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This article will introduce you to the differences between Ashkenazim and Sephardic Jews. While the two groups share some of the same traditions and values, their languages are quite different. You’ll find that the Sephardi people speak Ladino, a language based on Spanish and Hebrew, and have different genealogy. The differences between the two groups may surprise you, but they’re all worth learning about. The following are some of the common characteristics that distinguish them.
The history of the Sephardic religion spans several centuries, from the first centuries of the Common Era to the present day. The majority of Sephardim migrated to Iberia in the fifteenth century, and were renamed “Bnei Anusim” by the Catholic Church. They later migrated to Iberian colonial possessions in Latin America. In the nineteenth century, organized groups of Sephardic Jews emerged in Latin America.
While largely centered in the Middle East, Sephardic Jews also have a history in North Africa. The first two children, son and daughter, are traditionally named after their maternal or paternal grandparents. Additional children are free to choose their names. While Sephardic Jews are known for their traditions and religion, they also identify with many of their European neighbors. Thessaloniki, in present-day Greece, was once called the “La Madre de Israel” and was a thriving Jewish community.
The Sephardim ascended from noble families and held positions of prominence in their countries before leaving. Some of them were heads of large mercantile establishments, bankers, doctors, and scholars. Some of them even spoke Spanish or Portuguese, which was the language of diplomacy and commerce. In addition, Sephardim were the first Jews to settle in North America. And their immigration helped the Sephardim to establish themselves in a variety of areas including the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean.
Although the traditions of Sephardic Jews are similar to those of Ashkenazic Jews, there are some differences between the two groups. For example, the language and the rites of a Sephardic wedding differ. The bride wears a velvet gown to the wedding, which is also a tradition in other cultures. The bride also undergoes a purification ritual at the Mikveh, and relatives shower her with sweets and flowers. She wears a Tallit in shul, the traditional prayer shawl, and sits or stands during the Kaddish ceremony. These rituals are particularly complex, but are well worth the time and effort to study.
Although the Sephardic sub-groups did not maintain separate religious and cultural institutions, they did adopt many of the liturgical traditions of their ancestors. Although the Sephardim of Palestine and Eastern parts of the Ottoman Empire retained much of the culture and language of their ancestors, they largely abandoned their Arabic language and dialects and adopted a Judeo-Arabic dialect, leading to the broader religious definition of a Sephardic.
While tensions between Ashkenazim and Sephardim remain in Israel today, Sephardim have been gaining ground in the last two centuries. As a result, they are increasingly represented in positions of influence and prestige. In recent years, Moroccan-born David Levy served as foreign minister of Israel, while Iranian-born Moshe Katsav was elected president. The Sephardim community is also thriving in many Muslim countries in the world, including the United States.
The Sephardic Holocaust Poetry includes 21 essays, personal accounts, and chapter notes. The book also contains Sephardic poems in both Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish, and a bibliography. The text also contains a glossary and index. The author’s biographical notes provide further context for each poem. The bibliography is helpful in navigating the historical context of Sephardic Jewish literature. In addition to the poetry, the book also contains personal testimonies and an overview of the history of Sephardic Jews in the world before, during, and after the Holocaust.
While many Sephardic Jews were not aware of their Jewish heritage, there are five times as many people of Sephardic descent as Ashkenazi origin. Although the Sephardic population is dispersed throughout the world, it tends to be more concentrated in countries like Israel, Spain, Portugal, and the Caribbean. As a result, identifying Sephardic ancestors may require searching through these records. But the search for specific names has its advantages.
The Sephardic language is Judeo-Spanish. Also known as Ladino or Judezmo, this Romance language is the most commonly used language among Sephardics. The language traces its roots back to Old Castilian, with borrowings from Arabic, Turkish, and Greek. The language is still used today. Several Sephardic languages can be distinguished by their accents. Some Jews in America may use a combination of Spanish and Portuguese dialects in their everyday conversation.
Muslims, in turn, greatly expanded the Jewish community in Iberia. During the early years of Muslim rule, Jews from both the Christian and Muslim worlds migrated to Iberia to join their native Jewish communities. The Islamic conquest brought more Jews to the Iberian peninsula and ushered in the “Golden Age” of Sephardi Jewry. The influence of the Muslim faith in Spain’s history is also apparent in the Middle Ages.
Although the Spanish monarchy did not re-admit Jews in the sixteenth century, the Sephardic population continued to grow in numbers. Although there are few records of the Spanish Jewish community before the Council of Toledo (305 C.E.), many believe that the Jews were in Spain for at least a thousand years before the expulsion of the Jews. Because of this, the Sephardic community was able to establish trade relations with various European countries.
During Colonial times, Sephardim were the majority of the Jewish population in the United States. In 1654, Sephardim fled Recife, Brazil to settle in New Amsterdam. During the eighteenth century, most synagogues were held in Portuguese and written in English. By the mid-nineteenth century, Ashkenazim began to dominate the Jewish landscape in the United States, primarily from Germany and Eastern Europe.
Although the majority of American Jews observe the Ashkenazic tradition, there are differences between the two. Most Sephardic communities celebrate Passover a night earlier than Ashkenazic Jews, but they often do not partake in matzah ball soup. Moreover, their seder rituals differ from those of Ashkenazic communities. A Sephardic seder may also include rice, corn, or couscous instead of matzah.