Week 16


The history of the Jews of Spain is a remarkable story that begins in the remote past and continues today. For more than a thousand years, Sepharad (the Hebrew word for Spain) was home to a large Jewish community noted for its richness and virtuosity. Summarily expelled in 1492 and forced into exile, their tragedy of expulsion marked the end of one critical phase of their history and the beginning of another. Indeed, in defiance of all logic and expectation, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain became an occasion for renewed creativity. Nor have five hundred years of wandering extinguished the identity of the Sephardic Jews, or diminished the proud memory of the dazzling civilization which they created on Spanish soil. This book is intended to serve as an introduction and scholarly guide to that history.


Jane Gerber,

Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience,

Free Press (January 31, 1994) paperback edition,

ISBN 0029115744

From Publishers Weekly:

"Before the brutal expulsion of 300,000 Jews from Spain in 1492, Sephardic Jews thrived on the Iberian peninsula for more than a millennium, as Gerber relates in this stirring and riveting saga, a remarkable story of creative adaptation, minority achievement and survival. During the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry, Sephardim excelled in medicine, science, philosophy, music and literature. Columbus, evasive about his origins, kept close company with Jews, and several Jewish converts sailed with him. Gerber, director of the City University of New York's Graduate Center's Institute for Sephardic Studies, charts the haunted lives of "New Christians," secret Jews who were persecuted by the Inquisition, from Mexico to Peru, and surveys Sephardic communities that flourished openly from Romania, Syria and Turkey to the U.S. and Barbados. She examines the tensions between impoverished Ashkenazim (Jews of middle and northern Europe) and aristocratic Sephardim throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Betrayals and horrors of WW II and the Holocaust reinforced Sephardic Jews' resolve to leave the Muslim world, and Gerber incisively looks at today's Sephardic communities in Israel, France, the U.S. and Spain. Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

"In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain, ending a centuries-long relationship with their Islamic and then Christian masters. During a part of this time, a veritable medieval golden age of poets and philosophers had flourished. Judah Halevi and Moses Maimonides are just two of the age's legendary figures whose works are still avidly read today. However, as Gerber reminds us, the Spanish or Sephardic Jewish experience did not end in 1492. Sephardic colonies sprouted all along the Mediterranean and in the sea-faring countries of Europe. Jews looked toward the New World too. Gerber tells their continuing story in a lively, readable, yet learned manner." Paul Kaplan, Dakota Cty. Lib., Eagan, Minn. Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.