The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience
The Free Press
Sephardic Jews form one of the two mainstreams of Jewish life - it was they who founded the first Jewish settlements in America, and they played an important role in colonial society. That history has been obscured by the subsequent arrival of German and Russian Jews whose greater numbers have dominated the American Jewish community for over a century. But the diaspora of Spanish Jews is older, and their longing for the vanished land of "Sepharad", their homeland for a 1000 years, provides one of the greatest themes in Jewish history. Now historian Jane Gerber for the first time traces their great story - rich in both events and personalities - from its ancient beginnings in Roman Iberia to the present day. Gerber shows how the Jews created a civilization in Spain that was both Jewish and secular long before the enlightened Age of Emancipation. Sephardic Jews achieved remarkable success within their "host" society, distinguishing themselves as theologians and philosophers, writers and artists, businessmen, courtiers, and medical men. This rich legacy of culture and accomplishment has inspired a just pride in Sephardic Jews that persists to this day; the Sephardic experience also sheds light on the possibilities for peaceful coexistence among Christians, Jews, and Arabs. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 thus has a special pathos as the story of the wanton destruction of a flourishing community with roots going back a millenium or more. The book should also be a timely addition to the worldwide observances of the events of 1492 on their 500th anniversary.