Spanish and Portuguese Jews - Relation To Other Jewish Communities

Relation To Other Jewish Communities

"Sephardim" properly refers to Jews whose families have extended histories in Spain and Portugal, to the exclusion of other non-Ashkenazi Jews (particularly Mizrahi Jews who have extended histories in the Greater Middle East and North Africa) who are nonetheless ordinarily called "Sephardim" in colloquial parlance due to similar styles of liturgy and a certain amount of intermarriage between them and Sephardim proper.

The main factor distinguishing between "Spanish and Portuguese Jews" from other Sephardim proper (who also have extended histories in Spain and Portugal) rests in the fact that "Spanish and Portuguese Jews" refers specifically to those Jews whose history as practising Jews (and particularly as members within the Jewish communities of the Iberian peninsula) is intermittently interrupted by the experience of a period as anusim (forced converts to Catholicism), in many cases, for three or more generations. During this period, these conversos, New Christians or Marranos, as they were variously called, often practised their Jewish faith in secrecy as best they could. For those that did not become a part of this community, theirs was a gradual assimilation into the general Spanish population. It was an historic episode, and it shaped this sub-group of Sephardim who managed to escaped that assimilation. These left Spain and Portugal nominally as Christians, establishing themselves in Western Europe and the Americas from the late 16th century onwards, at which time they reverted to Judaism under the more tolerant conditions.

"Spanish and Portuguese Jews", in this respect, are clearly distinguishable from other Sephardim proper who descend from the Jews who left Iberia in the condition of Jews before the expiration date for the Alhambra Decree which resulted in the expulsion of all Jews who had not been baptised into the Catholic faith by 1492 in Spain and 1497 in Portugal. These Jews, who were expelled and left Iberia in the condition of Jews, settled mainly around the Mediterranean basin of Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, namely, Salonika, the Balkans and Turkey.

"Spanish and Portuguese Jews" must also be clearly distinguished from the present-day Jews in Portugal and Jews in Spain. The modern-day Jewish communities resident in Spain and Portugal were founded with the assistance of the "Spanish and Portuguese Jews" residing outside the Iberian peninsula but consist, for the most part, of Jews from other Jewish ethnic subdivisions, particularly Ashkenazi Jews.

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