Nestled among the cobblestone streets of Barcelona, Spain’s call – a historic Jewish quarter that gets its name from kehilla, the Hebrew word for “congregation” – sits a new destination for Jewish tourists. Call Barcelona Books and Wines opened in June in time for the bustling summer season. Located just a short walk from the sixth-century Mayor Synagogue, Europe’s oldest, the business combines the features of a Judaica store with a Chabad House.

Rabbi Dovid and Nechama Libersohn, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Barcelona, came up with the idea for the new center. There, tourists can relax over a cup of coffee, use a bank of computers offering free Internet access, drop off their luggage for pickup after a day of touring, and attend any of a number of daily Torah classes and prayer services. The shop also sports a full line of Jewish books for purchase and a varied selection of kosher wines.

The Libersohns opened the shop six weeks ago, appointing their longtime friends Daniel and Patricia Santilo as its operators. Since then, the Santilos have greeted some 250 tourists daily, directing them to Jewish sites throughout the city, such as the onetime home of the 13th-century sage Nachmanides. They’ve also hosted kosher wine tastings and Kabbalah classes.

Esther Rosenberg, who moved to Barcelona eight years ago and quickly met the Libersohns, described the venture as a perfect fit for their 11-year-old operation.

“Last year my husband died. I don’t know what I would have done without them,” she said. “They were my family, always calling, asking if there was anything they could do. It is amazing what they do: so energetic, just so human.”

While Call Barcelona Books and Wines serves as a point of contact for Jewish visitors, the Libersohns welcome more than 100 people each Friday night and Saturday to their own home. There they host Shabbat services and meals, providing a spiritual connection for the city’s Jewish locals and tourists.

When property values settled to the point to make the new shop affordable, they jumped at the opportunity.

The store offers tourists a place to relax, sip coffee, learn about Judaism, and shop.
The store offers tourists a place to relax, sip coffee, learn about Judaism, and shop.

Patricia Santilo explained that the storefront was designed to fit into its historical surroundings. Many people stop in to learn about Jewish history and culture, and end up donning the Jewish prayer boxes known as tefillin, and leaving with Shabbat candles.

Last month’s grand-opening attracted 150 people, including a smattering of state officials from the Catalina State Hall across the street.

“It was important for them to show that they recognize our work” said Nechama Libersohn. The theme of the event was one of Jewish revival in a location rich with historical value. Katy Carraras, the Minister of Inter-religious Issues, described the importance of ‘Jews having the merit to talk about their own history, to have Jews talking about Judaism.’ ”

According to Santilo, following the Inquisition in the late 15th century, the call remained bereft of Jewish life for hundreds of years.

But today, she said, “we have brought a Jewish community back to these ancient streets.

“You just feel the Jewish life that was here,” echoed Rosenberg. “And then you think, it has returned.”