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After Expulsion

After Expulsion: 1492 and the Making of Sephardic Jewry

Jonathan Ray
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    After Expulsion
    Book Description:

    On August 3, 1492, the same day that Columbus set sail from Spain, the long and glorious history of that nation's Jewish community officially came to a close. The expulsion of Europe's last major Jewish community ended more than a thousand years of unparalleled prosperity, cultural vitality and intellectual productivity. Yet, the crisis of 1492 also gave rise to a dynamic and resilient diaspora society spanning East and West. After Expulsion traces the various paths of migration and resettlement of Sephardic Jews and Conversos over the course of the tumultuous sixteenth century. Pivotally, the volume argues that the exiles did not become Sephardic Jews overnight. Only in the second and third generation did these disparate groups coalesce and adopt a Sephardic Jewish identity. After Expulsion presents a new and fascinating portrait of Jewish society in transition from the medieval to the early modern period, a portrait that challenges many longstanding assumptions about the differences between Europe and the Middle East.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2912-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Of the many calamities to befall the Jewish people during their arduous passage from the medieval to the modern world, none was more sharply felt or more widely chronicled by its contemporaries than the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. The last in a long line of similar expulsions in medieval Europe, it marked the end of one of the most celebrated periods of affluence and intellectual productivity in Jewish history. Together with the fall of Muslim Granada early that same year, the Expulsion of the Jews represented the ultimate failure of inter-faith coexistence for which medieval Iberia...

  5. 1 Medieval Inheritance
    (pp. 11-32)

    Theanno mirabilisof 1492 stands as one of the clearest and most decisive limits between historical epochs. In the span of six months, from January August of that year, a series of events took place that altered the course of Iberian history and ushered in a new era for the culture of Spain and the rest Europe. The transformation began on January 2, when Spain’s Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, accepted the surrender of the emirate of Granada, bringing to a close more than seven centuries Muslim political presence in Iberia. The fall of Granada...

  6. 2 The Long Road into Exile
    (pp. 33-56)

    The passage of Iberian Jewry from West to East was neither immediate nor direct. Whereas some of the refugees of 1492 were able to find safe haven in the eastern Mediterranean, the vast majority spent the rest of their lives amid a succession of tribulations in Portugal, North Africa, and Italy. Many years passed before the children and grandchildren of those expelled from Spain were able to make the burgeoning cities of the Ottoman Empire the center of the Sephardic world. Perhaps more importantly, the instability of those first, turbulent decades following 1492 had a decisive impact on the identity...

  7. 3 An Age of Perpetual Migration
    (pp. 57-75)

    One of the defining characteristics of Jewish history in the sixteenth century was that the great expulsions of the 1490s did not lead to a neat transfer of Jewish settlement from West to East. Rather, the Jewish exodus from Spain gave way to a long and decidedly unsettled period of nearly continuous migration around the Mediterranean. Of course, large-scale immigration had always been part of Mediterranean Jewish life, as had the close social, economic, and intellectual ties that came with it. Procedures had long been established for ransoming captives, as well as accepting new settlers with varying customs, languages, and...

  8. 4 Community and Control in the Sephardic Diaspora
    (pp. 76-92)

    For those Jews who survived the first calamitous years after 1492, the question soon arose as to how they would organize themselves in exile. The general instability of Jewish life during much of the sixteenth century played a crucial role in this process. As with the migration of Iberian Jewry across the Mediterranean, the establishment and maintenance of new communities followed a long and circuitous route that progressed haltingly and with great difficulty. Yet it is precisely the indeterminate nature of this society in transition that allows for a glimpse of the inner workings of Jewish political life. It is...

  9. 5 Families, Networks, and the Challenge of Social Organization
    (pp. 93-112)

    The independent congregation-community was not the only way in which Mediterranean Jews organized themselves during this period. As the refugees of 1492 set about reestablishing these local political associations, they began to form broader interregional links with one another. These horizontal associations, or networks, represent an important dimension of the early Sephardic Diaspora that served to complement that of the congregational community. Much like the local Jewish community, the expansion of these social and economic networks marks a point of continuity with the period before 1492. Wide-ranging networks of Jewish merchants and intellectuals had been central features of Jewish society...

  10. 6 Rabbinic and Popular Judaism in the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean
    (pp. 113-134)

    Political and social organization were not the only areas of Jewish society in which the realities of daily life fell short of the ideals set forth by Jewish tradition. The performance of religious obligations and customs also became an arena in which the contours of the Sephardic Diaspora were asserted and contested. There can be little doubt that the central religious features of Judaism—the observance of its precepts, the performance of rituals, and the offering of prayers—served to meet a human need for spiritual expression. Yet such personal religious practices also had an important social function. Religion operated...

  11. 7 Imagining Sepharad
    (pp. 135-156)

    The Expulsion of the Jews from Spain and the subsequent migration of Conversos from Portugal also mark the beginning of a long process of cultural self-fashioning in which the descendants of the Spanish exile would, over the course of the sixteenth century, create a transnational Hispano-Jewish, or “Sephardic,” society built upon a shared concept of Iberia as a common homeland. By the second half of the sixteenth century, the old rabbinic term Sepharadim was in common use among Mediterranean Jews as a broad reference to Jews of Iberian heritage. Also popular among Jews and non-Jews alike were a host about...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 157-162)

    The Expulsion of 1492 was the culmination of a long series of large-scale expulsions that drove the Jews out of Latin Christendom. After decades of continued expulsion and migration, the majority of Iberian Jews ultimately came to settle in Muslim lands, where they continued their legacy of economic and cultural achievement. From this perspective, it is perhaps natural view their transition from the medieval to the early modern period, and from Iberia to the broader Mediterranean world, through a juxtaposition of Christian and Muslim attitudes toward the Jews. In turn, such questions of interfaith dynamics on the eve of modernity...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 163-194)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 195-204)
  15. Index
    (pp. 205-213)
  16. About the Author
    (pp. 214-214)