Sephardi Jews

From Citizendium, the Citizens' Compendium
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is basically copied from an external source and has not been approved.
Main Article
Talk
Definition [?]
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
 
This editable Main Article is under development and not meant to be cited; by editing it you can help to improve it towards a future approved, citable version. These unapproved articles are subject to a disclaimer.
The content on this page originated on Wikipedia and is yet to be significantly improved. Contributors are invited to replace and add material to make this an original article.

Sephardi Jews (Hebrew: ספרדי, Standard Səfardi Tiberian Səp̄arədî; plural ספרדים, Standard Səfaradim Tiberian Səp̄arədîm) are a subgroup of Jews originating in the Iberian Peninsula, usually defined in contrast to Ashkenazi Jews; frequently used ambiguously with respect to whether the term includes Mizrahi Jews.

Definition

A Sephardi is a Jew originating in the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain), including the descendants of those expelled from Spain by order of the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella (as codified in the Alhambra decree of 1492), or from Portugal by order of King Manuel I in 1497.

The name comes from Sepharad (Template:Hebrew Name ; Turkish: Sefarad), a Biblical location.[1] This was probably the "Saparda" mentioned in Persian inscriptions: the location of that is disputed, but may have been Sardis in Asia Minor. "Sepharad" was identified by later Jews as the Iberian Peninsula, and still means "Spain" in modern Hebrew. More broadly, the term Sephardi has come to include Jews of Arabic and Persian backgrounds who have no historical connection to Iberia except their use of a Sephardic style of liturgy. For religious purposes, Jews of these communities are considered to be "Sephardim", meaning not "Spanish Jews" but "Jews of the Spanish rite". (In the same way, Ashkenazim means "Jews of the German rite", whether or not their families actually originate in Germany.) Accordingly, in the vernacular of modern-day Israel, "Sephardi" has come to be used as an umbrella term for any Jewish person who is not Ashkenazi; Ashkenazim, who are descendants of Jews from Germany, Poland, Austria and Eastern Europe, have for several generations constituted the bulk of the world's Jewish population. This article is mostly concerned with Sephardim in the narrower ethnic sense, rather than in this broader Modern Israeli Hebrew definition.

The term Sephardi can also describe the nusach (Hebrew language, "liturgical tradition") used by Sephardi Jews in their Siddur (prayer book). A nusach is defined by a liturgical tradition's choice of prayers, order of prayers, text of prayers and melodies used in the singing of prayers. Sephardim traditionally pray using Minhag Sefarad, which is quite similar to Nusach Eidoth haMizrach (liturgy of the Eastern Congregations). For more details of the Sephardic liturgy see Sephardic Judaism.

Note that the term Nusach Sefard or Nusach Sfarad does not refer to the liturgy generally recited by Sephardim, but rather to an alternative Eastern European liturgy used by many Hasidim.

Divisions

Historically, Sephardim are those Jews associated with the Iberian peninsula.

  • The most prominent sub-group consists of the descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, who settled in various parts of the Ottoman Empire, in particular Salonica and Istanbul, and whose traditional language is Ladino.
  • Another branch settled in Northern Morocco, and spoke a variant of Judaeo-Spanish known as Haketia.
  • A third sub-group, known as Spanish and Portuguese Jews, consists of Jews whose families remained in Spain and Portugal as ostensible Christians, and later reverted to Judaism in Italy, the Netherlands, England or the New World, particularly Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America.

A variety of non-Ashkenazi Jewish groups are regarded as "Sephardim" for religious purposes, and are so identified in modern Israel, including Jews of Arabic or Persian backgrounds. The justification for this is that most of these communities (with some exceptions such as the Yemenites) use the same religious ritual as the Sephardim proper and, like them, base their religious law on the Shulchan Aruch without the glosses of Moses Isserles.

As an across-the-board term, "Sephardi" is often perceived as unsatisfactory. Various related terms have been coined. For example, Jews of Arabic-speaking backgrounds are sometimes referred to as Musta'arabim or "Arab Jews", though for political reasons this last description is disputed. A term in common use for all Jewish communities historically associated with Africa and Asia and not of Spanish descent is Mizrahi Jews, which in Hebrew means "Orientals". This is sometimes found confusing because it appears to include the Moroccans, whereas in Arabic the equivalent term (Mashriqiyyun) specifically denotes the inhabitants of the Near East as opposed to those of North Africa (Maghrabiyyun). In current use, Mizrahi Jews is a convenient way to refer collectively to a wide range of Jewish communities, most of which are as unrelated to each other as they are to either the Sephardi (in the narrower sense) or Ashkenazi communities. They include in particular the communities living in, or coming from, Southern Arabia (Yemen), North Africa, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Syria, Persia (Iran) and India.

Distribution

Before 1492, most Spanish provinces had substantial Jewish populations. [2] Following the 1492 expulsion from Spain, and the subsequent expulsions in Portugal (1497), these Jews, the nascent Sephardim, settled mainly in Morocco, the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey, Greece, Southwest Asia, North Africa and the Balkans), southern France, Italy, Spanish North America, (Southwest United States and Mexico), Spanish South America and the Philippines and Portuguese Brazil, as well as the Netherlands (whence a number of families continued on to the former Dutch possessions of Curaçao, Suriname and Aruba), England, Germany, Denmark, Austria and Hungary. As a result of the Jewish exodus from Arab lands, many of the Sephardim from the Middle East relocated to either Israel or France, where they form a significant portion of the Jewish communities today. Other significant communities also exist in New York City and Montreal, Canada.

Language

The traditional language of most Sephardim is Judæo-Spanish, also called Ladino, a Romance language derived mainly from Old Castilian (Spanish), with borrowings from Sephardi Hebrew. Judæo-Spanish has been conserved by the crypto-Jewish marranos of Portugal and Brazil and is still spoken by many of them. It is also spoken by Sephardim still remaining in Turkey and amongst the Sephardi immigrants of Israel. Judæo-Portuguese has also been used by Sephardim — especially among the Spanish and Portuguese Jews of Western Europe. The pidgin forms of Portuguese spoken among slaves and their Sephardic owners were an influence in the development of Papiamento and the Creole languages of Suriname. Other Romance languages with Jewish forms, spoken historically by Sephardim, include Judæo-Aragonese, and Catalanic (Judæo-Catalan).

Other languages associated with Sephardic Jews are mostly extinct, i.e., formerly spoken by some Sephardic communities in Italy. Low German, formerly used as the vernacular by Sephardim around Hamburg and Altona in Northern Germany, is also no longer in use as a specifically Jewish vernacular.

History

For more information, see: History of the Jews in Spain and History of the Jews in Portugal.

Early history

The precise origins of the Sephardim are unclear. There is fragmentary and inconclusive evidence of a Jewish presence on the Iberian Peninsula dating from pre-Roman times. More substantial references date from the period of Roman occupation. Evidence which suggests Jewish connections with the Iberian Peninsula includes:

  • References in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, I Kings, and Jonah to the country of Tarshish, which is thought by many to have been located in southern Spain.
  • A signet ring found at Cadiz, dating from the 8th-7th century B.C.E.. The inscription on the ring, generally accepted as Phoenician, has been interpreted by a few scholars to be "paleo-hebraic.”
  • An amphora dating from at least the first century C.E. found in Ibiza, which bears imprints of two Hebrew characters.

It is thought that substantial Jewish immigration probably occurred during the period of Roman occupation of Hispania. The province came under Roman control with the fall of Carthage after the Second Punic War (218-202 BCE). Exactly how soon after this time Jews made their way onto the scene in this context is a matter of speculation. It is within the realm of possibility that they went there under the Romans as free men to take advantage of its rich resources.

Although the spread of Jews into Europe is most commonly associated with the Diaspora which ensued from the Roman conquest of Judea, emigration from Judea into the greater Roman Mediterranean area antedated the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans under Titus. Any Jews already in Hispania at this time would have been joined by those who had been enslaved by the Romans under Vespasian and Titus, and dispersed to the extreme west during the period of the Jewish Wars, and especially after the defeat of Judea in 70 C.E. One account placed the number carried off to Hispania at 80,000. Subsequent immigrations came into the area along both the northern African and southern European sides of the Mediterranean.

Among the earliest records which may refer specifically to Jews in the Iberian peninsula during the Roman period is Paul's Letter to the Romans. Many have taken Paul's intention to go to Hispania to minister the gospel (15.24, 28) to indicate the presence of Jewish communities there, as has Herod's banishment to Hispania by Caesar in 39 C.E. (Flavius Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.9.6). (Although the place of banishment is identified in Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews as Gaul – specifically Lyon (18.7.2) – this discrepancy has been "resolved" by "postulating Lugdunum Convenarium, a town in Gaul on the Hispanic frontier" as the actual site.

From a slightly later period, Midrash Rabbah, Leviticus 29.2 makes reference to the return of the Diaspora from Hispania by 165 C.E. Perhaps the most substantial of early references are the several decrees of the Council of Elvira, convened in the early fourth century, which address proper Christian behavior with regard to the Jews of Hispania.

As citizens of the Roman Empire, the Jews of Hispania engaged in a variety of occupations, including agriculture. Until the adoption of Christianity, Jews had close relations with non-Jewish populations, and played an active role in the social and economic life of the province. The edicts of the Synod of Elvira, although early (and perhaps precedent-setting) examples of Christian Church-inspired anti-Semitism, provide evidence of Jews who were integrated enough into the greater community to cause alarm among some: of the Council's 80 canonic decisions, all which pertain to Jews served to maintain a separation between the two communities. It seems that by this time the presence of Jews was of greater concern to Catholic authorities than the presence of pagans; Canon 16, which prohibited marriage of Christians with Jews, was worded more strongly than canon 15, which prohibited marriage with pagans. Canon 78 threatens Christians who commit adultery with Jews with ostracism. Canon 48 forbade the blessing of Christian crops by Jews, and canon 50 forbade the sharing of meals by Christians and Jews.

Yet in comparison to Jewish life in Byzantium and Italy, life for the early Jews in Hispania and the rest of western Europe was relatively tolerable. This is due in large measure to the difficulty which the Church had in establishing itself in its western frontier. In the west, Germanic tribes such as the Suevi, the Vandals, and especially the Visigoths had more or less disrupted the political and ecclesiastical systems of the Roman empire, and for several centuries western Jews enjoyed a degree of peace which their brethren to the east did not.

Barbarian invasions brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Visigothic rule by the early fifth century. Other than in their contempt for Catholics, who reminded them of the Romans, the Visigoths did not generally take much of an interest in the religious creeds within their kingdom. It was not until 506, when Alaric II (484-507) published his Brevarium Alaricianum (wherein he adopted the laws of the ousted Romans), that a Visigothic king concerned himself with the Jews.

The situation of the Jews changed after the conversion of the Visigothic royal family under Recared from Arianism to Catholicism in 587. In their desire to consolidate the realm under the new religion, the Visigoths adopted an aggressive policy towards the Jews. As the king and the church acted in a single interest, the Jews' situation deteriorated. Under successive Visigothic kings and under ecclesiastical authority, many orders of expulsion, forced conversion, isolation, enslavement, execution, and other punitive measures were made.

The Jews of Hispania had been alienated by Catholic rule since the time of the Muslim invasion. The Moors were welcomed as a liberating force. Wherever they went, the Muslims were greeted by Jews eager to aid them in administering the country. In many conquered towns the garrison was left in the hands of the Jews before the Muslims proceeded further north. Thus were initiated the two centuries of Muslim rule in the Iberian peninsula which became known as the "Golden Age" of Sephardi Jewry.

Sephardim under Islam

See also Al-Andalus; Golden age of Jewish culture in the Iberian Peninsula; Timeline of the Muslim presence in the Iberian peninsula

With the victory of Tariq ibn Ziyad in 711, the lives of the Sephardim changed dramatically. In spite of the stigma attached to being dhimmis (non-Muslim members of monotheistic faiths), the coming of the Moors was by-and-large welcomed by the Jews of Iberia.

Both Muslim and Christian sources tell us that Jews provided valuable aid to the invaders. Once captured, the defense of Cordoba was left in the hands of Jews, and Granada, Malaga, Seville, and Toledo were left to a mixed army of Jews and Moors. Although in some towns Jews may have been helpful to Muslim success, they were of limited impact overall.

Muslim rule placed restrictions upon the Jews as dhimmis. Nevertheless, life under Muslim rule was one of great opportunity and Jews flourished as had not under the Christian Visigoths. Many Jews emigrated to Iberia, seen as a land of tolerance and opportunity. Following initial Arab victories, and especially with the establishment of Umayyad rule by Abd al-Rahman I in 755, the native Jewish community was joined by Jews from Christian Europe, as well as from Arab lands, from Morocco to Babylon. Thus the Sephardim found themselves enriched culturally, intellectually, and religiously by the commingling of diverse Jewish traditions.

Arabic culture, of course, also made a lasting impact on Sephardic cultural development. General re-evaluation of scripture was prompted by Muslim anti-Jewish polemics and the spread of rationalism, as well as the anti-Rabbanite polemics of Karaite sectarianism (which was inspired by various Muslim schismatic movements). The cultural and intellectual achievements of the Arabs, and much of the scientific and philosophical speculation of Ancient Greek culture, which had been best preserved by Arab scholars, was made available to the educated Jew. The meticulous regard which the Arabs had for grammar and style also had the effect of stimulating an interest in philological matters in general among Jews. Arabic came to be the main language of Sephardic science, philosophy, and everyday business, as had been the case with Babylonian geonim. This thorough adoption of the Arabic language also greatly facilitated the assimilation of Jews into Moorish culture, and Jewish activity in a variety of professions, including medicine, commerce, finance, and agriculture increased.

By the ninth century, some members of the Sephardic community felt confident enough to take part in proselytizing amongst Christians. Most famous were the heated correspondences sent between Bodo Eleazar, a former Christian deacon who had converted to Judaism in 838, and the Bishop of Córdoba Paulus Albarus, who had converted from Judaism to Christianity. Each man, using such epithets as "wretched compiler", tried to convince the other to return to his former faith, to no avail.

The Golden Age is most closely identified with the reign of Abd al-Rahman III (882-942), the first independent Caliph of Cordoba, and in particular with the career of his Jewish councilor, Hasdai ibn Shaprut (882-942). Within this context of cultural patronage, studies in Hebrew, literature, and linguistics flourished. Hasdai benefitted world Jewry not only indirectly by creating a favorable environment for scholarly pursuits within Iberia, but also by using his influence to intervene on behalf of foreign Jews: in his letter to Byzantine Princess Helena, he requested protection for the Jews under Byzantine rule, attesting to the fair treatment of the Christians of al-Andalus, and perhaps indicating that such was contingent on the treatment of Jews abroad.

One notable contribution to Christian intellectualism is Ibn Gabirol's neo-Platonic Fons Vitae ("The Source of Life"). Thought by many to have been written by a Christian, this work was admired by Christians and studied in monasteries throughout the middle ages. In addition to contributions of original work, the Sephardim were active as translators. Texts were translated between Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin. In translating the great works of Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek into Latin, Iberian Jews were instrumental in bringing the fields of science and philosophy, which formed much of the basis of Renaissance learning, into the rest of Europe.

In the early 11th century centralized authority based at Cordoba broke down following the Berber invasion and the ousting of the Umayyads. In its stead arose the independent taifa principalities under the rule of local Arab, Berber, or Slavonic leaders. Rather than having a stifling effect, the disintegration of the caliphate expanded the opportunities to Jewish and other professionals. The services of Jewish scientists, doctors, traders, poets, and scholars were generally valued by Christian and Muslim rulers of regional centers, especially as order was restored in recently conquered towns.

The decline of the Golden Age began before the completion of the Christian Reconquista, with the penetration and influence of the Almoravides, and then the Almohads, from North Africa. These fundamentalist sects abhorred the liberality of the Islamic culture of al-Andalus, including the position of authority which some dhimmis held over Muslims. When the Almohads gave the Jews a choice of either death or conversion to Islam, many Jews emigrated. Some, such the family of Maimonides, fled south and east to the more tolerant Muslim lands, while others went northward to settle in the growing Christian kingdoms.

Meanwhile the Reconquista continued in the north throughout the 12th century. As various Arab lands fell to the Christians, conditions for some Jews in the emerging Christian kingdoms became increasingly favorable. As had happened during the reconstruction of towns following the breakdown of authority under the Umayyads, the services of Jews were employed by the victorious Christian leaders. Sephardic knowledge of the language and culture of the enemy, their skills as diplomats and professionals, as well as their desire for relief from intolerable conditions - the very same reasons that they had proved useful to the Arabs in the early stages of the Muslim invasion - made their services very valuable.

However, the Jews from the Muslim south were not entirely secure in their northward migrations. Old prejudices were compounded by newer ones. Suspicions of complicity with the Muslims were alive and well as Jews immigrated, speaking Arabic. However, many of the newly-arrived Jews of the north prospered during the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries. The majority of Latin documentation regarding Jews during this period refers to their landed property, fields, and vineyards.

In many ways life had come full circle for the Sephardim of al-Andalus. As conditions became more oppressive during the 12th and 13th centuries, Jews again looked to an outside culture for relief. Christian leaders of reconquered cities granted them extensive autonomy, and Jewish scholarship recovered somewhat and developed as communities grew in size and importance. However, the Reconquista Jews never reached the same heights as had those of the Golden Age.

Later history and culture

Template:Jews and Judaism Among the Sephardim were many who were the descendants, or heads, of wealthy families and who, as Marranos, had occupied prominent positions in the countries they had left. Some had been state officials, others had held positions of dignity within the Church; many had been the heads of large banking-houses and mercantile establishments, and some were physicians or scholars who had officiated as teachers in high schools. Their Spanish or Portuguese was a lingua franca that enabled Sephardim from different countries to engage in commerce and diplomacy.

The Sephardim rarely engaged in finance (also called chaffering) occupations nor in usury, and they did not often mingle with lower social classes. With their social equals they associated freely, without regard to religion. They were received at the courts of sultans, kings, and princes, and often were employed as ambassadors, envoys, or agents. The number of Sephardim who have rendered important services to different countries is considerable, from Samuel Abravanel (financial councilor to the viceroy of Naples) to Benjamin Disraeli. Among other names mentioned are those of Belmonte, Nasi, Francisco Pacheco, Palache, Pimentel, Azevedo, Sasportas, Salvador, Costa, Curiel, Cansino, Schonenberg, Toledo, Toledano, Pereira and Teixeira (notice that many of these surnames are not Jewish in origin).

The Sephardim have distinguished themselves as physicians and statesmen, and have won the favor of rulers and princes, in both the Christian and the Islamic world. That the Sephardim were selected for prominent positions in every country in which they settled was due to the fact that Spanish had become a world-language through the expansion of Spain.

For a long time the Sephardim took an active part in Spanish literature; they wrote in prose and in rhyme, and were the authors of theological, philosophical, belletristic (aesthetic rather than content based writing), pedagogic (teaching), and mathematical works. The rabbis, who, in common with all the Sephardim, emphasized a pure and euphonious pronunciation of Hebrew, delivered their sermons in Spanish or in Portuguese. Several of these sermons have appeared in print. Their thirst for knowledge, together with the fact that they associated freely with the outer world, led the Sephardim to establish new educational systems wherever they settled; they founded schools in which the Spanish language was the medium of instruction. Theatre in Istanbul was in Judæo-Spanish since it was forbidden to Muslims.

In Portugal the Sephardim were given important roles in the sociopolitical sphere and enjoyed a certain amount of protection from the Crown (e.g. Yahia Ben Yahia, first "Rabino Maior" of Portugal and supervisor of the public revenue of the first King of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques). Even with the increasing pressure from the Catholic Church this state of affairs remained more or less constant and the number of Jews in Portugal grew with those running from Spain. This changed with the marriage of D. Manuel I of Portugal with the daughter of the Catholic Monarchs of the newly born Spain. In 1497 the Decree ordering the expulsion or forced conversion of all the Jews was passed, and the Sephardim either fled or went into secrecy under the guise of "Cristãos Novos", i.e. New Christians (this Decree was symbolically revoked in 1996 by the Portuguese Parliament). Those who fled to Genoa were only allowed to land provided they received baptism. Those who were fortunate enough to reach the Ottoman Empire had a better fate: the Sultan Bayezid II sarcastically sent his thanks to Ferdinand for sending him some of his best subjects, thus "impoverising his own lands while enriching his (Bayezid's)". Jews arriving in the Ottoman Empire were mostly resettled in and around Selanik (Thessaloniki in Greek) and to some extent in Istanbul and İzmir. This was followed by a great massacre of Jews in the city of Lisbon in 1506 and the establishment of the Portuguese Inquisition in 1536. This caused the flight of the Portuguese Jewish community, which continued until the extinction of the Courts of Inquisition in 1821; by then there were very few Jews in Portugal.

In Amsterdam, where Jews were especially prominent in the seventeenth century on account of their number, wealth, education, and influence, they established poetical academies after Spanish models; two of these were the Academia de los Sitibundos and the Academia de los Floridos. In the same city they also organized the first Jewish educational institution, with graduate classes in which, in addition to Talmudic studies, instruction was given in the Hebrew language. The most important synagogue, or Esnoga, as it is usually called amongst Spanish and Portuguese Jews, is the Amsterdam Esnoga — usually considered the “mother synagogue”, and the historical centre of the Amsterdam minhag.

A sizeable Sephardic community had settled in Morocco and other Northern African countries, which were colonized by France in the 19th century. Jews in Algeria were given French citizenship in 1870 by the décret Crémieux (previously Jews and Muslims could apply for French citizenship, but had to renounce the use of traditional religious courts and laws, which many did not want to do). When France withdrew from Algeria in 1962, the local Jewish communities largely relocated to France. There are some tensions between some of those communities and the earlier French Jewish population (who were mostly Ashkenazi Jews), and with Arabic-Muslim communities.

Today, the Sephardim have preserved the romances and the ancient melodies and songs of Spain and Portugal, as well as a large number of old Portuguese and Spanish proverbs. A number of children's plays, like, for example, El Castillo, are still popular among them, and they still manifest a fondness for the dishes peculiar to Iberia, such as the pastel, or pastelico, a sort of meat-pie, and the pan de España, or pan de León. At their festivals they follow the Spanish custom of distributing dulces, or dolces, a confection wrapped in paper bearing a picture of the magen David (six pointed star). Amada.

In Mexico, the Sephardim community numbers approximately 5,500 and they originated mainly from Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. In 1942 the Cologio Hebreo Tarbut was founded in collaboration with the Ashkenazi family and instruction was in Yiddish. In 1944 the Sephardim community established a separate "Colegio Hebreo Sefaradí Tarbut" with 90 students where instruction was in Hebrew and complemented with classes on Jewish customs. By 1950 there were 500 students. In 1968 a group of young Sephardims created the group Tnuat Noar Jinujit Dor Jadash in support for the creation of the state of Israel. In 1972 the Majazike Tora institute is created aiming to prepare young male Jews for their Bar Mitzva (History of the Sephardim Community in Mexico).

Names

The Sephardim usually followed the general rules for Spanish and Portuguese names and they generally bear Portuguese and Spanish first names. [3]

Unlike Ashkenazic Jews, Sephardic Jews often name their children after the children's grandparents, even if they are still alive. The first son and daughter are traditionally named after the paternal grandparents, and then the maternal parent's names are next up in line for the remaining children. After that, additional children's names are customarily chosen freely without naming obligations. The only instance in which Sephardic Jews will not name after their own parents when one of the spouses shares a common first name with a mother/father-in-law (since Jews will not name their children after themselves.) There are times though when the "free" names are used to honor the memory of a deceased relative who died young or childless. These conflicting naming conventions can be troublesome when children are born into mixed Ashkenazic-Sephardic households. An exception to the distinct Ashkenazi and Sephardi naming traditions is found among Dutch Jews, where Ashkenazim followed the tradition attributed to Sephardim. See Chuts.

Other Sephardic pedigrees

See also List of Jewish surnames,Spanish and Portuguese names, List of Sephardic People

Congregations

Great authority was given to the president of each congregation. He and the rabbinate of his congregation formed the "ma'amad," without whose approbation (often worded in Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian) no book of religious content might be published. The president not only had the power to make authoritative resolutions with regard to congregational affairs and to decide communal questions, but he had also the right to observe the religious conduct of the individual and to punish anyone suspected of heresy or of trespassing against the laws.

Relationship to other Jews

The Sephardim live on peaceful terms with other Jews, and are frequently intermarried with them (there is about 30% of intermarrige between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Israel and probably to a larger extent outside Israel). They adhere to their own ritual, which differs from the Ashkenazic in detail though there is a general similarity in outline. It is important to mention that in general Sephardim and Ashkenazim consider themselves to be from the very same origin and to have much in common. They also share a genetic similarity and reject, mostly, the notion of "Jewish ethnic divisions" as they see themselves as belonging to the same ethnic group, with sub-groups distinguished by custom rather than by ethnicity.

Wherever the Sephardic Jews settled they grouped themselves according to the country or district from which they had come, and organized separate communities with legally enacted statutes. In Constantinople and Thessaloniki, for example, there were not only Castilian, Aragonian, Catalonian, and Portuguese congregations, but also Toledo, Cordoba, Evora, and Lisbon congregations, in addition to the native Romaniotes. In Rome there were Castilian, Mallorcan, Portuguese, Sicilian, Sevillian and Catalan congregations, prior to the merger of all these congregations (and Rome's Ashkenazic and Bené Roma congregations) in 1910. In Morocco, Sephardim considered themselves superior, in a way, to Berber Jews. Under the common pressure of the Islamic society, the Berbers merged with the Sephardim by naming their children with Sephardic names.

One example is the "Belmonte Jews" in Portugal. A whole community survived in secrecy for hundreds of years by maintaining a tradition of intermarriage and by hiding all the external signs of their faith. The Jewish community in Belmonte goes back to the 12th Century and they were only discovered in the 20th Century. Their rich Sephardic tradition of Crypto-Judaism is unique. Only recently did they contact other Jews and part of them now profess Orthodox Judaism, although many still retain their centuries-old traditions.

Sephardic Chief Rabbis in Israel

(also styled Rishon Le-Zion)

Medicine

There is a higher incidence of certain hereditary diseases and inherited disorders in Sephardi Jews. The most important ones are:

See also Jewish Genetics Center about testing.


Notes

  1. Obadiah, 1-20: And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath; and the captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad, shall possess the cities of the south. (KJV)
  2. Among the more prominent were in Toledo, Córdoba, and Granada. Smaller towns such as Ocaña, Guadalajara, Bentrago, and Almazan were founded or inhabited principally by Jews. Castile, Aranda, Ávila, Calahorra, Cuellar, Herrera, Medina, Segovia, Soria, and Villalon were home to large Jewish communities. Aragon and Catalonia had substantial Jewish communities in the famous Calls of Girona, Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia and Palma de Mallorca.
  3. They generally bear Portuguese and Spanish first names, as Abravanel, Adatto, Aleqria, Angel, Angela, Amado, Amada, Bienvenida, Blanco, Cara, Cimfa, Comprado, Consuela, Coronel, Dolza, Edery, Esperanza, Estimada, Estrella, Fermosa, Gracia, Luna, Niña, Palomba, Preciosa, Sol, Ventura, and Zafiro; and such Spanish or Portuguese surnames as Afanador, Aguilar, Alvarez, Banegas, Behar, Belmonte, Benegas, Bengoa, Benveniste, Bensaúde, Bueno, Calderón, Cano, Carbajal, Caraballo, Carballo, Cardenas, Cardoso, Cardoze, Cardozo, Castro, Clemente, Cordova, Curiel, De Leon, De Pinna, Delgado, Delvalle, Diosdado, Espinoza, Espinosa, Fajardo, Fernández, Fidanque, Fonseca, Flores, Guerreiro, Gomez, Harari, Henríquez, Herrera, Iago, Jacome, Jimenez, Josué, Lafitte, Laredo, Leon, Levy Maduro, Levi/Levy, Lima, Lindo, Lisbona, Lombroso, Lopes, Louppes, Lozano, Macias, Maduro, Matamoros, Matos, Matamujeres, Medina, Mendes, Menezes, Mercado, Montes, Montijo, Monzon, Nunes, Osorio, Oliveira Pacheco, Pardo, Paredes, Penedo, Pereira, Peres, Perez, Peretz, Pinto, Prado, Ramirez, Rizzolo, Rivera, Rocamora, Rofé, Rojas, Romero, Saavedra, Sabbá,Saenz, Salvador, Santiago, Sarabia, Sasso,Sasson, Soriano, Sousa, Suasso, Tavares, Tejeda, Tellez, Toledano, Torres, Tarragona, Toro, Touro, Valencia, Viana, Vidal, Zapatero, Zaporta, and Zebede. Note that the majority of these names is in fact more associated with non-Jewish (Christian) families and individuals, so they are by no means exclusive to Jews.