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July 31, 1992 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-07-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

PURELY COMMENTARY!'

Spain And Bigotries
And The Sephardim

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

TROTTER 525

Editor Emeritus

M

any historic events
combine to mark the
repudiation of the
inhumanities recorded as
the Spanish Inquisition and
the bloodthirsty auto-da-fe.
Assemblies including non-
Jews as well as Jews have
been in evidence all year to
acclaim the return to decen-
cy by modern Spain in its
condemnation of the Inquisi-
tion.
The March 1492 edict by
Isabella and Ferdinand forc-
ed 200,00 Jews of Spain to go
into exile because they
refused to convert to Chris-
tianity. A surviving Sephar-
dic Jewry continues in
evidence as a triumph over
bigotry.
An impressive book, The

Expulsion of the Jews, 500
years of Exodus(Shapolsky

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Publishers), dominates the
realities of the roles of
Sephardic Jews, those func-
tioning with great spiri-
tuality in their memories of
what had been and what
may continue as the spirit of
Spanish Jewry of old.
Yale Strom, the author,
relates findings and experi-
ences of Sephardic Jewry in
scores of communities. Be-
cause these communities are
now a part of the current
tragedies in the Balkan
states, his book attains
unusual significance.
Another element that in-
fluences the values of Mr.
Strom's book is his valuable
summation of much that in-
fluenced all of Jewry in the
function and historiography
of Spanish Jewry on a world
scale.
While Mr: Strom found
greater receptivity in his
earlier experiences, his fin-
dings in the Sephardic Jew-
ish areas emerge as powerful
commentaries on Sephardic
Jewish history.
In the introduction, Yale
Strom writes a definitive ac-
count of the role of Sephardic
Jewry. Here are some
significant facts related by
him:

The Expulsion of the
Jews is a portrait of the
Jews who — in 1992 — will
commemorate the expul-
sion of ancestors who trace
their lineage to the Middle
Ages, when their descen-
dants lived in the Iberian
Peninsula — Jews who, ac-
cording to stories passed

down through the five hun-
dred years, left Spain
marching, singing re-
ligious songs, led by their
rabbis. They were called
Sephardim.
The expulsion sent
200,000 Sephardim along
perilous paths to uncertain
futures. They formed a new
diaspora, a dispersion
within a dispersion. Not
only did they long to be in
the land of Israel someday,
but, because of their long
sojourn in Spain, they
wished to continue their
Sephardic culture. Their
determination to retain
their Jewish tongue,
Judeo-Spanish (the Jewish
vernacular consisting
mainly of Castellan,
Turkish, Arabic, Greek
and Hebrew words and
idioms), along with their
strong-willed Sephardic
consciousness of Sephar-
dic culture, soon
assimilated other Jews liv-
ing along the Aegean coast
and in the Balkans. After
their expulsion, the bulk of
the exiles found refuge in
the vast and powerful Ot-
toman Empire. By the
1930s, some eighty- three
percent living in the
region, numbering 200,000,
were still Sephardim.

The historic events mark-
ed by the Spanish anniver-
sary are echoed by activities
on a world scale and have in-
spired the Memorial Foun-
dation for Jewish Culture in
Spain to encourage continu-
ing studies involving all
related developments, cur-
rent and through the cen-
turies. So valuable are the
decisions made by this foun-
dation, the extent of them
needs to be known. A Jewish
Telegraphic Agency report
on the subject includes these
facts:

A highlight of the pro-
posal was the formal
representation of The
Sephardic Legacy, a two-
volume work published by
the Foundation that com-
prehensively documents
the contributions of Se-
phardic Jewry and world
culture.
The Foundation also an-
nounced that grants total-
ing more than $5.8 million
have been awarded to ad-
vance Sephardic culture
and to support Sephardic
co mmuniities worldwide.
Grants have been given for
research dealing with the
history, philosophy, relig-

ion, literature, art, music
and folklore of Sephardic
Jewry.

It is impressive to learn
from Yale Strom's descrip-
tive travelogue about the
communities where the
Spanish-Jewish legacies
survived. There also is the
element of interest evolved
from the 500th anniversary
of the expulsion. Included is
the attention drawn to the
subject in Turkey. The
highlight will be the obser-
vance of the anniversary in
three concerts in August by
the Israel Philharmonic Or-
chestra conducted by Zubin
Mehta.
In his studies of the pro-
gress attained by Sephardic
Jewry in defiance of
obstacles and in adherence
to devotions, Yale Strom in-
cludes many areas. His
research includes visits in

H

The historic events
marked by the
Spanish
anniversary are
echoed on a world
scale.

Jewish homes in the diff-
erent countries.
In the interest of becoming
fully aware of what has de-
veloped and being aware of
of the significance of the
Sephardic presence in Jew-
ish life, it would be valuable
for students of the subject to
delve deeply into every
chapter of Mr. Strom's
cultural travelogue.
It is necessary to emp-
phasize that not only every
chapter but in some respects
every paragraph in every
portion of the book becomes
Jewish historiography.
Therefore, a brief mention of
the countries becomes a
guideline to our acquisition
of knowledge about the
research shared with us in
the volume.
With apologies for being
compelled to resort to limita-
tions, here is the beginning
of the author's treatment of
Yugoslavia:

Before Slovenia and
Croatia declared their in-
dependence from war-torn
Yugoslavia, Jews lived in
all six republics and two
provinces that made up the
country. Each was unique
because of its specific
history and culture. Prior
to the founding of
Yugoslavia, following the

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