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Posted By on October 1, 2019

Arts & Culture, Culture

Jews have lived in Iran since the Babylonian exile, approximately 2,700 years ago. A result of the harsh rhetoric between Israel, the Jewish homeland, and Iranespecially since 1979has been the masking of the fact that the largest Jewish community in the Middle East, outside of Israel, is the Iranian Jewish community. These Jews, unlike Soviet

When considering the literature that Jews of the Middle East and North Africa wrote in the first half of the twentieth century, one tends to think either of Iraqi Jewish authors, such as Anwar Shaul, or Sephardic writers from British Mandate Palestine, like Yiaq Shami and Yehuda Burla. In the case of Jewish writers of

The advent of Islam in the seventh century brought profound changes to the Middle East and to the Jews living there. The unification through Islamic conquest of the formerly warring great empires of Christian Byzantium and Zoroastrian Persia opened up vast territories for long-distance exchange of goods within a single realm. For Jews, the predominantly

In the works of Moroccan Jewish writers, authors, philosophers, and filmmakers, aspects are presented that illustrate a sense of double- or pluri-belonging, both to an abandoned homeland and to a new country of immigration; be it Israel, the mythical dreamt-of homeland; or, be it a foreign adopted country, devoid of any mythical connotations. Jews, originating

Luqmat. Bumuelos. Sfenj. Awwam. Lokma. Zvingous. So many names for one deep-fried dough ball. How did these little-yeasted fritterswhatever you want to call themspread all across the Mediterranean? And how did they become the preeminent anukka treat of the Sephardi world, from Morocco to Turkey? According to culinary historian Gil Marks in his Encyclopedia of

For many Jews across the world, a central element of anukka is the kindling of fire throughout the eight nights of the holiday. While many of usSephardic and Ashkenazic alikeare familiar with the method of lighting taught by Hillel, one Sephardic community explicitly deviates from this widespread custom. For Spanish Jews who arrived in Aleppo

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Sephardic Ancestry A Resource Website for Researching …

Posted By on October 1, 2019

What this site is about:Given the difficulty that I personally had in accessing information in the Spanish archives as I was tracing my own lineage back to Pre Inquisition Spain, I decided to compile all the available archival information and established this site to help those wanting to research their own Ancestry through the Archives in Spain.

You will be able to find the main archives in the country and a synopsis of their content. You will find the Church archives as well as the Diocese that each Archdiocese covers and University Libraries. In essence, most of the reference material that is available in Spain is listed on this website. Click here to find resources for your own research.

With the phone numbers, email addresses and website addresses listed, it will be easy to contact the specific archive and request more information.

It is important to understand that the pace in Spain is different from other countries and many archives close for holiday weeks and summer months. Summer hours should also be taken into consideration. Your research trip will be much more successful if a lot of the legwork is done beforehand. Good Luck with your research! - Genie Milgrom

Genie Milgrom has written several books regarding her personal journey in search of her Crypto-Judaic roots that you might find interesting and informative.

My 15 GrandmothersThis Book Covers my personal Journey in English.

Mis 15 AbeulasEste libro cubre mi trayectoria personal y esta en Espaol.

How I found my 15 Grandmothers. Como encontre a mis 15 Abuelas.

In English and Spanish, this book documents step by step how I did the work that eventuallyLed to the finding of my family history.

Este libro documenta paso por paso el trabajo que hice para encontrar mis ancestros Judios.

Recipes of My 15 Grandmothers

Recipes of my 15 Grandmothers showcases recipes that had been passed down to the family for centuries including many Crypto Jewish recipes. Spanning the globe, this book has recipes and history from Spain, Canary Islands, Costa Rica, Colombia and Cuba where the grandmothers lived.

Recetas de mis 15 abuelas exhibe recetas que se haban transmitido a la familia durante siglos, incluidas muchas recetas cripto judas. En todo el mundo, este libro tiene recetas e historia de Espaa, Islas Canarias, Costa Rica, Colombia y Cuba, donde vivan las abuelas.

Books are available through Click here.

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Sephardic Ancestry A Resource Website for Researching ...

Converso Cookbook- Sephardic Jewish Recipes from Spain

Posted By on October 1, 2019

Professor Gmez-Bravo received her Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Her main research areas are medieval and early modern Spanish literature, rhetoric and poetics, and theories of ethnic and gender difference. Professor Gmez-Bravos forthcoming book with the University of Toronto Press is entitled Textual Agency: Writing Culture and Social Networks in Fifteenth-Century Spain. The book shows the intersecting relevance of different types of material support in the formation of the book of poetry and the creation of a strong authorial self through the process of compilation. Authorial and textual agencies are competing forces in the midst of the institution of the Inquisition, the advent of the absolutist state, the growth of cities and the constitution of the Spanish nation. A study of the contributions of converso poets displays the ways in which all these different forces provided a conflictive albeit fertile ground for literary activity.

Currently, Professor Gmez-Bravo is working on a book-length project on the relation between food and ethnic identity, and in particular the attention paid by the Inquisition to food practices of Jews and Muslims leading to the exercise of racial profiling. She is also studying the ways in which these inquisitorial methods were applied in later centuries to other groups such as Native Americans and ethnic minorities.

Professor Gmez-Bravo has received grants and fellowships from the following sources: National Endowment for the Humanities, American Philosophical Society, Program for Cultural Cooperation between Spain and US Universities, Purdue University, and UC Berkeley. Her work has appeared in Rhetorica, Hispanic Review, Romance Philology, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Hispania and La Cornica, among others.

Learn more about Professor Gmez-Bravo on her faculty page.

All recipes and content related to TheConverso Cookbook are Ana Gmez-Bravo, 2014.

The UW Stroum Centers Faculty Digital Fellowship empowers professors to boost their public scholarshipthrough digital technology and new media. See more faculty projects here.

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Converso Cookbook- Sephardic Jewish Recipes from Spain

What Is a Synagogue? – Mitzvahs & Traditions

Posted By on September 30, 2019

A synagogue is a place of Jewish worship. In addition to housing a sanctuary for services, synagogues often serve as the centerpoint of Jewish life. The word synagogue is the Greek parallel to the Hebrew term beit knesset, house of gathering. Synagogues can be found virtually wherever there are Jews and have been in use since the Babylonian exile.

Find a synagogue service near you.

The exact dimensions of a synagogue vary, reflecting the culture, needs, means and tastes of those who built it and use it. However, you can generally expect it to have chairs (or pews) arranged in such a way that the worshipers are facing toward Jerusalem, once the site of the Holy Temple, and the place through which all prayers ascend to Gd.

Learn an in-depth article on the laws of building a synagogue.

In the front of the sanctuary is a cabinet called the aron kodesh (holy ark), which contains the Torah scrolls, the most sacred objects in Judaism. Handwritten in Hebrew letters on parchment, each scroll contains the Five Books of Moses. The scrolls are stored in the ark and are removed only to be read during services or on other special occasions.

The exact size and look of arks vary greatly, however, most of them have doors as well as an ornate curtain (parochet), which are opened at key points during the prayer.

Learn more about the ark.

Ner Tamid, an eternal light. (Bais Menachem, Chabad of Greater Boynton Beach, FL.)

In many synagogues there is an eternal light (ner tamid), situated above the ark. The flame (or light bulb) is a symbol of the western lamp, which continually shone in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Learn more about the ner tamid.

The bimah, used for the reading of the Torah.

Traditionally placed in the center of the sanctuary and facing toward the front of the room is the bimah (platform), the table from which the Torah is read. It is often (but by no means always) covered by a cloth and placed on a raised stage.

Learn more about the bimah.

The Amud, where the Chazzan leads the prayers

The prayers are led from the front of the room. There is generally a lectern, called an amud (lit. pillar) on which the leader (who also faces the front) can place his prayerbook.

The curtain of the ark, as well as the cloth coverings of the bimah and amud can be any color. However, during the High Holidays white coverings are generally used, reflecting sanctity, purity and forgiveness, all themes of the season.

Learn more about the amud.

(Photo: Ingrid Shakenovsky)

In Jewish tradition, men and women sit separately during prayers. In many (older) synagogues, seating for women is in a gallery above the sanctuary. It is more common, however, for men and women to both be seated on the same level with a mechitzah (partition) between them.

Read: Whats Wrong With Mixed Services?

Jews during hearfelt prayers, joined in a minyan, a quorom of 10 Jewish men.

The Rabbi: A synagogue rabbi is the spiritual guide of the congregation. In many communities, the rabbi also delivers a sermon on Shabbat and holiday mornings and on other special occasions.

Read: What Is a Rabbi?

The Rebbetzin: In many congregations, the wife of the rabbi takes on a quasi-official leadership role, guiding, teaching and leading.

The Chazzan (Cantor): Most prayers are led by a member of the congregation. It is considered an honor to lead the congregation in prayer. In many congregations there is a specially designated cantor who leads the prayers on Shabbat and holidays.

Read: What Is a Chazzan?

The Gabbai: Often translated as warden, the gabbai (or gabbaim plural) helps keep things organized and running smoothly. During the Torah reading, the gabbaim call up people to the bimah for the readings (aliyahs) and distribute other honors.

Read: What Is a Gabbai?

You: Thats right. Every single Jew is important, and we all contribute to the whole. Whether you can read Hebrew or not, you are an integral part of the congregation.

A chazzan praying before the congregation

Jewish prayer takes place three times a day: morning, afternoon and evening. The afternoon and evening services are often held back to back. On Shabbat the services are somewhat longer, and often better attended.

Read: The Three Daily Prayers.

Many people attend synagogue for other important lifecycle events, such as:

Here are some of the key points in the year when many first-timers might find themselves in a synagogue:

All of above is just the basic intro the synagogue, but remember that the best way to get to know the synagogue is to visit the synagogue. The natives are friendly, and so are the rabbis, so just feel free to drop in and make yourself at home!

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What Is a Synagogue? - Mitzvahs & Traditions

Talmud Daf Yomi Meilah 6 Rabbi Dr. Moshe Weisblum ‘ "

Posted By on September 30, 2019

Talmud Daf Yomi for Tractate Meilah Rabbi Dr. Moshe P. Weisblum.

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Tractate Meilah is the eighth tractate in the order of Kodashim, in the Mishnah and in the Babylonian Talmud. Meilah (Sacrilege or "Trespass") deals with laws concerning disrespectful treatment of property belonging to the Temple or using holy objects in a prohibited manner, and with restitution for the misappropriation of Temple property.As it is stated in the Torah in the book of Leviticus (Vayikra) 5:15-16 one is forbidden to derive benefit from sanctified objects, ie: removing the object from the possession of the Temple and changing it to become mundane. Furthermore, there is an element of betrayal in doing so.The laws of Meilah apply only when the trespass is done accidentally. Someone who purposefully makes use of consecrated property is not included in these laws, and although he will have to pay restitution to the Temple for what he took, he does not benefit from the atonement that it offers. The sixth chapter speaks of missionary laws in trespassing/misusing sanctified property (a person who sends another person to misuse a sacred object) and the uniqueness of these from other mission laws in the halacha, in that it deviates from the rule "there is no messenger for doing a transgression", and obliges the sender and dismisses the messenger (as long as he does not deviate from his instructions).The tractate includes six chapters and has 21 pages.

Subscribe now to Rabbi Dr. Moshe Pinchas Weisblums channel, add some uplifting significant content to your daily routine and enjoy Rabbi Weisblums teachings immensely along with many others !

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Dedicated in loving memory to my father and teacher, the giant Kabbalistic Rabbi, Harav Chaim Naftali son of Harav Yaakov Isaac (Weisblum) ZTL. Son after son to the great Noam Elimelch.

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Talmud estudio en Ingls, , , , , Talmud pag-aaral sa Ingles, tude Talmud en anglais, Talmud Studie in Englisch, , Talmud tanulmny angol, Talmud studio in inglese, , , Talmud nauka w jzyku angielskim, , ngilizce Talmud alma, Etude du Talmud le Daf Yomi en Anglais

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Talmud Daf Yomi Meilah 6 Rabbi Dr. Moshe Weisblum ' "

Judaism: Sephardim –

Posted By on September 30, 2019

The descendants of Jews who left Spain or Portugal after the 1492 expulsion are referred to as Sephardim. The word Sephardim comes from the Hebrew word for Spain, Sepharad, that is stated in the Bible.

It is believed that Jews have lived in Spain since the era of King Solomon (c.965-930 B.C.E.). Little information can be found on these Jews until the beginning of the first century. We do know that in 305 C.E., the Council of Toledo passed an edict forbidding Jews from blessing the crops of non-Jews and prohibiting Jews and non-Jews from eating together.

Visigoth RuleThe Golden AgeChristian Rule, Inquisition & ExpulsionExiled Sephardic CommunitiesWorld War II-PresentLanguageReligious Practices

In 409 C.E., the Visigoths conquered Spain. The Visigoths were Arian Christians, followers of Arius who reasoned that Jesus could not logically co-exist with God and must therefore be subservient to him.

In 587 C.E., King Reccared, the Visigoth king in Spain, converted to Roman Catholicism and made it the state religion. Subsequently, the Church was to exert powerful influence on all aspects of social life. Almost immediately, in 589 C.E., a canon was passed forbidding the marriage between Christians and Jews; and in 612 C.E., the Council of Gundemar of Toledo ordered that all Jews submit to baptism within the year.

In 638 C.E., the Arian Visigoths declared that only Catholics could live in Spain.

The situation improved in 711 when Spain fell under the rule of the Muslim Moors. Both Muslims and Jews built a civilization, based in Cordoba, known as Al-Andalus, which was more advanced than any civilization in Europe at that time. Jews were able to coexist peacefully with their neighbors; however, they were still treated as dhimmis, "People of the Book" (Jews and Christians) who are protected under Islamic law. Jews did not have complete autonomy and had to pay a special tax, the jizha , but were able to freely practice their religion.

The era of Muslim rule in Spain (8th-11th century) was considered the "Golden Age" for Spanish Jewry. Jewish intellectual and spiritual life flourished and many Jews served in Spanish courts. Jewish economic expansion was unparalleled. In Toledo, Jews were involved in translating Arabic texts to the romance languages, as well as translating Greek and Hebrew texts into Arabic. Jews also contributed to botany, geography, medicine, mathematics, poetry and philosophy.

A number of well-known Jewish physicians practiced during this period, including Hasdai Ibn Shaprut (915-970), who was the doctor for the Caliph (leader of Spain). Many famous Jewish figures lived during the Golden Age and contributed to making this a flourishing period for Jewish thought. These included Samuel Ha-Nagid, Moses ibn Ezra, Solomon ibn Gabirol Judah Halevi and Moses Maimonides.

Jews lived separately in aljamas (Jewish quarters). They were given administrative control over their communities and managed their own communal affairs. Jews had their own court system, known as the Bet Din. Rabbis served as judges and rendered both religious and civil legal opinions.

Islamic culture also influenced the Jews. Muslim and Jewish customs and practices became intertwined. For example, Arabic was used for prayers rather than Hebrew or Spanish. Before entering the synagogue, Jews washed their hands and feet, which is a practice done before entering a mosque. Arab melodies were used for Jewish songs. Jews wore the clothing style of their Moorish neighbors, although they were not allowed to wear silk or furs.

Jews lived peacefully in Al-Andulus for 400 years. The Golden Age for Jewry in Muslim Spain declined after the Almovarids gained power in 1055 and continued to deteriorate after the Almohads came to power in 1147. Jews continued to work as moneylenders, jewelers, cobblers, tailors and tanners, however, they had to wear distinguishing clothing, such as a yellow turban.

The Christians conquered Toledo in 1098 and the Jews in Christian Spain prospered, while those in Muslim Spain suffered under the Almohad dynasty. Both Jews and Muslims were involved in the cultural, economic, intellectual, financial and political life of Christian Spain. By the mid-13th century, the Christians controlled most of Spain and increasingly forced Jews to convert to Christianity. Those who converted became known as Marranos or New Christians. Marranos are also known as crypto-Jews because they taught their children and practiced Judaism in secret. During this period, Jews were forced to participate in "religious" disputes with Christians counterparts.

Anti-Jewish riots broke out in 1391 in several Spanish cities and the situation worsened for the Jewish community. New Christians were tortured or killed in the Spanish Inquisition during the 15th century. Father Tomas de Torquemada felt that if the Jews remained in Spain, then they would influence the new converts to Christianity. After the capture of Granada from Muslim forces, Father Torquemada convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that the Jewish community was expendable. In 1492, Isabella and Ferdinand commanded that all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity be expelled from Spain. The Jews were given four months to leave Spain and were forced to sell their houses and businesses at low prices. It is estimated that 100,000 Jews left Spain at this time. The expulsion from Spain is commemorated every year by all Jews on the holiday of Tisha BAv.

Many Spanish Jews settled in Portugal, which allowed the practice of Judaism. In 1497, however, Portugal also expelled its Jews. King Manuel of Portugal agreed to marry the daughter of Spains monarchs. One of the conditions for the marriage was the expulsion of Portugals Jewish community. In actuality only eight Jews were exiled from Portugal and the rest converted, under duress, to Christianity.

In the first Sephardi Diaspora, a large number of Jews settled in North Africa and in the Ottoman Empire, especially, Turkey and Greece. Spanish exiles brought with them a unique culture, language (Ladino) and traditions. Many of these immigrants continued to speak Ladino until the 20th century.

A Marrano Diaspora took place a century later. Some Marranos had settled in Portugal and eventually moved to Holland, where they were allowed to outwardly practice Judaism. Many settled in Western Europe and moved to the Americas. Marranos who settled in Latin America continued practicing crypto-Judaism for many years because Spain began an inquisition in its New World colonies. Fear of persecution led Crypto-Jews to settle in remote villages. Today, descendants of crypto-Jews can be found in Colorado and New Mexico.


Large Sephardic communities were founded in Venice, Leghorn, London, Bordeaux, Bayonne and Hamburg. These immigrants spoke Portugese and Spanish and many adapted mainstream Western European culture. Successful business enterprises were started by the Sephardim and their trade networks became famous worldwide.

Throughout the medieval period in Europe, the Sephardic Jews were treated as elites among Jews. Many times they had a secular education and often had great wealth. In the 18th century, the Sephardic Jews who lived in Amsterdam and in London, tended to discriminate against non-Sephardic Jews who wanted to pray at their synagogues by forcing them to sit separately from the rest of the congregation.

North Africa and the Arab World

For hundreds of years, Sephardic Jews lived, as dhimmis, in relative peace with Muslim neighbors and rulers in North Africa and in the Ottoman Empire. They were considered second-class citizens, but were free to practice their own religion and participate in commerce. Similar to Spain and Portugal during the Golden Era, the Sephardic upper class in the Ottoman empire were employed as translators.

The Sephardic communities in the Arab world were more receptive to modernity than their Ashkenazi counterparts in Europe. The Zionist movement became popular among Sephardic Jews in North Africa. Many Sephardic rabbis in the Ottoman Empire supported Zionism and the Zionist movement spread to many Muslim countries in North Africa, such as in Egypt and Tunisia.

In World War II, Sephardim in Europe suffered the same fate as other Jews, and most perished during the Holocaust. In a few places, such as Holland, they received some preferential treatment, meaning they were among the last to be liquidated.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, conditions for Jews in many Islamic countries grew increasingly uncomfortable and, in some cases, their lives were threatened. In the 1950's and 1960's, tens of thousands of Sephardic Jews fled from North Africa and other countries in the Middle East to settle in Israel, usually being forced by the Muslim authorities to leave behind most of their worldly possessions. Once they came to Israel, most of the Sephardic immigrants were put in transit camps and became dependent on welfare. The conditions in these camps were very bad and it was difficult for the newcomers to work their way out of the lower rung of Israeli society because they had less education than the established Ashkenazic community. Consequently, many worked in blue-collar professions.

Today, tensions remain between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Israel because of the poor treatment the latter received and the long, difficult road Sephardic Jews have had to travel to approach parity in society. Though they have not yet achieved equality, Sephardic Jews increasingly occupy positions of prestige and influence. Moroccan-born David Levy, for example, has served as foreign minister and, in July 2000, Iranian-born Moshe Katsav was elected president.

Besides Israel, other large Sephardic communities developed in Central and South America, Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo. Meanwhile, the existing communities in New York, Paris and London grew. One of the most famous Sephardic synagogues is Congregation Shearith Israel, the first Jewish congregation in North America, and the only Jewish congregation in New York from its founding in 1654 until 1825.

The Sephardi Jews preserved their special language, which was a combination of Hebrew and Spanish, known as Ladino. Ladino is still spoken by some Sephardic communities, such as those in Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Rumania, France and Latin America. Today the largest Ladino-speaking community can be found in Israel. One can also read Ladino in Sephardic literature.

When Jews left Spain and Portugal they continued to speak Ladino, in the same grammar and vocabulary of 14th and 15th century Spanish. The Sephardic exile communities of Amsterdam, London and Italy were still in contact with Spain and hence they continued to speak Castillian Spanish.

Exile communities in the Ottoman Empire, however, retained the 14th and 15th century Spanish and borrowed words from Hebrew, Arabic Greek, Turkish and French and diverged considerably from Castillian Spanish. There are many different Ladino dialects. An Oriental Ladino was used in Turkey and Rhodes, while a Western Ladino was spoken in Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia and Rumania.

Ladino is written using Hebrew letters and often uses the Rashi script. In fact, Rashi script was originally a Ladino script; however, after Rashis death, this script was used to differentiate his commentary from others ones. More recently, in the 20th century, Ladino has been written using the Latin alphabet.

Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews share the same tenets of Judaism, follow the Babylonian Talmud and the Shulkhan Arukh. Differences arise in customs and in liturgy. For example, on Passover, Sephardic Jews eat kitnyot, rice and corn products. Also, at many Sephardic sedars, the father will reenact the experience of gaining freedom by circling the sedar table and holding a symbolic bag over his shoulder.

Other differences exist in the way Sephardic Jews wind their tefillin straps outwards, whereas Ashkenazi Jews wind the tefillin inwards. Sephardic grooms are honored with an aliyah to the Torah on the Shabbat after their wedding, whereas Ashkenazi grooms are called up to the Torah the Shabbat before the wedding.

Sephardic Torah scrolls are usually stored in a large wooden cylinder, which stands erect when opened. The parchment is in an upright position when read, whereas, Ashkenazi scrolls just have an embroidered cover and the scrolls are read while lying flat on a table.

Sephardic liturgy uses the same basic prayers, but add different psalms and poems. The prayer, Ein Keloyheinu, is recited at the Saturday morning services for both Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews, however, it is also read daily by Sephardic Jews. Sephardim also use a different cantillation for reading the Torah and different melodies for prayers. All Sephardic synagogues are traditional, women are seated separately, typically in a balcony.

Sources: Congregation Shearith IsraelGolden Age of Spain. Sephardic Adventure.Marks, Scott Alfassa. "The Jews in Islamic Spain."Sephardim. Encyclopedia Judaica. CD -Rom Edition 1995.The Sephardim or Spanish JewsStillman, Norman A. The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times. The Jewish Publication Society of America. 1991.Telushkin, Rabbi Joseph. Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People and Its History. William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1991.Ward, Seth Dr. Sephardim and Crypto-Judaism: Definition of Terms and Brief History


Judaism: Sephardim -

Sephardic DNA Shared by Mexicans and Jews | JewishBoston

Posted By on September 30, 2019

When Cary Aufseeser first began researching his family in 2002, he didnt even know the names of all his great-grandparents. Today he can trace his roots back to the Middle Ages and has found hundreds of distant relatives all over the world (and perhaps some new Mexican Americans too).

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The Jews that originally came from Spain are called Sephardic Jews. In 1492 the Catholic Church offered the Jews of Spain two choices: convert to Catholicism or leave the country. Those that converted were known as Conversos. There are no records to verify the numbers but it is believed that 200,000 to 800,000 Jews were expelled from Spain and those that converted were 50,000 or more. Some Jews that chose conversion continued their Jewish traditions in secret. If they were discovered practicing Jewish traditions, they were tortured until they confessed and then burned at the stake by the Inquisition.

My Family Research

I wanted to discover if I was descended from Sephardic Jews on my mothers side of the family. My mother had always said that her family was expelled from Spain, went to Scotland and then to Germany. Sephardic records are difficult to find and many that would help to trace a family may not exist. Family stories that have been passed down may be all that descendants have. DNA testing may be the only option.

I had my autosomal DNA tested through Family Finder at Family Tree DNA. A large number of Jews use this site, so this was the most logical choice for testing.

After my results came back, I was contacted by Crispin Rendon, a Mexican genealogist who matched my results on certain DNA strands. Crispin actually has documentation (written records) for his family back to the 1300s. Some of his ancestors were known Conversos. Later I was contacted by another person, Kevin Brook, author of The Jews of Khazaria, because of DNA matches Kevin found with me.

Kevin is doing a study of Mexican Americans with DNA matches to Jews that have Sephardic heritage. Kevin, Crispin and I all discovered a match in a very specific sequence on Chromosome 10 of their DNA. They think this may be the Sephardic link they are looking for, but at this stage it is only a hypothesis.

There are now up to 60 Jews and Mexican Americans they have found with this matching sequence. The link may be through the ancestors of Conversos with Jewish roots that originally came with the Conquistadors to the New World and others that settled there afterward. Needless to say, many of the present-day Mexican Americans getting this DNA match had no idea they had Jewish ancestors.

A Work in Progress

I hope to find a specific common ancestor through the results in this ongoing study. That common ancestor may be from 10 to 20 generations back. Following written records through documents is also critical. Since many of these people have come to dead ends looking for written records, the hope is to find others through this DNA strand match who have been able to trace their families through records. At this point only Crispin and a few others have a paper trail.

Since each human being only inherits approximately half of their DNA from each parent, not everyone who is descended from the Sephardic Jews would have this match on Chromosome 10. On the other hand, Jews are endogamous, like a number of other groups (such as New England Puritans). Jews tended to marry other Jews who lived in the same area. This may help strengthen the transmission of certain shared DNA strands.

My maternal grandfathers ancestors settled in Silesia in Germany. This is not an area that is known as a place where Sephardic Jews settled. The surname of Kevins Sephardic family was Maimon. Kevin knows this because he has actual documentation. They settled in Galicia.

Additional Note

The Ashkenazi Jews were those that eventually settled in Germany and Eastern Europe many generations after the dispersal of the Jews from Jerusalem in 70 AD. People think of Ashkenazi Jews as those who lived in Eastern Europe and Sephardic Jews as those of the Spanish diaspora. However, some Jews of Sephardic descent also came to settle in Eastern Europe.

Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews have different customs and rituals. The food eaten on Jewish holidays is different. The custom for naming children is different. The languages spoken in the home are different. Sephardim spoke Ladino and Ashkenazim spoke Yiddish. Although both languages are written in Hebrew characters, Ladino sounds Spanish and Yiddish sounds German.

To learn more, go

For information on the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston,

Cary Aufseeser is a former member of the JGSGB board. He is currently developing JGSGBs Special Interest Groups. When not researching his genealogy, Cary is a statistical analyst and programmer.

This post has been contributed by a third party. The opinions, facts and any media content are presented solely by the author, and JewishBoston assumes no responsibility for them. Want to add your voice to the conversation? Publish your own post here.

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Sephardic DNA Shared by Mexicans and Jews | JewishBoston

Ashkenazi versus Sephardic Jews: Ask the Rabbi Response

Posted By on September 30, 2019

The difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews (or Sephardic Jews, Sephardim) is primarily based on their historical origins. Ashkenaz is the Hebrew word for Germany. Thus, the term Ashkenazi Jews initially referred to Jews residing in Germany, where Ashkenazi Jewry began.

(The name Ashkenaz appears in the Torah (Genesis 10:3) as one of the grandchildren of Japheth, son of Noah, and the progenitor of one of the nations which formed after the Flood. It is also the name of a nation in Jeremiah 51:27. However, most commentators understand the references to be to a Middle Eastern people, possibly in Turkey or northern Syria. The Talmud (Yoma 10a) identifies Gomer, Ashkenazs father, as Germamia (or Germania, Germanikia), which in itself is not clear if it means the Germany of today, but that might be the basis for the lands later association with the Biblical name Ashkenaz.)

For the most part, northern Europe was settled fairly recently by Jews. A small number of Jews are believed to have settled in western Germany and northern France in the 9th-10th century, especially along the Rhine River. Their population grew and they generally migrated towards the east, especially to Poland, till by the 12th century Jewish communities were established as far as Russia. (Often the migrations were forced upon them by oppression and pogroms this was the era of the Crusades and blood libels and by rulers who expelled them or deprived them of economic opportunities. This forced the Jews to continually search for more hospitable lands. By the mid-14th century, due to repeated massacres and expulsions, Jewish life in Germany had temporarily all but ceased.) Later, in the 18th century and after, Jews migrated back westward (as well as to America), in response to the much harsher conditions in eastern Europe. Thus, eventually, most European Jews became known as Ashkenazi Jews, regardless of their country of residence.

Today about 80% of Jews are Ashkenazi. (The percentage was much higher before the Holocaust.)

Since Ashkenazi Jews descend from a relatively small original population, not only do many Ashkenazi Jews share genetic features, but they are more prone to certain genetic diseases such as Tay Sachs, Gaucher disease and cystic fibrosis. Today it is very typical (and in Israel it is mandatory) for engaged couples to undergo genetic testing before a marriage is approved.

Sephardic Jews literally mean Spanish Jews as Sepharad means Spain (a term also appearing in the Torah, in Obadiah 1:20 although here too the original meaning is disputed). But this term is even less accurate as today it is loosely applied (especially by non-Sephardim) to all non-Ashkenazi Jews.

The main lands associated with Sephardic Jewry are Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of south-east Europe. Jews lived in many of these lands since antiquity. Spain became an especially prosperous and tolerant land from the 8th century under Muslim rule, and Jewish communities flourished there, both economically and religiously. These were the original Sephardi Jews.

In later centuries, roughly from the 12th century and on, conditions in Spain became much more oppressive both under later Muslim dynasties and later under the Christians. The Jews were eventually expelled (or forced to convert) from Spain in 1492 and from neighboring Portugal in 1497. They spread from there to many existing areas of Jewish habitation, especially North Africa and the Ottoman Empire. Often, they superimposed their religious rulings and customs on the local populace. Thus, many such lands became much more closely aligned with Sephardic tradition, in spite of vast differences in custom and culture.

Since Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities developed primarily independently, there are many minor differences between them in Jewish law and custom. Two of the greatest medieval rabbis were R. Yitzchak Alfasi of Fez, Morroco (the Rif), and Maimonides, who eventually settled in Egypt. They became some of the main authorities for Jewish law among Sephardim. Centuries later, when Rabbi Yosef Caro authored his basic work on Jewish Law, the Shulchan Aruch (the set table, first published in 1564), he primarily followed their rulings, and thus his work became the basis for Sephardic Jewish law.

In northern Europe at the time there were different great rabbinic authorities, located primarily in Germany and France. Some were Rabbeinu Gershom, R. Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), the school of Tosafot, and R. Asher ben Yechiel (the Rosh), and their rulings formed the basis for Ashkenazi law. Shortly after R. Caro wrote his Shulchan Aruch, a great Ashkenazi rabbi, R. Moshe Isserlis (of Kracow, Poland, known as the Rema based on his acronym) wrote a collection glosses on the Shulchan Aruch, reflecting Jewish law according to Ashkenazi practice.

As a result, although both Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jewry actually represent a quite varied collection of cultures and nationalities, there is a fair degree of homogeneity among them in religious practice. And in fact, both universally follow the guidelines of the Shulchan Aruch.

Below I list a few of the most well-known differences in religious practice and custom between Ashkenazim and Sephardim.

(a) Ashkenazic pronunciation of Hebrew is somewhat distinct from Sephardic (with a great many further differences among different groups of each).

(b) There are many distinctions in the prayer liturgy, as well as the tunes used in chanting both the Torah and Prophets (the Haftorah). Non-Hassidic Ashkenazim generally pray what is known as Nusach Ashkenaz (Ashkenaz version) while Hassidim pray (ironically) Nusach Sefard or Nusach Ari. Most Sephardim pray Eidot HaMizrach (the congregations of the east), with again many variations.

(c) Ashkenazim have the custom not to eat rice, legumes and the like on Passover while Sephardim do.

(d) Ashkenazim do not name children after living relatives, while Sephardim will name children after their living grandparents.

(e) Most Ashkenazi men do not wear a Tallit (prayer shawl) until after marriage or after Bar Mitzvah, while Sephardim do so at young ages.

(f) Many Sephardim have the custom not to eat fish and milk together.

(g) Many Sephardic married women will not wear wigs to cover their hair, while Ashkenazim generally do.

Beyond these few examples, there are a myriad of differences in practice and custom between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews worldwide, as well as many cultural ones, such as in areas of dress, language, music, and cuisine.

Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background withnowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi.Note that this is not a homework service!

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Ashkenazi versus Sephardic Jews: Ask the Rabbi Response

Ashkenazi – New World Encyclopedia

Posted By on September 29, 2019

Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim, are Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities of the Rhineland"Ashkenaz" being the Medieval Hebrew name for Germany. They are distinguished from Sephardic Jews, the other main group of European Jewry, who arrived earlier in Europe and lived primarily in Spain.

Many Ashkenazim later migrated, largely eastward, forming communities in Germany, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere between the tenth and nineteenth centuries. From medieval times until the mid-twentieth century, the lingua franca among Ashkenazi Jews was primarily Yiddish.

The Ashkenazi Jews developed a distinct liturgy and culture, influenced to varying degrees, by interaction with surrounding peoples, predominantly Germans, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Kashubians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Letts, Belarusians, and Russians.

Although in the eleventh century they comprised only three percent of the world's Jewish population, Ashkenazi Jews accounted for 92 percent of the world's Jews in 1931, and today make up approximately 80 percent of Jews worldwide. Most Jewish communities with extended histories in Europe are Ashkenazim, with the exception of Sephardic Jews associated with the Mediterranean region. A significant portion of the Jews who migrated from Europe to other continents in the past two centuries are Eastern Ashkenazim, particularly in the United States. Ashkenazi Jews have made major contributions to world culture in terms of science, literature, economics, and the arts.

Ashkenaz is a Medieval Hebrew name for Germany. European Jews came to be called "Ashkenaz" because the main centers of Jewish learning were located in Germany.

The Ashkenazi Jewish population originated in the Middle East. When they arrived in northern France and the Rhineland sometime around 800-1000 C.E., the Ashkenazi Jews brought with them both Rabbinic Judaism and the Babylonian Talmudic culture that underlies it. Yiddish, once spoken by the vast majority of Ashkenazi Jewry, is a Jewish language which developed from the Middle High German vernacular, heavily influenced by Hebrew and Aramaic.

After the forced Jewish exile from Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and the complete Roman takeover of Judea following the Bar Kochba rebellion of 132-135 C.E., Jews continued to be a majority of the population in Palestine for several hundred years. In Palestine and Mesopotamia, where Jewish religious scholarship was centered, the majority of Jews were still engaged in farming. Trade was also a common occupation, facilitated by the easy mobility of traders through the dispersed Jewish communities.

In the late Roman Empire, small numbers of Jews are known to have lived in Cologne and Trier, as well as in what is now France. However, it is unclear whether there is any continuity between these late Roman communities and the distinct Ashkenazi Jewish culture that began to emerge about 500 years later.

In Mesopotamia and in Persian lands free of Roman imperial domination, Jewish life had a long history. Since the conquest of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar II in the early sixth century B.C.E., "Babylonian Jews" had always been the leading diaspora community, rivaling the leadership of Palestine. When conditions for Jews began to deteriorate in the western Roman Empire, many of the religious leaders of Judea and Galilee fled to the east. At the academies of Pumbeditha and Sura near Babylon, Rabbinic Judaism based on talmudic learning began to emerge and assert its authority over Jewish life throughout the diaspora. Rabbinic Judaism also created a religious mandate for literacy, requiring all Jewish males to learn Hebrew and read from the Torah. This emphasis on literacy and learning a second language would eventually be of great benefit to the Jews, allowing them to take on commercial and financial roles within Gentile societies where literacy was often quite low.

After the Islamic conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, new opportunities for trade and commerce opened between the Middle East and Western Europe. The vast majority of Jews in the world now lived in Islamic lands. Urbanization, trade, and commerce within the Islamic world allowed Jews to abandon farming and live in cities, engaging in occupations where they could use their skills. The influential, sophisticated, and well-organized Jewish community of Mesopotamia, now centered in Baghdad, became the center of the Jewish world. In the Caliphate of Baghdad, Jews took on many of the financial occupations that they would later hold in the cities of Ashkenaz. Jewish traders from Baghdad began to travel to the west, renewing Jewish life in the western Mediterranean region. They brought with them Rabbinic Judaism and Babylonian Talmudic scholarship.

After 800 C.E., Charlemagne's unification of former Frankish lands with northern Italy and Rome brought on a brief period of stability and unity in Western Europe. This created opportunities for Jewish merchants to settle north of the Alps. Charlemagne granted the Jews in his lands freedoms similar to those once enjoyed under the ancient Roman Empire. In Frankish lands, many Jewish merchants took on occupations in finance and commerce, including moneylending or usury. (Church legislation banned Christians from lending money to fellow Christians in exchange for interest.) Although the Sephardic community in Islamic Spain was far better established at first, by the eleventh century, when the great rabbinic sage Rashi of Troyes wrote his talmudic commentaries, Ashkenazi Jews had emerged as a strong community capable of major cultural contributions to Jewish civilization.

Efforts to identify the origins of Ashkenazi Jews through DNA analysis began in the 1990s. Like most DNA studies of human migration patterns, these studies have focused on two segments of the human genome, the Y chromosome (inherited only by males), and the mitochondrial genome (DNA which passes from mother to child). Both segments are unaffected by recombination. Thus, they provide an indicator of paternal and maternal origins, respectively.

Recent research indicates that a significant portion of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry is also of Middle Eastern origin. A 2006 study by Behar et al. [2] suggested that about 40 percent of the current Ashkenazi population is descended matrilineally from just four women. These four "founder lineages" were "likely from a Hebrew/Levantine mtDNA pool" originating in the Near East in the first and second centuries C.E.

Historical records show evidence of Jewish communities north of the Alps and Pyrenees as early as the eighth and ninth century, especially in the Rhineland area, where they at first established trading establishments and later more settled communities under the protection of feudal lords. By the early 900s, Jewish populations were well-established in Northern Europe and later followed the Norman Conquest into England in 1066, also settling in the Rhineland. With the onset of the Crusades and the expulsions of Jews from England (1290), France (1394), and parts of Germany (1400s), Jewish migration pushed eastward into Poland, Lithuania, and Russia.

Due to Christian European prohibitions restricting certain land ownership and guild membership by Jews, Jewish economic activity was focused on trade, business management, and financial services.

By the 1400s, the Ashkenazi Jewish communities in Poland were the largest Jewish communities of the diaspora. Poland at this time was a decentralized medieval monarchy, incorporating lands from Latvia to Romania, including much of modern Lithuania and Ukraine. This area, which eventually fell under the domination of Russia, Austria, and Prussia (Germany), would remain the main center of Ashkenazi Jewry until the Holocaust.

The collective corpus of Jewish religious law, including biblical law and later, Talmudic and rabbinic customs and traditions of Ashkenazi Jews may differ from those of Sephardi Jews, particularly in matters of custom.

Well-known differences in practice include:

An Ashkenazi Jew can be defined religiously, culturally, or ethnically. Since the overwhelming majority of Ashkenazi Jews no longer live in Eastern Europe, the isolation that once fostered their distinct religious tradition and culture has vanished. Furthermore, the word "Ashkenazi" is itself evolving and taking on new meanings.

In a religious sense, an Ashkenazi Jew is any Jew whose family tradition and ritual follows Ashkenazi practice. When the Ashkenazi community first began to develop, the centers of Jewish religious authority were in the Islamic world, at Baghdad and in Islamic Spain. Ashkenaz (Germany) was so distant geographically that it developed a tradition of its own, and Ashkenazi Hebrew came to be pronounced in ways distinct from other forms of Hebrew.

In a cultural sense, an Ashkenazi Jew can be identified by the concept of Yiddishkeit, a word that literally means Jewishness in the Yiddish language. Originally this meant the study of Torah and Talmud for men, and a family and communal life governed by the observance of Jewish Law for men and women. From the Rhineland to Riga to Romania, most Jews prayed in liturgical Ashkenazi Hebrew, and spoke some dialect of Yiddish in their secular lives.

However, with modernization, Yiddishkeit began to encompass not just Orthodoxy and Hasidism, but a broad range of movements, ideologies, practices, and traditions in which Ashkenazi Jews have participated and somehow retained a sense of Jewishness. As Ashkenazi Jews moved away from Eastern Europe, settling mostly in North America and Israel, the geographic isolation which gave rise to Ashkenazim has given way to mixing with other cultures, and with non-Ashkenazi Jews who, similarly, are no longer isolated in distinct geographic locales. In Israel, Hebrew has replaced Yiddish as the primary Jewish language for the vast majority of Ashkenazi Jews.

By tradition, Jewish status is inherited through the maternal lineage. Therefore, someone who is descended from a Jewish mother, even if totally unaware of their Jewish heritage, is a Jew. A large proportion of Ashkenazi Jews in Israel, the U.S., and the former Soviet Union are not religiously observant. Even a Jew who converts to another religion, though an apostate, is still considered a Jew. Karl Marx, an atheist whose Jewish mother and father had converted to Christianity before he was born, was an Ashkenazi Jew.

In an ethnic sense, an Ashkenazi Jew is one whose ancestry can be traced to the Jews of central and Eastern Europe. For roughly a thousand years, the Ashkenazi Jews were a reproductively isolated population in Europe. However, since the middle of the twentieth century, many Ashkenazi Jews have intermarried, both with members of other Jewish communities and with people of other nations and faiths. Conversion to Judaism, rare for nearly 1500 years, has once again become common. Thus, the concept of Ashkenazi Jews as a distinct ethnic people, especially in ways that can be defined ancestrally and therefore traced genetically, has also blurred considerably.

In Israel, Jews of mixed background are increasingly common, partly because of intermarriage between Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi partners, and partly because some do not identify with such historic markers as relevant to their life experiences as Jews. Religious Ashkenazi Jews living in Israel are obliged to follow the authority of the chief Ashkenazi rabbi in halakhic matters.

In an essay on Sephardi Jewry, Daniel Elazar at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs summarized the demographic history of Ashkenazi Jews in the last thousand years, noting that at the end of the eleventh century, 97 percent of world Jewry was Sephardic and 3 percent Ashkenazi; in the mid-seventeenth century, "Sephardim still outnumbered Ashkenazim three to two," but by the end of the eighteenth century "Ashkenazim outnumbered Sephardim three to two, the result of improved living conditions in Christian Europe versus the Muslim world. "By 1931, Ashkenazi Jews accounted for nearly 92 percent of world Jewry.

Ashkenazi Jews developed the Hasidic movement as well as major Jewish academic centers across Poland, Russia, and Lithuania in the generations after emigration from the west. After two centuries of comparative tolerance in the new nations, massive westward emigration occurred in the 1800s and 1900s in response to pogroms and the economic opportunities offered in other parts of the world. Ashkenazi Jews have made up the majority of the American Jewish community since 1750. Ashkenazi cultural growth led to the Haskalah or Jewish Enlightenment, and the development of Zionism in modern Europe.

However, Ashkenazi Jews were the primary victims of the Nazi campaign to eradicate European Jewry. Of the estimated 8.8 million Jews living in Europe at the beginning of World War II, the majority of whom were Ashkenazi, about six millionmore than two-thirdswere systematically murdered in the Holocaust. These included three million of 3.3 million Polish Jews (91 percent); 900,000 of 1.1 million in Ukraine (82 percent); and 50 to 90 percent of the Jews of other Slavic nations, Germany, France, Hungary, and the Baltic states. The only non-Ashkenazi community to have suffered similar depletions were the Jews of Greece. Many of the surviving Ashkenazi Jews emigrated to countries such as Israel, Australia, and the United States after the war.

Today, Ashkenazi Jews constitute approximately 80 percent of world Jewry, but probably less than half of Israeli Jews. Nevertheless they have traditionally played a prominent role in the media, economy, and politics of Israel. Tensions have sometimes arisen between the mostly Ashkenazi elite whose families founded the state, and later migrants from various non-Ashkenazi groups.

Ashkenazi Jews have a noted history of achievement in western societies. They have won a disproportionate share of major academic prizes, such as the Nobel awards and the Fields Medal in mathematics. In those societies where they have been free to enter any profession, they have a record of high occupational achievement, entering professions and fields of commerce where higher education is required. Ashkenazim have also made major contributions in literature, economic leadership, and the arts.

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Ashkenazi - New World Encyclopedia

Talmud – New World Encyclopedia

Posted By on September 26, 2019

The Talmud (Hebrew: ) is a record of rabbinical discussions pertaining to Jewish law, biblical interpretation, ethics, customs, and history. It is the basis for all codes of rabbinical law and is much quoted in other Jewish literature.

The Talmud has two basic components: the Mishnah (c. 200 C.E.), the first written compendium of Judaism's Oral Law; and the Gemara (c. 500 C.E.), a rabbinical discussion of the Mishnah and related writings that often ventures into other subjects and expounds broadly on the Hebrew Bible. Printed editions of the Talmud also contain later commentaries from rabbinical authorities through the Middle Ages. The terms Talmud and Gemara are often used interchangeably.

There are two versions of the Talmudthe Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmudeach containing basically the same Mishnah but a different Gemara. Of these, the Babylonian Talmud is larger, better edited, and more influential. Other commentaries were also added to later editions of the Talmud.

In European history, the Talmud was sometimes suppressed by the Catholic Church, and it became a source of anti-semitic literature in modern times, when excerpts from it were quoted to "prove" ideas of Jewish arrogance and hatred toward Gentiles. In fact, the Talmud contains the opinions of hundreds of rabbis, often including strong disagreements on many subjects. Like the Bible itself, it can be used to support varying positions on many subjects.

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The Talmud contains the opinions of hundreds of rabbis, often including strong disagreements on many subjects. Like the Bible itself, it can be used to support varying positions on many subjects.

Rabbinical tradition holds that the Talmud expresses a sacred Oral Torah, equally authoritative to the Written Law given to Moses at Sinai. Originally, Jewish legal and biblical scholarship was also oral. This situation changed drastically, however, mainly as the result of the defeat of the Jewish Revolt against Rome in the year 70 C.E. and the consequent upheaval of Jewish social and legal norms. As the rabbis were required to face a new realityespecially the fact of Judaism without a Templethere was a flurry of legal discourse and the tradition of oral scholarship was committed to writing.

The earliest recorded Oral Law may have been of the midrashic form, in which Jewish legal discussion was structured as exegetical commentary on the Pentateuch. An alternative form, organized by subject matter instead of by biblical verse, became dominant about the year 200 C.E., when Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi redacted the Mishnah.

The Mishnah forms the core of the Talmud. It is a compilation of legal opinions and debates of leading rabbis of the second century. The rabbis of the Mishnah are known as tannaim, meaning roughly "sages." Since it sequences its laws by subject matter instead of by biblical context, the Mishnah discusses individual subjects more thoroughly than the Midrash, and it includes a much broader selection of halakhic (legal) subjects than the Midrash. The Mishnah's topical organization thus became the framework of the Talmud as a whole.

In addition to the Mishnah, other rabbinical works were recorded at about the same time or shortly thereafter. The Talmud frequently refers to these tannaic statements in order to compare them to those contained in the Mishnah and to support or refute the propositions of various rabbinical authorities. All such non-Mishnaic sources of the tannaim are termed baraitot (lit. outside material, "Works external to the Mishnah"; sing. baraita ).

In the three centuries following the redaction of the Mishnah, rabbis throughout Palestine and Babylonia analyzed, debated and discussed that work. These discussions form the Gemara (). The rabbis of the Gemara are known as amoraim (sing. amora ). Gemara means completion, from gamar : Hebrew to complete; Aramaic to study.

Much of the Gemara consists of legal analysis. The starting point for the analysis is usually a legal statement found in a Mishnah. The statement is then analyzed and compared with other statements in a dialectical exchange between two (frequently anonymous and sometimes metaphorical) disputants, termed the makshan (questioner) and tartzan (answerer).

These exchanges form the "building-blocks" of the Gemara; the name for a passage of Gemara is a sugya (; plural sugyot). A Sugya will typically be comprised of a detailed proof-based elaboration of a mishnaic statement.

In a given sugya, scriptural, tannaic and amoraic statements are brought to support the various opinions. In so doing, the Gemara will often include disagreements between tannaim and amoraim, and compare the mishnaic views with passages from the Beraita. Rarely are debates formally closed; in many instances, the final word determines the practical law, although there are many exceptions to this principle.

The Talmud contains a vast amount of material and touches on a great many subjects. Traditionally talmudic statements can be classified into two broad categories: halakhic and agaddic. Halakhic statements are those which directly relate to questions of Jewish law and practice (Halakha). Aggadic statements are those which are not legally related, but rather are exegetical, homiletical, ethical, or historical in nature (Aggadah).

The process of Gemara proceeded in the two major centers of Jewish scholarship, Palestine and Babylonia. Correspondingly, two bodies of analysis developed, and two works of the Talmud were created. The older compilation is called the Jerusalem Talmud or the Talmud Yerushalmi. It was compiled sometime during the fourth century in Palestine. The Babylonian Talmud was compiled about the year 500 C.E., although it continued to be edited later. The word "Talmud," when used without qualification, usually refers to the Babylonian Talmud, which is the better known of the two editions.

The Jerusalem Talmud originated in Tiberias in the School of Johanan ben Nappaha. It is a compilation of teachings of the rabbinical schools of Tiberias, Sepphoris and Caesarea. It is written in both Hebrew and a western Aramaic dialect that differs from its Babylonian counterpart.

Its final redaction probably belongs to the end of the fourth century, but the individual scholars who brought it to its present form cannot be fixed with assurance. By this time Christianity had become the state religion of the Roman Empire and Jerusalem, the holy city of Christendom. The text is evidently incomplete and is not easy to follow. Any further work on the Jerusalem Talmud probably came to an abrupt end in 425 C.E., when Theodosius II suppressed the Jewish Patriarchate and put an end to the practice of formal scholarly ordination in the Jewish community.

Despite this, the Jerusalem Talmud remains an indispensable source of knowledge regarding the development of the Jewish Law in the Holy Land. Opinions based on the Jerusalem Talmud ultimately found their way into both the Tosafot and the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides.

Since the Babylonian Exile of 586 B.C.E., Jews had been living in settlements outside of Judea, and most of the captives did not return home to Jerusalem when this was finally allowed. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and the later failure of the Bar Kochba revolt, many more Jews moved east. The most important of the Jewish centers were Nehardea, Nisibis, Mahoza, Pumbeditha and Sura.

Talmud Bavli (the "Babylonian Talmud") includes the Mishnah and the Babylonian Gemara. This Gemara is a synopsis of more than 300 years of analysis of the Mishnah in the Babylonian academies.

The man who laid the foundations for the Babylonian Talmud was known simply as Rab, a disciple of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi, the compiler of the Mishnah. Rabbi Ashi was president of the Sura academy from 375 to 427 C.E. The work begun by Ashi was completed by Rabina. According to ancient tradition, Rabina was the final amoraic expounder. His death in 499 C.E. marked the completion of the redaction of the Talmud.

The question as to when the Gemara was finally put into its present form is not settled among modern scholars. Some of the text did not reach its final form until around 700 C.E.

There are significant differences between the two Talmud compilations. The language of the Jerusalem Talmud is primarily a western Aramaic dialect which differs from that of the Babylonian. The Talmud Yerushalmi is also often fragmentary and difficult to read, even for experienced Talmudists. The redaction of the Talmud Bavli, on the other hand, is more careful and precise.

In the Bavli, however, Gemara exists only for 37 out of the 63 tractates of the Mishnah. Many agricultural ritual purity laws having to do with the Temple had little practical relevance in Babylonia and were therefore not included. The Yerushalmi, though, covers a number of these chapters.

The influence of the Babylonian Talmud has been far greater than that of the Yerushalmi. This is mainly because the influence and prestige of the Jewish community of Palestine steadily declined in contrast with the Babylonian community in the years after the redaction of the Talmud, as Jews in the Islamic lands received much better treatment than they did in the later Christian Empire.

From the time of its completion, the Talmud became integral to Jewish scholarship. The earliest post-Gemara Talmud commentaries were written by the Gaonimthe presidents of the rabbinical academies(approximately 800-1000 C.E.) in Babylonia.

Early commentators such as Rabbi Isaac Alfasi (North Africa, 1013-1103) attempted to extract and determine the binding legal opinions from the vast corpus of the Talmud. Alfasi's work was highly influential and later served as a basis for the creation of halakhic codes. Another influential medieval halakhic commentary was that of Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel (d. 1327). A fifteenth-century Spanish rabbi, Jacob ibn Habib (d. 1516), composed the En Yaaqob. En Yaaqob (or Ein Yaaqov) extracts nearly all the aggadic material from the Talmud. It was intended to familiarize the public with the ethical parts of the Talmud and to dispute many of the accusations surrounding its contents.

Besides halakhic studies, another major area of talmudic scholarship developed in order to explain these passages and words. Some early commentators such as Rabbenu Gershom of Mainz (tenth century) and Rabbenu Hananel (early eleventh century) produced running commentaries to various tractates. These commentaries could be read with the text of the Talmud and would help explain the meaning of the text. Another important work is the Sefer ha-Mafteach (Book of the Key) by Nissim Gaon, which contains a preface explaining the different forms of talmudic argumentation and then explains abbreviated passages in the Talmud by referring to parallel passages where the same thought is expressed in full. Using a different style, Rabbi Nathan b. Jechiel created a lexicon called the Arukh in the eleventh century in order to translate difficult words.

By far the most well known commentary on the Babylonian Talmud is that of Rashi (Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac, 1040-1105). Rashi's commentary is comprehensive, covering almost the entire Talmud. It is considered indispensable to students of the Talmud and is included as a running commentary in modern editions. Maimonides' commentary on the Mishnah, though limited in scope compared to Rahsi's, exerted a similarly great influence.

Medieval Ashkenazic Jewry produced another major commentary known as Tosafot ("additions" or "supplements"). The Tosafot are collected commentaries by various medieval Ashkenazic rabbis on the Talmud. One of the main goals of the Tosafot is to explain and interpret contradictory statements in the Talmud. Unlike Rashi, the Tosafot is not a running commentary, but rather comments on selected matters. Often the explanations of Tosafot differ from those of Rashi.

Over time, the approach of the tosafists spread to other Jewish communities, particularly that of the Sephardic communities in Spain. This led to the composition of many other commentaries in similar styles. Among these are the commentaries of Ramban, Rashba, Ritva, Ran, Yad Ramah, and Meiri.

In later centuries, focus partially shifted from direct talmudic interpretation to the analysis of previously written talmudic commentaries. These later commentaries include "Maharshal" (Solomon Luria), "Maharam" (Meir Lublin) and "Maharsha" (Samuel Edels).

The first complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud was printed in Italy by Daniel Bomberg during the sixteenth century. In addition to the Mishnah and Gemara, Bomberg's edition contained the Tosafot, the commentaries of Rashi. Almost all printings since Bomberg have followed the same pagination. In 1835, a new edition of the Talmud was printed by Menachem Romm of Vilna (Vilnius, Lithuania). Known as the Vilna Shas, this edition (and later ones printed by his widow and sons) have become an unofficial standard for Talmud editions. In the Vilna edition of the Talmud there are 5,894 folio pages.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a new intensive form of Talmud study arose. Complicated logical arguments were used to explain minor points of contradiction within the Talmud. The term pilpul, which means "pepper" in Hebrew and was applied to this type of study, which hearkens back to the Talmudic era and refers to the intellectual sharpness this method demanded. Pilpul practitioners posited that the Talmud could contain no redundancy or contradiction whatsoever. New categories and distinctions were therefore created, resolving seeming contradictions within the Talmud by novel logical means.

Pilpul study reached its height in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when expertise in pilpulistic analysis was considered an art form and became a goal in and of itself within the yeshivot (schools) of Poland and Lithuania. However, many sixteenth- and seventeenth-century rabbis were also critical of pilpul. Among them may be noted Judah Loew b. Bezalel (the Maharal), Isaiah Horowitz, and Jair Hayyim Bacharach.

By the eighteenth century, pilpul study waned. Instead, other styles of learning such as that of the school of Elijah b. Solomon, the Vilna Gaon, became popular.

In the late nineteenth century another trend in Talmud study arose. Rabbi Hayyim Soloveitchik (1853-1918) of Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) developed and refined this style of study. The Brisker method involves the analysis of rabbinic arguments within the Talmud, explaining the differing opinions by placing them within a categorical structure. The Brisker method is highly analytical and is often criticized as being a modern-day version of the Pilpul. Nevertheless, the influence of the Brisker method is great. Most modern day yeshivot (Hebrew schools) study the Talmud using the Brisker method in some form. And it is through this method that Maimonides' famous Mishneh Torah began to be read not only as a halakhic work but also as a work of general talmudic interpretation.

The text of the Talmud has been subject to some level of critical scrutiny throughout its history.[1] In general, however, traditional commentaries shied away from textual criticism of talmudic passages. In the late eighteenth century, liberalization of social restrictions against Jews resulted in Judaism undergoing enormous upheaval and transformation. Such movements as Reform Judaism and other secularizing and assimilating trends emerged. During this time, modern methods of textual and historical analysis were applied to the Talmud.

Leaders of the Reform movement, such as Abraham Geiger and Samuel Holdheim, subjected the Talmud to severe scrutiny as part of an effort to break with traditional rabbinic Judaism. In reaction, Orthodox leaders such as Moses Sofer and Samson Raphael Hirsch rejected modern critical methods of Talmud study. The methods and manner of Talmud study were thus caught in the debate between the Reformers and Orthodoxy. A middle ground was developed by scholars who believed that, while tampering with Jewish law should be avoided, traditional Jewish sources such as the Talmud should be subject to academic inquiry and critical analysis. Exponents of this view were Zecharias Frankel, Leopold Zunz and Solomon Judah Leib Rappaport.

Because the modern method of historical study had its origins in the era of religious reform, the method was immediately controversial within the Orthodox world. Still, many of the nineteenth century's strongest critics of Reform, including strictly Orthodox rabbis, utilized this new scientific method. Notable among them were Nachman Krochmal and Zvi Hirsch Chajes.

The history of the Talmud reflects in part the history of Judaism persisting in a world of hostility and persecution. The charge against the Talmud brought by the convert Nicholas Donin in 1244 led to the first burning of copies of the Talmud in Paris. The Talmud was likewise the subject of a disputation at Barcelona in 1263 between Nahmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Nahman) and the convert Pablo Christiani. Criticizing the Talmud's Oral Law tradition as a heresy against the Bible, Christiani's attacks also resulted in a papal bull against the Talmud and in the Dominican censorship commission, which ordered the cancellation of passages reprehensible from a Christian perspective (1264).

At the disputation of Tortosa in 1413, Geronimo de Santa F brought forward a number of accusations, including the fateful assertion that the condemnations of pagans and apostates found in the Talmud referred in reality to Christians. Two years later, Pope Martin V, who had convened this disputation, issued a bull forbidding the Jews to read the Talmud, and ordering the destruction of all copies of it. Thankfully, this order was not implemented. Far more important were the charges made in the early part of the sixteenth century by the convert Johannes Pfefferkorn, the agent of the Dominicans whose efforts succeeded in forcing the Jews in several areas to surrender the talmudic books in their possession.

The affair resulted in an investigation which proved some of Pfefferkorn's allegations to be irresponsible. Under the protection of a papal privilege, the complete printed edition of the Babylonian Talmud was issued in 1520 by Daniel Bomberg in Venice. Three years later, in 1523, Bomberg published the first edition of the Jerusalem Talmud. Yet, 30 years after the Vatican permitted the Talmud to appear in print, it undertook a campaign of destruction against it. On September 9, 1553, copies of the Talmud which had been confiscated in compliance with a decree of the Inquisition were burned in Rome; and similar burnings took place in other Italian cities, as at Cremona in 1559. Censorship of the Talmud and other Hebrew works was introduced by a papal bull issued in 1554; five years later the Talmud was included in the first Index Expurgatoriusthe Vatican's list of forbidden books. Pope Pius IV commanded in 1565 that the Talmud be deprived of its very name.

The first edition of the expurgated Talmud, on which most subsequent editions were based, appeared at Basel (1578-1581) with the omission of passages considered inimical to Christianity, together with modifications of certain phrases. A fresh attack on the Talmud was decreed by Pope Gregory XIII (1575-85), and in 1593 Clement VIII renewed the old interdiction against reading or owning it. However, the increasing study of the Talmud in Poland led to the issue of a complete edition (Krakw, 1602-5), with a restoration of the original text. In 1707, copies of the Talmud were confiscated in the province of Brandenburg, but were restored to their owners by command of Frederick, the first king of Prussia. The last attack on the Talmud took place in Poland in 1757, when Bishop Dembowski convened a public disputation at Kamenetz-Podolsk, and ordered all copies of the work found in his bishopric to be confiscated and burned by the hangman.

The external history of attacks against the Talmud also includes the literary attacks made upon it by Christian theologians after the Reformation. Martin Luther and other Reformation theologians harshly criticized Jews and Judaism, and many of these attacks were based on the Talmud.

Later, in 1830, during a debate in the French Chamber of Peers regarding state recognition of the Jewish faith, Admiral Verhuell declared himself unable to forgive the Jews whom he had met during his travels either for their refusal to recognize Jesus as the Messiah or for their possession of the Talmud. In the same year the Abb Luigi Chiarini published in Paris a voluminous work entitled Thorie du Judasme, advocating for the first time that the Talmud should be generally accessible, not to serve the Jewish community, but to serve for attacks on Judaism. In a like spirit, modern anti-Semitic agitators have urged that a translation be made. The Talmud and the "Talmud Jew" thus became objects of anti-Semitic attacks, although, on the other hand, they were defended by many Christian students of the Talmud.

In fact, the Talmud makes little mention of Jesus directly or the early Christians. There are a number of derogatory quotes about individuals named Yeshu that once existed in editions of the Talmud; these quotes were long ago removed from the main text due to accusations that they referred to Jesus, and are no longer used in Talmud study. However, these removed quotes were preserved through rare printings of lists of errata, known as Hashmatot Hashass ("Omissions of the Talmud"). Some modern editions of the Talmud contain some or all of this material, either at the back of the book, in the margin, or in alternate print.

The Talmud is the written record of an oral tradition. It became the basis for many rabbinic legal codes and customs. Not all Jews, in the past and present, have accepted the Talmud as having religious authority. This section briefly outlines such movements.

The Sadducees were a Jewish sect which flourished during the second temple period. One of their main arguments with the Pharisees (the precursors of Rabbinic Judaism) was over their rejection of an Oral Law. The Sadducees rejected the idea of the Oral Torah and insisted that only the five Books of Moses were authoritative. They also were less likely to accept the authority of some of the prophets and other biblical writings, especially those dealing with such topics as the resurrection of the dead. Because they were largely associated with the Temple priesthood, the Sadducees influence rapidly diminished after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.

Another movement which rejected the Oral Law was Karaism. It arose within two centuries of the completion of the Talmud. Karaism developed as a reaction against the Talmudic Judaism of Babylonia. The central concept of Karaism is the rejection of the Oral Torahand therefore of rabbinical authorityas embodied in the Talmud, in favor of a strict adherence to the Written Law only. Karaism was once a major movement, but has diminished in recent centuries, declining from a high of nearly 10 percent of the Jewish population to a current estimated .002 percent.

With the rise of Reform Judaism, during the nineteenth century, the authority of the Talmud was again questioned. The Talmud was seen (together with the Written Law as well) as being a product of antiquity and of having limited relevance to modern Jews. Reform Judaism does not emphasize the study of Talmud to nearly the same degree in their Hebrew schools as do other forms of contemporary Judaism, but the Talmud is indeed studied in Reform rabbinical seminaries.

Orthodox Judaism continues to stress the importance of Talmud study and it is a central component of Yeshiva curriculum. The regular study of the Talmud among laymen has been popularized by the Daf Yomi, a daily course of Talmud study initiated by Rabbi Meir Shapiro in 1923. Traditional rabbinic education continues to lay heavy emphasis on the knowledge of Talmud.

Conservative Judaism similarly emphasizes the study of Talmud within its religious and rabbinic education. Generally, however, the Talmud is studied as a historical source-text for Halakha. The Conservative approach to legal decision-making emphasizes placing classic texts and prior decisions in historical and cultural context, and examining the historical development of Halakha. This approach has resulted in greater practical flexibility than that of the Orthodox.

Many Jews today define themselves as Jews only in an ethnic or cultural sense. These Jews reject the tenets of Jewish religion outright, defining themselves either as agnostics or atheists. Included in the latter category are Jewish Marxists and Marxist-Leninists, who take a militantly atheistic stance, believing that religion itself is primarily a tool of economic oppression.

There are five contemporary translations of the Talmud into English:

All links retrieved November 12, 2015.

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