Cities of Splendour in the Shaping of Sephardi History

Cities of Splendour in the Shaping of Sephardi History

Jane S. Gerber

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781904113300

Publisher: Liverpool University Press

Abstract

Sephardi identity has meant different things at different times, but has always entailed a connection with Spain, from which the Jews were expelled in 1492. While Sephardi Jews have lived in numerous cities and towns throughout history, certain cities had a greater impact on the shaping of their culture. This book focuses on those that may be considered most important, from Cordoba in the tenth century to Toledo, Venice, Safed, Istanbul, Salonica, and Amsterdam at the dawn of the seventeenth century. Each served as a venue in which a particular dimension of Sephardi Jewry either took shape or was expressed in especially intense form. Significantly, these cities were mostly heterogeneous in their population and culture — half of them under Christian rule and half under Muslim rule — and this too shaped the Sephardi worldview and attitude. While Sephardim cultivated a distinctive identity, they felt at home in the cultures of their adopted lands. The book demonstrates that Sephardi history and culture have always been multifaceted. The book's interdisciplinary approach captures the many contexts in which the life of the Jews from Iberia unfolded, without either romanticizing the past or diluting its reality.