The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal: Survival of an Imperiled Culture in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

I had the pleasure of working with Dolores Sloan on the board of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies from 2011- 2013. I first met “Dolly” at the Crypto-Jewish Symposium hosted by Texas A&M in 2010 and led by Rabbi Peter Tarlow. Dolly is the Editor of the Journal of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto Jews and former Editor of HaLapid, journal of The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies. Her website is http://www.doloressloan.com/.

Dolly is a passionate lecturer on Crypto-Jewish topics and wrote The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal. The book in many ways reads more like a historical novel which is particularly helpful to those interested in a less academic focused work. It nevertheless provides an overview of the key events in Iberian Jewish history in the Peninsula.

Prior to 1492, Jews had flourished on the Iberian Peninsula for hundreds of years. Marked by alternating cooperative coexistence and selective persecution alongside Christians and Muslims, this remarkable period was a golden age for Iberian Jews, with significant and culturally diverse advances in sciences, arts and government.

This work traces the history of the Sephardic Jews from their golden age to their post-Columbian diaspora. It highlights achievements in science, medicine, philosophy, arts, economy and government, alongside a few less noble accomplishments, in both the land they left behind and in the lands they settled later.

Several significant Sephardic Jews are profiled in detail, and later chapters explore the increasing restrictions on Jews prior to expulsion, the divergent fates of two diaspora communities (in Brazil and the Ottoman Empire), and the enduring legacy of Sephardic history.

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Posted by Rabbi Dr. Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez the director of the B’nei Anusim Center for Education. He is the author of The Converso Dilemma: Halakhic Responsa and the Status of Forced Converts and The Karaites: And the Question of Jewish Identity.

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