Spanish and Portuguese Jews – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted By on May 25, 2015

Spanish and Portuguese Jews (also known as Western Sephardim, or more ambiguously as Spanish Jews, Portuguese Jews and Jews of the Portuguese Nation) are a distinctive sub-group of Sephardi Jews, mostly descended from families forcibly converted to Catholicism in Spain and Portugal, who later became ex-conversos as they emigrated to other countries outside the Iberian cultural sphere where they eventually reverted to Judaism.

The main 'Spanish and Portuguese Jewish' communities are in Western Europe, Italy and the non-Iberian regions of the Americas.

Spanish and Portuguese Jews have a distinctive ritual based on that of pre-expulsion Spain. It was also influenced by the Spanish-Moroccan rite and the Italian Jewish rite.[citation needed]

In addition to the term "Spanish and Portuguese Jews", this sub-group of Sephardic Jews is sometimes also referred to as "Western Sephardim", "Spanish Jews," "Portuguese Jews," or "Jews of the Portuguese Nation."

The term "Western Sephardim" is frequently used in modern research literature. It has been used to refer to either "Spanish and Portuguese Jews", or "Spanish-Moroccan Jews," or, in some cases, both of these groups. It occasionally is applied to Greek and Balkan Sephardim, so as to distinguish European Sephardim in general from Mizrahi Jews who are sometimes termed Sephardi in the broader religious non-ethnic definition.

The use of the terms "Portuguese Jews" and "Jews of the Portuguese Nation" in areas such as the Netherlands and Hamburg, Scandinavia, and at one time in London, seems to have arisen primarily as a way for the "Spanish and Portuguese Jews" to distance themselves from Spain in the times of political tension and war between Spain and the Netherlands in the 17th century. Similar considerations may have played a role for Jews in Bayonne and Bordeaux, given their proximity to the Spanish border. Another reason for this terminology may have been that a relatively high proportion of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews had Portugal as their immediate point of departure from the Iberian peninsula. Portugal issued its decree forbidding Judaism in the state some years later than the expulsion from Spain.

As the term "Sephardim" connotes a link with Spain, the distinguishing feature of "Portuguese Jews" or "Jews of the Portuguese Nation" was the added link with Portugal. Thus, as a subset of the Sephardim, "Portuguese" and "Spanish and Portuguese" could be used interchangeably. Finally, almost all organised communities in this group originally had Portuguese rather than Spanish as their official or working language.

In Italy, the term "Spanish Jews" (Ebrei Spagnoli) is frequently used, but it includes descendants of Jews expelled as Jews from the Kingdom of Naples, as well as "Spanish and Portuguese Jews" proper (i.e. ex-conversos and their descendants).

In Venice, Spanish and Portuguese Jews were often described as "Ponentine" (Western), to distinguish them from "Levantine" (Eastern) Sephardim from Eastern Mediterranean areas. Occasionally Italian Jews distinguish between the "Portuguese Jews" of Pisa and Livorno and the "Spanish Jews" of Venice, Modena and elsewhere.

The scholar Joseph Dan distinguishes "medieval Sephardim" (15th and 16th-century Spanish exiles in the Ottoman Empire) from "Renaissance Sephardim" (Spanish and Portuguese ex-converso communities), referring to the respective times of their formative contacts with Spanish language and culture.

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Spanish and Portuguese Jews - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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