Sephardic Jews in America: A Diasporic History
A significant number of Sephardic Jews, tracing their remote origins to Spain and Portugal, immigrated to the United States from Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans from 1880 through the 1920s, joined by a smaller number of Mizrahi Jews arriving from Arab lands. Most Sephardim settled in New York, establishing the leading Judeo-Spanish community outside the Ottoman Empire. With their distinct languages, cultures, and rituals, Sephardim and Arab-speaking Mizrahim were not readily recognized as Jews by their Ashkenazic coreligionists. At the same time, they forged alliances outside Jewish circles with Hispanics and Arabs, with whom they shared significant cultural and linguistic ties.
The failure among Ashkenazic Jews to recognize Sephardim and Mizrahim as fellow Jews continues today. More often than not, these Jewish communities are simply absent from portrayals of American Jewry. Drawing on primary sources such as the Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) press, archival documents, and oral histories, Sephardic Jews in America offers the first book-length academic treatment of their history in the United States, from 1654 to the present, focusing on the age of mass immigration.
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According to one Sephardic tradition, Jews settled in the Iberian Peninsula after
the Babylonian monarch Nebuchadnezzar undertook an expedition to Spain in
the sixth century B.C.E., bringing in his wake “many families of the tribe of Judah,
exegetes since the first century C.E. have identified it with Hispania, the Roman
name for the Iberian Peninsula.62 Most of these biblical interpreters also
identified the founding of the peninsula's Jewish community with the Judeans
exiled by ...
were German Jews, or Ashkenazim, who had settled in the empire during the
fifteenth century.81 The number of Iberian Jewish exiles who braved the perils
and bore the expense of sea voyages to the Ottoman Empire was small in ...
108 Similarly, Haim Vidal Sephiha points out that some of the alternative terms,
such as “Arab” or “North African,” bear pejorative connotations.109 Mark R.
Cohen argues that lumping Iberian-origin Jews together with non-Ashkenazim ...
Syria were indigenous to the Middle East and were joined by significant numbers
of Iberian Jewish exiles only after the Expulsion of 1492. Spanish Jewish settlers
there quickly gained ascendancy and imposed their prayer rite and language ...
Sephardic Strangers and Kin
4 AshkenazicSephardic Encounters
5 The Hispanic Embrace
A View from the Margins
Population Statistics of NonAshkenazic Jews in the United States of America
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