After Expulsion: 1492 and the Making of Sephardic Jewry by Jonathan S. Ray

By Jonathan S. Ray

Honorary point out for the 2014 Medieval and Early smooth Jewish heritage part publication award awarded by means of the organization for Jewish Studies

On August three, 1492, a similar day that Columbus set sail from Spain, the lengthy and wonderful heritage of that nation’s Jewish neighborhood formally got here to an in depth. The expulsion of Europe’s final significant Jewish neighborhood ended greater than 1000 years of exceptional prosperity, cultural power and highbrow productiveness. but, the problem of 1492 additionally gave upward push to a dynamic and resilient diaspora society spanning East and West.
After Expulsion strains a few of the paths of migration and resettlement of Sephardic Jews and Conversos over the process the tumultuous 16th century. Pivotally, the quantity argues that the exiles didn't develop into “Sephardic Jews” in a single day. purely within the moment and 3rd new release did those disparate teams coalesce and undertake a “Sephardic Jewish” identification.
After Expulsion provides a brand new and interesting portrait of Jewish society in transition from the medieval to the early sleek interval, a portrait that demanding situations many longstanding assumptions in regards to the alterations among Europe and the center East.

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As a politically neutral and easily controlled minority, Jews were given opportunities to act as diplomats and translators for Christian lords. They also benefited from Christian military and economic successes. Jewish merchants traded in captured Muslim slaves, and they followed Catalan maritime expansion into the Mediterranean. As the Christian dominions expanded, Jews became increasingly involved in loaning money to settlers and great barons alike. Though most Jews continued to eke out a meager living as artisans and petty traders, wealthy and influential Jewish families could be found in nearly every major town from Lisbon to Barcelona.

Indeed, although the lordship of Iberian monarchs was relatively benevolent, especially by medieval European standards, it could also be capricious, and thus required nearly constant attention from Jewish courtiers and communal officials. In addition to more formal negotiations of communal rights, the practice of securing royal protection as well as personal exemptions and favors through bribery was always part of the relationship between the Jews and their Christian sovereigns. The point here is not to gauge the “true” attitudes and behavior of Christian society with regard to the Jews, nor to argue that Jews weathered difficult periods with equanimity.

The rise of Converso society in the fifteenth century further eroded Jewish participation in civil service and trade. Still, this was not the biggest hurdle that the New Christians posed to their Jewish neighbors. It was the suspected role of Iberian Jews in “Judaizing” the converts and their descendants that sealed the fate of medieval Europe’s last great Jewish community. During the fifteenth century, the crowns of Castile and Aragon vigorously yet ineffectively attempted to achieve the same goals of separation that had failed for nearly two centuries.

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