Earlier this month, Spanish Ambassador Fernando Carderera was invited to Casa Shalom. Following his visit he spoke to The Jerusalem Post about the increasing value that Sephardi identity is being accorded in Spain.This paradigm shift began at the start of the 20th century, he said, with research by Menendez Vidal.Just as Ladino is recognized in Spain as “a sister language,” he said, the “Jewish footprint is beginning to be reevaluated.”For the past 16 years the Red de Juderias (Network of Jewish Quarters) has been expanding, creating a series of touristic routes through Jewish Spain, partnering with Google in 2012; Radio Sefarad, the online Jewishcontent radio station that has listeners acorss the globe, even in Iran, has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and since 2006 Centro Sefarad-Israel’s activities have been relentless.About Centro Sefarad, he says, it is “a luxury for Israel” that this self-styled “bridge” between the Jewish people and Spain is financed by the Spanish state. So are Casa America, Casa Arabe, Casa Asia and Casa Mediterraneo, but as the diplomat points out, each of these is dedicated to entire areas, whereas Centro Sefarad [originally named Casa Sefarad-Israel] is aimed only at the connection with a single country, and through its plethora of activities, teaches about Judaism and the history of Israel.“We also look for cooperation between the two nations in the field of new technologies,” he added.“Spain and Israel have a common starting point,” he said, referring to Jewish Spanish intellectuals and creators, such as Ibn Gabirol and Maimonides, who were born and lived in Spain. Carderera was surprised, however, to discover how present the Inquisition was for the Jews, and how some even compare it to the Holocaust. “It is all very alive in the Jewish mind,” he said. He considers it admirable that people who were expelled should be so connected to Spain; yet he cannot conceive of the Expulsion being compared to the Holocaust.Having been present at Bar-Ilan University on the first ever International Ladino day on December 5 of the past year, Carderera was very moved as he witnessed 800 people wax emotional over Ladino, “a language which is like a living jewel,” and experienced “the love people had for Spain.”Casa Shalom has several projects under way, the ambassador told the Post. On his visit, executive director Gloria Mound and associate director Adina Moryosef told him about their plans to building a center for Sephardi music and a building dedicated to a museum of crypto-Jews.“All this is interesting for Spain, and I have offered them collaboration,” the ambassador said. – M.F.