Thursday, June 19, 2008

Some Book Reviwes and Thoughts on Sefaradim

As usual, I 'reviewed' a number of books in my visit to 'Barnes and Noble', only this time I feel like writing about it..

I saw two books about Sefaradim, one called "Sephardi Jewry: A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th-20th Centuries by Esther Benbassa (the same lady who wrote "The Jews of France"). I don't see why she titled it 'Sephardi' Jewry- the whole thing concentrates on these somewhat obscure communities in the Balkans (and Turkey).

And then I checked out "Foundations of Sephardic Spirituality by Marc D. Angel (the Rav from the Spanish/Portuguese shul on 70th street). It was also just about Turkish Jews...and mostly from his own recollection, so...

One book I think is really good (which I took out from the library) and I'd recommend to anyone is "Ashkenazim and Sephardim: Their Relations, Differences, and Problems As Reflected in the Rabbinical Responsa by H. J. Zimmels. Very Rabbinically oriented. Very clear and concise. ..I mean like, you can use that as a 'מפתח' or 'מורה דרך' for תשובות הראשונים.

About Sefardim actually (in that case) I wanted to lay out that I personally was never really so keen on the term Sefaradim- being that there is such a large amount of diversity in the group, it's very imprecise to give us all one homogeneous title. To me there are five very different and distinct groups divided by time and geography.

1. The first (ideological) group was obviously the Jews in Muslim Spain and the Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia area. 'תור הזהב בספרד'. i

2. The Jews who were expelled from Spain and went to other countries with Jewish communities on the Mediterranean. 'מגורשי ספרד בארצות האסלם'. i

3. The Jews who were in those Muslim counties the entire time (the Jews of Morocco, Alegia, Tunisia, Lybia, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Greece, and Turkey) which pretty much culturally 'swallowed' the Spanish Jews after a while, though they (Spanish Jews) did leave a lot of their legacy. 'קהילות התושבים'. i

4. The Jews of the countries of the 'eastern block' of Muslim counties; Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan- who were never really racially or culturally influenced by Spanish Jews first hand. 'יהודי המזרח'. i

5. The Spanish Jews who ended up in Western or Christian states (like the Balkans Italy, England, Germany and the Americas).

And today all Sefaradim associate themselves with at least one one of these groups. For instance I personally take pride in the spiritual and literary accomplishments my ancestors made in Muslim Spain, but also feel much more at home among the Jews from Morocco than Jews from, say; Bulgaria...

..But yet we are all called Sefaradim! Example: Once in a camp I was teaching in, there were only two Sefaradim; me, and a guy who's father was from Afghanistan. Am I of the same cultural heritage of people from Afghanistan?!

Between each of these groups there were great halakhic and ideological differences (for example between the Spanish Jews and the Jews native the Muslim countries). Even within the groups there were differences (like the difference between the Spanish 'Kabalists' and 'Philosophists'). So....I'm personally fond of the term 'יהודים מארצות האסלם' for example.


Ha-historion said...

Interesting ideas. See also Papo's Sephardim in America where he discussed the use and misuse of the term 'sephardi'. You might find some relevant posts on my blog interesting as well.


Rachel said...

"And then I checked out "Foundations of Sephardic Spirituality by Marc D. Angel"

...So you know of the author? What's the shul like- I mean, in terms of religious affiliation?

I started reading one of his books a couple of weeks ago but...bleh. (Granted, though, I only gave him about ten pages before I tossed it. :) )

I recommend "The Cross and the Pear Tree," by Victor Pereira. A bit of light read, but interesting- that is if you don't mind history only from the lens of one family's geneology. Plus, he throws in fun facts every now and again (like the one I mentioned to you about Sephardic cruelty to Ashkenazim in Bordeaux... although I haven't found any other source backing that up so far.)

aoc gold said...

What Does Little Birdie Say?


What does little birdie say,
In her nest at peep of day?
Let me fly, says little birdie,
Mother, let me fly away,
Birdie, rest a little longer,

Till the little wings are stronger.

So she rests a little longer,

Then she flies away.


What does little baby say,
In her bed at peep of day?

Baby says, like little birdie,

Let me rise and fly away.

Baby, sleep a little longer,

Till the little limbs are stronger.

If she sleeps a little longer,

Baby too shall fly away.

-----by runescape gold