the Amazigh Jews of the Maghrib, especially of the Atlas Mountains. When the Sefardim were expelled from Spain, and later Portugal, many of them went to the Maghrib. Under Muslim rule in North Africa, Jews and the indigenous Imazighen faced similar hardships which brought them close together. So after the Sefardim arrived in the Maghrib, there were many Amazigh converts to Judaism who then intermarried with the Sefardim.
One of the many books in Ladino. I can read this! This Ladino is written in Hebrew, though today, most Ladino is written using the Latin alphabet. Ladino has even been written in Cyrillic among the Sefardim in Bulgaria!
I have many, many photos from the Sefardi museum, but I feel these ones really highlight the experience. On one hand, I loved seeing all the Sefardi Judaica as someone who doesn't have any Sefardi heirlooms myself and I glad it is here to educate the people who come through, especially since so many people don't know that there are so many Jewish ethnic groups, not just Ashkenazim. But at the same time, it was sad to me to see things I felt should still be being used by Sefardim behind glass as if we were a thing of the past.
But altogether, I very much enjoyed visiting the esnoga and museum and will probably go back at least one more time in the months I am here.