Eastern Sephardim – Wikipedia

Posted By on November 6, 2018

Eastern Sephardim are a distinctive sub-group of Sephardi Jews, mostly descended from families expelled and exiled from Iberia as Jews in the 15th century following the Alhambra Decree of 1492 in Spain and the decree of 1497 in Portugal. This branch of descendants of the Jews of Iberia settled in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Eastern Sephardim settled mostly in various parts of the Ottoman Empire, which included areas in West Asia (Middle East, Anatolia, etc.), the Balkans in Southern Europe, plus Egypt. For centuries, these Jews made up the majority of the population of Salonica (now called Thessaloniki, Greece), Constantinople (now called Istanbul, Turkey), and Sarajevo (in what is today Bosnia and Herzegovina), all of which were located in the Ottoman-ruled parts of Europe.

Some migrated farther east to territories of the Ottoman Empire, settling among the long-established Arabic-speaking Jewish communities in Baghdad in Iraq, Damascus in Syria and Alexandria in Egypt. A few of the Eastern Sephardim followed the spice trade routes as far as the Malabar coast of southern India, where they settled among the established Cochin Jewish community, again imparting their culture and customs to the local Jews. The presence of Sephardim and New Christians along the Malabar coast eventually aroused the ire of the Catholic Church, which then obtained permission from the Portuguese crown to establish the Goan Inquisition against the Sephardic Jews of India.

In recent times, principally after 1948, most Eastern Sephardim have since relocated to Israel, and others to the United States, France and Latin America.

The term Sephardi means "Spanish" or "Hispanic", and is derived from Sepharad, a Biblical location. The location of the biblical Sepharad is disputed, but Sepharad was identified by later Jews as Hispania, that is, the Iberian Peninsula. Sepharad now means "Spain" in modern Hebrew.

Their traditional spoken languages were referred to as Judaeo-Spanish and Judaeo-Portuguese. For the most part, Eastern Sephardim did not maintain their own separate Sephardic religious and cultural institutions from the pre-existing Jews, but instead the local Jews came to adopt the culture and customs of the recent Sephardic arrivals. This phenomenon is just one of the factors which has today led to the broader religious definition of Sephardi.

The relationship between Sephardi-descended communities is illustrated in the following diagram:

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Eastern Sephardim - Wikipedia

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