Sephardic Identity

Essays on a Vanishing Jewish Culture


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About the Book

The Sephardim, a fast-disappearing group of Jews whose ancestors were exiled from the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the fifteenth century, have fought to retain their identity while necessarily assimilating to the surrounding society. This culture was changed by settlement and residence in non–Spanish areas for over four centuries, a Diaspora in the late nineteenth century, and the Nazi Holocaust. Sephardic settlements in Latin America, the United States, Israel, and elsewhere were the result. Because Judaism is as much a culture as a religion, any move toward assimilation into a non–Jewish culture has historically been seen as a threat to Jewish identity: this is an ongoing crisis in Sephardic life.
These essays, representing some of the most innovative work being done in Sephardic studies, are divided into sections exploring history, sociology, anthropology, language, literature and the performing arts. Topics include the possibility that the Sephardim are Judaized Arabs, Berbers and Iberians; the role of Spanish exiles in the Ottoman Empire; Sephardic remnants in Greece; Sephardic philosophy; the literature of New Christians (the community that arose out of forcibly converted Jews) whose works reveal Jewish roots; the Judeo-Spanish press in Salonika; and the influences of Sephardism on contemporary Argentine literature. An introduction to Sephardism begins the work and a conclusion discusses the Sephardic Education Center, which hopes to assure the culture’s future.

About the Author(s)

George K. Zucker is Professor Emeritus of Spanish at the University of Northern Iowa, having retired in 2001. He lives in Tampa, Florida.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by George K. Zucker
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 238
Bibliographic Info: references, index
Copyright Date: 2005
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2021-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3229-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1


1. Sephardic Scholarship: A Personal Journey      11


2. Are the Sephardim Jews or Judaized Arabs, Berbers, and Iberians?      29

3. Iberian Exiles in the Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Empire      43

4. A Surreptitious Tolerance: Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Southern Balearic Islands      55

5. Assimilation and Identity in Spain, Portugal, and Their Colonies      65

6. Sephardic Remnants in Ioannina      75

7. The Power of Speech among the Sephardim      81


8. What Language Did the Jews Speak in Pre-Expulsion Spain?      99

9. Don Isaac Abravanel on Exile and Redemption      113

10. Judaic Motifs and Religious Inclinations in Romance al divín mártir, Judá Creyente by Antonio Enríquez Gómez (1600–1663)      125

11. Sebastián de Horozco (1510-1580), the Ambivalent Anti-Semitic Converso      141

12. The Judeo-Spanish Press in Salonika: From Glory to Destruction      151

13. The Allure of Sepharad      157


14. Is Sephardic Dance Too Sexy?      167

15. Sephardic Vocal Music and the Tape Recorder: New Life or the End of an Oral Tradition?      179

16. The Mediaization of Judeo-Spanish Song      189


17. The Sephardic Educational Center: Crisis of Identity and Assimilation in Modern American Judaism      207

About the Contributors      215

Index      219

Book Reviews & Awards

“this readable book provides the American reader with a smorgasbord collection of topics”—La Lettre Sepharade.