Here, in a single volume, is the first comprehensive history in English of the Sephardim--descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabel. Writing for the general reader as well as for the specialist, Paloma Di az-Mas provides a superbly organized and up-to-date account of Sephardic culture, history, religious practice, language, and literature. Most of the Sephardim originally settled in Mediterranean Europe, the Low Countries, North Africa, and the Turkish Empire. In the nineteenth century, however, a second diaspora brought the Sephardim to the United States, South America, Israel, and Western Europe.
Di az-Mas begins with a brief overview of Jewish religion and culture, discussing the calendar, holidays, dietary laws, and life-cycle ceremonies. Next, she traces the history of the Jews in Spain through the 1492 expulsion. She succinctly describes their subsequent wanderings, settlements, and achievements up to the nineteenth century, when false messiahs caused crises that had a profound impact on Sephardic communities.
After detailing the various causes of the second diaspora, the author addresses the effect of the Holocaust specifically on the Sephardim--an issue almost entirely overlooked elsewhere. Di az-Mas also reviews the involvement of the Sephardim in Spanish politics through the Moroccan Protectorate and into Franco's time and the present. The final chapter focuses on the situation of the Sephardim throughout the world today.
Di az-Mas's treatment of the language of the Sephardim--called Ladino or Judeo-Spanish--shows how it diverged from "mainstream" Spanish in the 1500s, how it later developed regionaldialects, and why it is now disappearing as an everyday language. In addition to traditional Sephardic literature--religious works, "coplas" (verses), popular stories--newer genres like journalism and theater are also examined.
Authoritative and completely accessible, "Sephardim" will appeal to anyone interested in Spanish culture and Jewish civilization. Each chapter ends with a list of recommended reading, and the book includes an extensive bibliography of works in Spanish, French, and English.
"Much has been written about the Sephardim. However, not everything said and written--by Spaniards or others--reflects the truth. . . . My aim--in addition to refuting some of the most often-repeated beliefs--is to give the general reader worthwhile, truthful, and well- documented information about the Sephardim, their history, their language, their culture, and their relations with Spain."--From the Introduction