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The Diaspora is
‘The Jews or Jewish communities scattered “in exile” outside Judea/Palestine
or present-day Israel.  

Go to Countries
and then click on the country of interest to find out what happened to them.

(See also
What is a Diaspora)

Survival of Hebrew

Survival of Hebrew

Why Teach the Holocaust
Which  Happened About
80 Years Ago?

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Atlas of the Jewish World', Nicholas de Lange, 1985, p46

(See also What is a Diaspora)

The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 is remembered as one of the epoch-making events in Jewish history. Spain was the last Christian country where Jews survived in considerable numbers (perhaps 200 000 or more, not counting conversos) and with a certain measure of prosperity. The expulsion was decreed in the newly captured Alhambra of Granada on 30 March 1492, and by 31 July they had all either accepted baptism or gone into exile.

The largest numbers, estimated at over 100 000, took the easiest route and fled to Portugal. It was an unwise choice. Five years later, under Spanish pressure, all the Jews in Portugal were forcibly baptized, amid scenes of gruesome violence.

Italy received a number of Spanish exiles, but political conditions made it an unsatisfactory ref­uge. Parts of the country (including Sicily with its large and long-established Jewish population) were Spanish possessions and subject to the edict of expulsion. Other parts became Spanish not long afterwards. In the north the Counter-Reformation was soon to harden hostility.

The best hope for the refugees lay outside the Christian world. Some settled, temporarily or per­manently, in Morocco and other parts of North Africa, where Jews fleeing from Christian per­secution had already been settling for a century. Here their fate was not a happy one. The Muslim populace was unfriendly, and the rules of separ­ation were harshly enforced. It was only in the Ottoman empire that the exiles were really wel­comed. The Cretan rabbi Elia Capsali, whose family offered hospitality to some of the outcasts as they passed through Candia, was moved to compile a highly laudatory chronicle of the Ottomans, and he describes the Turks mocking the folly of the Spanish king who was enriching their kingdom while impoverishing his own. The Ottomans had none of the Christian (or indeed the Muslim) prejudices, and the Spaniards (known as "Sephar- dim" from the biblical name of Spain, Sepharad) were treated with particular favor, since they brought skills which were needed: medical and technical knowledge, commercial and political expertise. They settled in all the major cities and reconstructed the ruins of their shattered life and culture. Salonica soon became a mainly Jewish town, and its development into the most important commercial port of the eastern Mediterranean was largely due to Jewish enterprise. When Egypt and Palestine came under Ottoman rule in 1517 these regions too attracted Jewish immigration. Although the Sephardim, with their Spanish language and culture, dominated the Jewish communities of the empire, refugees also arrived from other countries. Some of the fugitives were able to repay their welcome by rendering extraordinary services to the Ottoman state. Joseph Nasi, duke of Naxos (c. 1515— 79), and Solomon Aben-Ayish, duke of Mytilene (c. 1520—1603), both from Portugal, and the Italian Solomon Ashkenazi (1520—1603) were among the foremost - diplomats of their day and exerted a considerable influence on international affairs.

The Portuguese emigres were Christian converts who renounced Christianity on arrival in a freer land. The general conversion of 1497 had trapped many thousands of Jews in a cloak of Christianity which they wore unwillingly and longed to discard. They watched anxiously for an opportunity to escape. Many of the most important Jewish centers of later times owe their origin to groups of Portuguese New Christians. The list includes London, Amsterdam, Hamburg and New York. By the beginning of the 17th century small settlements were to be found in every major commercial center, and they played a vital role in the development and expansion of European trade and finance. As (nominally) Christians they were in a position, through their wealth and skills, to win acceptance in the highest ranks of society, and gradually they acquired, in many places, freedom to worship as Jews. They were thus the pioneers of Jewish settlement and integration in the Western world. Their establishment laid the foundations for much larger-scale immigration of Jews from Germany and Poland. Although they were soon numerically far outnumbered, the Portuguese maintained their own distinct identity, together with their religious traditions, and many of their synagogues survive in use to this day.

Mizrachi Jews
(See also What is a Diaspora)

Mizrahi Jews, Mizrahim (Hebrew: מזרחים‎‎) or Mashriqiyyun (Arabic: الم‍شرقيون‎‎), also referred to as Edot HaMizrach (עֲדוֹת-הַמִּזְרָח; Communities of the East; Mizrahi Hebrew: ʿEdot(h) Ha(m)Mizraḥ, Ben ha-Mizraḥ; Bene ha-Mizraḥ ("Sons of the East") or Oriental Jews, are Jews descended from local Jewish communities of the Middle East from biblical times into modern era. This includes descendants of Babylonian Jews and Mountain Jews from modern Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Dagestan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Caucasus, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Yemeni Jews are sometimes also included in Mizrahi definition though their history is separate from Babylonian Jewry.

The use of the term Mizrahi can be somewhat controversial. The term Mizrahim is sometimes applied for descendants of Maghrebi and Sephardic, who had lived in North Africa (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco), the Sephardi-proper communities of Turkey and mixed Levantine communities of Lebanon, Israel and Syria. Before the establishment of the state of Israel, Mizrahi Jews did not identify themselves as a separate Jewish subgroup. Instead, Mizrahi Jews generally characterized themselves as Sephardi, because they follow the traditions of Sephardic Judaism (although with some differences among the minhagim of the particular communities). This has resulted in a conflation of terms, particularly in Israel, and in religious usage, where "Sephardi" is used in a broad sense to include Mizrahi Jews and North African Jews as well as Sephardim proper. From the point of view of the official Israeli rabbinate, any rabbis of Mizrahi origin in Israel are under the jurisdiction of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel.

As of 2005, over 50% of Israeli Jews are of at least partial Mizrahi ancestry.

"Mizrahi" is literally translated as "Oriental", "Eastern", מזרח (Mizraḥ), Hebrew for "east." In the past the word "Mizrahim," corresponding to the Arabic word Mashriqiyyun (Easterners), referred to the natives of Syria, Iraq and other Asian countries, as distinct from those of North Africa (Maghribiyyun). In medieval and early modern times the corresponding Hebrew word ma'arav was used for North Africa. In Talmudic and Geonic times, however, this word "ma'arav" referred to the land of Israel as contrasted with Babylonia. For this reason many object to the use of "Mizrahi" to include Moroccan and other North African Jews.

The term Mizrahim or Edot Hamizraḥ, Oriental communities, grew in Israel under the circumstances of the meeting of waves of Jewish immigrants from the Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia, followers of Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Yemenite rites. In modern Israeli usage, it refers to all Jews from Central and West Asian countries, many of them Arabic-speaking Muslim-majority countries. The term came to be widely used more by Mizrahi activists in the early 1990s. Since then in Israel it has become an accepted semi-official and media designation.

Most of the "Mizrahi" activists actually originated from North African Jewish communities, traditionally called "Westerners" (Maghrebi), rather than "Easterners" (Mashreqi). Many Jews originated from Arab and Muslim countries today reject "Mizrahi" (or any) umbrella description and prefer to identify themselves by their particular country of origin, or that of their immediate ancestors, e.g. "Moroccan Jew", or prefer to use the old term "Sephardic" in its broader meaning.

Projetaladin, 2009

The culture of Sephardic Judaism was born during the early Middle Ages in the shadow of the Muslim courts of Spain. From 711 up to the mid-twelfth century, flourishing Jewish communities had developed throughout Muslim Spain (al-Andalus), creating a culture full of vitality in the Islamic centres of power such as Granada, Cordoba, Lucena, Merida, Saragossa and Seville.

The specificity of the Sephardic Jews stems in part from the unique diversity of the Iberian Peninsula in medieval times, home to Muslims, Christians and Jews, and the special place they occupied both politically and culturally.

The Muslim conquest of Spain in 711 was generally welcomed by the Jews. According to Moslem and Christian sources, Jews provided valuable aid to the Muslim invaders. Once captured, the defence of Cordoba was left in the hands of Jews, and Granada, Malaga, Seville, and Toledo were left to a mixed army of Jews and Moors.

The conquest triggered a wave of Jewish immigration to Spain after a century of persecution under the Christian Visigoths. Wealth and opportunities offered by Spain was a magnet for many peoples of the Mediterranean region. To Jews throughout the Christian and Moslem worlds, Iberia was seen as a land of relative tolerance and opportunity. Following initial Arab victories, and especially with the establishment of Umayyad rule by Abd-ar-Rahman I in 755, the native Jewish community was joined by Jews from the rest of Europe, as well as from Arab territories, from Morocco to Babylon. Thus the Sephardim found themselves enriched culturally, intellectually, and religiously by the commingling of diverse Jewish traditions.

With the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba under Abd al-Rahman III and Al-Hakam II, an independent Muslim centre of power emerged, rivalling Baghdad in wealth and culture. The Jews of Spain abandoned their ties with Jewish communities in Iraq and developed independently their own culture and Talmudic authority. Under the influence of Muslim linguists and grammarians, they began to experiment with new cultural forms in Hebrew. Poetry, linguistics, science, philosophy and mathematics complemented their interest for the Bible and the study of the Talmud.

The adoption of the Arabic by Jews not only introduced a new vocabulary, but also a completely new way of thinking, which allowed the Jews in Muslim countries to participate in the dominant culture and to become part of it in a way that never existed in Christian Europe. In addition, Jews were conspicuously present in a variety of professions, including medicine, commerce, finance, and agriculture.

By the tenth century, the Umayyads of Cordoba had successfully transferred to Spain much of the imperial traditions and art of Baghdad. Jewish merchants bringing to Spain luxurious goods from the East also brought with them the fruits of the intellectual work of the Talmudic academies of Baghdad. Thus a Babylonian ritual prayer had arrived in Spain in the ninth century, allowing the Spanish Jewish community to participate in a common culture that stretched across the Mediterranean, with its roots in the East.

The active cultural life in Cordoba was a source of inspiration and imitation in the areas of synagogue architecture, poetry and medicine. Jewish scholars from abroad were invited to Cordoba to create an independent academy, and linguists and grammarians were employed as secretaries of princes while exploring new poetic forms.

The first period of exceptional prosperity took place under the reign of Abd ar-Rahman III (882-942), the first independent Caliph of Cordoba. His Jewish councillor, Hasdai ibn Shaprut (882-942), was put in charge of supervision of customs and foreign trade. It was in his capacity as dignitary that he corresponded with the kingdom of the Khazars, who had converted to Judaism in the 8th century.

Hasdai was not the first Jew in the Middle Ages to play an important role in public life. Many Jewish figures also emerged from obscurity at the same time in Iraq. But he was the first to play a key role in launching a cultural movement in Jewish history.

Abd al-Rahman III's support for Arabic scholasticism had made Iberia the centre of Arabic philological research. It was within this context of cultural patronage that interest in Hebrew studies developed and flourished. In addition to being a poet himself, Hasdai encouraged and supported the work of other Sephardic writers. Subjects covered the spectrum, encompassing religion, nature, music, and politics, as well as pleasure. Hasdai brought a number of men of letters to Cordoba, including Dunash ben Labrat (innovator of Hebrew metrical poetry) and Menahem ben Saruq (compiler of the first Hebrew dictionary, which came into wide use among the Jews of Germany and France). Celebrated poets of this era include Solomon ibn Gabirol, Yehuda Halevi, Samuel Ha-Nagid ibn Nagrela, and Abraham and Moses ibn Ezra.

Hasdai used his influence to intervene on behalf of foreign Jews, as is reflected in his letter to the Byzantine Princess Helena. In it he requested protection for the Jews under Byzantine rule, attesting to the fair treatment of the Christians of al-Andalus.

In addition to contributions of original work, the Sephardim were active as translators. Greek texts were rendered into Arabic, Arabic into Hebrew, Hebrew and Arabic into Latin, and all combinations of vice-versa. In translating the great works of Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek into Latin, Iberian Jews were instrumental in bringing the fields of science and philosophy, which formed much of the basis of Renaissance learning, into the rest of Europe.

Despite its reputation, Cordoba was never the sole centre of Andalusian culture and Jewish creativity in medieval Spain. After the dismemberment of the caliphate, other thriving centres of Islamic civilization, deliberately imitating the capital, came to prominence in Seville, Granada, Malaga and Lucena.

Like their contemporaries Muslims, Jews studied a variety of topics, including astronomy, astrology, geometry, optics, rhetoric, calligraphy, philology, metrics, medicine, philosophy and Arabic. It was also essential to complete rigorous studies of the Jewish tradition, including the Bible, the Talmud and Hebrew. The particular emphasis on the arts and foreign languages reflected the dominant cultural traditions of Arabs, under which a man was judged on the basis of literary skills as much as his social qualities.

In the Umayyad Cordoba, Jewish scientists built astrolabes to calculate latitude, improved astronomical tables and instruments for navigation at the time of the voyages of exploration setting off from Spain and Portugal. The poet Abraham Ibn Ezra wrote three books on arithmetic and number theory. Abraham Bar Hiya wrote a book on practical geometry in Hebrew that was the first scientific book in Hebrew to be translated into Latin. It was also the first time when the Arab knowledge of algebra appeared in Latin. Bar Hiya also compiled a large encyclopaedia of mathematics.

The period of great literary blossoming of Jewish history in Spain ended with the career of Moses Maimonides. When the Almohades from Africa conquered Córdoba in 1148 and threatened the Jewish community with the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile, Maimonides's family, along with most other Jews, chose exile. Thus came to an end an era of relative harmony and well-being. Maimonides eventually settled in Egypt and was widely recognized during his lifetime as a physician and a philosopher and his legal, medical and philosophical writings marked a great moment in the history of Jewish thought. His greatest legacy, the Guide for the Perplexed, prompted comments and controversy for generations.





Sephardi Jews

Mizrahi Jews

Jews in Muslim Spain

The Diaspora is ‘The Jews or Jewish communities scattered “in exile” outside Judea/Palestine or present-day Israel.  

Go to Countries and then click on the country of interest to you to find out what happened to them there.

(See also What is a Diaspora)