The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience

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9780029115732: The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience

Sephardic Jews form one of the two mainstreams of Jewish life - it was they who founded the first Jewish settlements in America, and they played an important role in colonial society. That history has been obscured by the subsequent arrival of German and Russian Jews whose greater numbers have dominated the American Jewish community for over a century. But the diaspora of Spanish Jews is older, and their longing for the vanished land of "Sepharad", their homeland for a 1000 years, provides one of the greatest themes in Jewish history. Now historian Jane Gerber for the first time traces their great story - rich in both events and personalities - from its ancient beginnings in Roman Iberia to the present day. Gerber shows how the Jews created a civilization in Spain that was both Jewish and secular long before the enlightened Age of Emancipation. Sephardic Jews achieved remarkable success within their "host" society, distinguishing themselves as theologians and philosophers, writers and artists, businessmen, courtiers, and medical men. This rich legacy of culture and accomplishment has inspired a just pride in Sephardic Jews that persists to this day; the Sephardic experience also sheds light on the possibilities for peaceful coexistence among Christians, Jews, and Arabs. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 thus has a special pathos as the story of the wanton destruction of a flourishing community with roots going back a millenium or more. The book should also be a timely addition to the worldwide observances of the events of 1492 on their 500th anniversary.

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From the Back Cover:

The history of the Jews of Spain is a remarkable story that begins in the remote past and continues today. For more than a thousand years, Sepharad (the Hebrew word for Spain) was home to a large Jewish community noted for its richness and virtuosity. Summarily expelled in 1492 and forced into exile, their tragedy of expulsion marked the end of one critical phase of their history and the beginning of another. Indeed, in defiance of all logic and expectation, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain became an occasion for renewed creativity. Nor have five hundred years of wandering extinguished the identity of the Sephardic Jews, or diminished the proud memory of the dazzling civilization which they created on Spanish soil.This book is intended to serve as an introduction and scholarly guide to that history.

From Publishers Weekly:

Before the brutal expulsion of 300,000 Jews from Spain in 1492, Sephardic Jews thrived on the Iberian peninsula for more than a millennium, as Gerber relates in this stirring and riveting saga, a remarkable story of creative adaptation, minority achievement and survival. During the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry, Sephardim excelled in medicine, science, philosophy, music and literature. Columbus, evasive about his origins, kept close company with Jews, and several Jewish converts sailed with him. Gerber, director of the City University of New York's Graduate Center's Institute for Sephardic Studies, charts the haunted lives of "New Christians," secret Jews who were persecuted by the Inquisition, from Mexico to Peru, and surveys Sephardic communities that flourished openly from Romania, Syria and Turkey to the U.S. and Barbados. She examines the tensions between impoverished Ashkenazim (Jews of middle and northern Europe) and aristocratic Sephardim throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Betrayals and horrors of WW II and the Holocaust reinforced Sephardic Jews' resolve to leave the Muslim world, and Gerber incisively looks at today's Sephardic communities in Israel, France, the U.S. and Spain.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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