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Sephardic Jews

Sephardic Jews

ETHNONYM: Oriental Jews


Orientation

Strictly speaking, Sephardic Jews (singular, Sephardi; plural, Sephardim) are descendants of Jews who lived in Spain or Portugal before they were expelled from the former in 1492. The name "Sephardim" is derived from "Sephard," the term used by Jews in medieval times to refer to the Iberian Peninsula. Also included in the Sephardic category are Conversos (Marranos, New Christians, Judeos, Chuetas), Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism in Spain and Portugal but continued to practice Judaism and maintain their Jewish identity in secret. Today, the label "Sephardic Jew" is often used in a broader sense to include all Jews who follow Sephardic religious practice, as contrasted with those who follow Ashkenazic traditions. Because of the dissemination of Sephardic publications and, after 1492, the resettlement of Sephardic Jews throughout the Middle East and North Africa, many Jews from these regions are today classified as Sephardim, whether or not they are descended from Jews from the Iberian Peninsula.


Language

One major distinction between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews was language. The language of Sephardic Judaism was Ladino (Judeo-Spanish, Judezmo, Hakatia), which originated in Spain and was later spoken in Sephardic communities in Turkey, North Africa, and the Balkans. Ladino is best described as a dialect of Castilian Spanish, with loanwords from Hebrew, Turkish, and other languages. Originally, Ladino was written with Hebrew characters and later with the Latin alphabet. It is unlikely that Ladino is now the day-to-day Language in any Sephardic community, as most Sephardic Jews now speak the language of the nations where they live. However, there are individuals who still speak Ladino, and systematic efforts are under way to record the language. Sephardic Jews in Portugal and in diaspora communities mainly spoke Portuguese, although many also spoke Spanish.

Sephardic Judaism has an especially rich literature Including religious works written in Hebrew, literature written in Spanish and Ladino, translations into Spanish and Ladino, political tracts written and translated into various Languages, biblical commentaries, inspirational works, and a rich folk literature in Ladino, featuring ballads (romancero ), a number of which have now been recorded and are still performed.


Location

Although the first date of Jewish settlement in Spain is unknown, it is believed that Jews lived on the Iberian Peninsula as early as Roman times. Between 100 and 300 c.e. large Jewish populations had settled in towns in southeastern Spain, and the region south of Cordoba became a region of major Jewish settlement. Jews lived as farmers and landowners under the Visigoths, but they also suffered various persecutions; in 689 all were reduced to the status of slaves. In 711 Arab Muslims conquered the region and granted Jews Religious, though not complete economic or political, freedom, and the period described as the "golden age" of Spanish Jewry began. This golden age lasted roughly to near the end of the fourteenth century and saw the advancement of many Jews in instrumental roles as political advisers and physicians and the development of Sephardic Jewish traditions in poetry, Literature, philosophy, and biblical interpretation. Jews were active participants in Spanish society, and many felt that they were Spanish as well as Jewish. In 1136 the practice of Judaism was prohibited and Jews began to suffer from increased persecution, although restrictions were less in the Christian north, where the community continued to thrive. But beginning in 1391, the Jewish community came under increasing pressure, entire communities disappeared, and the golden age ended. From that point on, the Spanish Jewish community was regularly persecuted: restrictions were placed on participation in public life, many were forced to convert to Christianity, Jews and their property were attacked, and they were finally expulsed from Spain in 1492. Estimates place the number of Jews who left Spain at anywhere from 50,000 to 250,000. Most went to lands in what was then the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans), Portugal, and Italy (especially northern Italy). In 1496 Portugal moved to expulse all Jews, but in 1497 substituted a policy of forced conversion. Near the close of the next century a second diaspora of Sephardic Jews took place, this time involving Conversos from Portugal who moved to the Netherlands, and later to England, northern Europe, and the New World. Some of these Conversos reestablished their Jewish identity, while others assimilated into the Christian population. The third major movement of the Sephardim has taken place since World War II, with the settlement of many Middle Eastern and North African Sephardim in Israel, immigration to the United States, and migration from North Africa to France and Spain.

If we use the broad definition of Sephardic Jew, the countries with the largest Sephardic populations in the 1980s (all figures are estimates) were Israel (1.7 million), the United States (350,000), and France (260,000). Other countries with large Sephardic populations include Argentina (34,000), Brazil (30,000), Italy (30,000), Turkey (22,000), Mexico (15,000), Morocco (13,000), and Spain (12,000). For the most part, in most countries of the New World (i.e., Argentina, Brazil, the United States) where Sephardic Jews (sometimes Conversos) formed the earliest Jewish Communities, they are now far outnumbered by the descendants of Ashkenazic Jews whose ancestors arrived later. Similarly, diaspora communities founded by Conversos in Europe eventually disappeared as the Conversos either assimilated or reasserted their Jewish identity. However, Converso communities are reported as still existing in Mexico and on Majorca.


Religion

As with Ashkenazic Jews, Sephardim follow the Babylonian tradition, and they view the Babylonian Talmud as the ultimate guide to belief and practice. In matters involving Religious law, Sephardim follow Joseph Caro's codification, the Shulhan Arukh, which is more permissive in many ways than Ashkenazic religious law. Sephardim and Ashkenazim differ not only in degree of permissiveness on some matters (especially dietary rules) but also in religious practice. Differences involve variations in religious garb for rabbis, the use of ritual decorations, the internal organization of the synagogue, texts recited at specific times, terms used for ritual objects and practices, melodies in chants, and the pronunciation of Hebrew. While many of these distinctions are minor, adherence to them by Sephardic Jews is today an important marker of Sephardic identity in a Jewish world largely dominated by the Ashkenazim. In Israel today, there are both Sephardic and Ashkenazic chief rabbis.

See also Andalusians

Bibliography

Bunis, David M. (1981). Sephardic Studies: A Research Bibliography Incorporating Judezmo Language, Literature and Folklore, and Historical Background. New York: Garland.


Elazar, Daniel J. (1989). The Other Jews: The Sephardim Today. New York: Basic Books.


Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971). New York: Macmillan.


Lerman, Antony (1989). The Jewish Communities of the World. London: Macmillan.


Moore, Kenneth (1977). Those of the StreetThe Catholic Jews of Mallorca. South Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press.


Raphael, Chaim (1985). The Road from Babylon: The Story of Sephardi and Oriental Jews. New York: Harper & Row.

Speake, Graham (1984). Atlas of the Jewish World. New York: Facts on File.


Tapia, Claude (1986). Les juifs sepharades en France, 19651985: Etudes psychosociologiques et historiques. Paris: L'Harmattan.

DAVID LEVINSON

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Sephardim

Sephardim (səfär´dəm), one of the two major geographic divisions of the Jewish people, consisting of those Jews whose forebears in the Middle Ages resided in the Iberian Peninsula, as distinguished from those who lived in Germanic lands, who came to be known as the Ashkenazim (see Ashkenaz). The name comes from the placename Sepharad (Obad. 20), which early biblical commentators identified with Iberia. With the migration of the Iberian Jews, particularly following their formal expulsion from Spain in 1492 (and Portugal in 1497), Sephardic communities were established throughout Southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, in some cases absorbing smaller local Jewish populations. Smaller groups of Sephardim also settled in Holland and elsewhere in Western Europe. In many areas, Sephardic Jews retained many aspects of Judeo-Spanish culture, including a language called Judezmo (or Ladino, Judeo-Spanish, or Spanioli), which retained many characteristics of medieval Castilian combined with Hebrew, Turkish, Arabic, and other elements. Literature in the language includes religious works (e.g., the Bible translations of the 14th and 15th cent.), as well as folktales, songs (romanceros), essays, and journalism.

Those Sephardim who were forced to convert to Christianity during the period lasting from the 1391 massacres in Spain to the 1497 forced baptisms in Portugal, and who secretly maintained a Jewish life, were given the pejorative title of Marrano [pig] by the Christian populace. As time passed, many made their way to more tolerant lands, where they openly returned to Judaism, ending their double lives. They or their descendants founded the Jewish communities of Amsterdam, Hamburg, London, and New Amsterdam (New York City), among others. Many Sephardic communities were decimated in the Holocaust, and others were depleted by emigration to Israel and elsewhere. A Portuguese law adopted in 2013 (effective 2015) allowed the descendants of Jews who had been expelled to apply (under certain conditions) for citizenship; Spain enacted (2015) a similar law, but imposed a more restrictive process.

See C. Roth, A History of the Marranos (1932, repr. 1966) and The Spanish Inquisition (1937, repr. 1964); D. De Sola Pool, An Old Faith in the New World (1955); I. J. Baer, The Jews in Christian Spain (2 vol., 1961); M. Lazar, ed., The Sephardic Tradition (1972); J. Prinz, The Secret Jews (1973); D. J. Elazar, The Other Jews: The Sephardim Today (1988); Y. Yovel, The Other Within: The Marranos: Split Identity and Emerging Modernity (2009).

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Sephardim

Sephardim. Jews descended from those who lived in the Iberian Peninsula before 1492 (hence the name, Heb., Sefarad, Spain). However, the term ‘Sephardim’ is often also used to indicate all non-Ashkenazi Jews. The Sephardi language is Ladino, a type of archaic Spanish; and Sephardic literature includes works in Hebrew and Spanish as well. The Sephardim, like the Ashkenazim, base their religious practice on the tenets of the Talmud. However, they follow Joseph Caro's Shulḥān Arukh without the amendments of Moses Isserles, and thus their interpretation of the law tends to be more liberal. As a result of worsening conditions, there have been large-scale emigrations from the communities in Muslim countries to Israel since 1948, where there is a dual Chief Rabbinate. In general, Sephardim have felt themselves to be put in second place by Ashkenazim, and only slowly have come to positions of authority in government. A Sephardi, Leon Tamman (1927–95) founded Taʿali, the World Movement for a United Israel, to reconcile the two communities, and progress was made as a result.

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"Sephardim." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Sephardim." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sephardim

Sephardim

Sephardim Descendants of the Jews of medieval Spain and Portugal and others who follow their customs. Iberian Jews followed the Babylonian rather than the Palestinian Jewish tradition and developed their own language, Ladino. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492), many settled in parts of the Middle East and North Africa under the Ottoman Empire. Continuing persecution led many of them to form colonies in Amsterdam and other cities of nw Europe.

http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Judaism/Sephardim.html

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