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Sephardic migrations

As Sephardim ( Hebrew סְפָרַדִּים Sfaradim; German  Sephardic ) are the names of the Jews and their descendants who lived on the Iberian Peninsula until they were expelled in 1492 and 1513 . After their escape, the Sephardi settled for the most part in the dominion of the Ottoman Empire ( Thrace , Macedonia , Bosnia ) and in northwest Africa ( Maghreb ). A small part also settled in Northern Europe, in particular in the sea trading cities of the Netherlands (including Antwerp and Amsterdam ), and in Northern Germany (especially in Hamburg ), but also in France ( Bordeaux , Bayonne ), in Italy ( Livorno , Ferrara ), in America , India and Africa . Their culture continued to be based on the Iberian. This is where the Sephardim differ from the Central and Eastern European Ashkenazim .

In Greek Thessaloniki , the biggest European Sephardic community was until the occupation by German troops in 1941; therefore it was also called "Jerusalem of the Balkans".

Origin of name and spelling

The name Sephardim is derived from the place or landscape named Sefarad in the biblical book Obd 20  EU (ספרד) from where members of the Lost Tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel are believed to have lived at the time the book was written . The name was transferred to the Iberian Peninsula and the Jews who came from there in the Middle Ages .

In the New Spelling , which is usually tolerant of replacing Ph with F - especially with foreign words of Greek origin - "Sephardim" is written, since the "ph" reproduces the Hebrew "Pe", that after vowels, except in the case of gemination ("Pp"), regularly pronounced like "f".


Golden age

Jews were already living on the Iberian Peninsula before the 1st century AD.

The beginning of the "Golden Age" for the Jewish population in the Iberian Peninsula is usually to the effect time of Hasdai ibn Shaprut recognized a Jewish diplomat who in the 10th century in the service of in Córdoba resident Umayyad caliph Abd al-Rahman III. was standing. In the following centuries, important Jewish scholars and artists such as Moses and Abraham ibn Esra , Jehuda Halevi and Isaak Abrabanel worked in Spain and Portugal .

Reconquista and Inquisition

Emanuel de Witte: Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam, around 1680
Memorial plaque in Porto for the expulsion of the Jews

Triggered by anti-Semitic sermons by the priest Ferrand Martinez , the first pogrom in the Kingdom of Castile took place in Seville in March 1391 . A century later, after the Reconquista came to an end with the conquest of Granada, the last Moorish dominion on the Iberian Peninsula, the "Catholic kings" Ferdinand II and Isabella I issued the Decreto de la Alhambra, which was directed against the Jews . This decree of Thursday, March 31st, 1492 presented the Jews of Spain with the choice between exile or conversion to Christianity . Many preferred going into exile to baptism. Some of the displaced settled in North Africa , especially in Morocco in the cities of Fez and Casablanca . Another part followed the invitation to the Ottoman Empire , which was based on a personal decree of the Sultan. They settled mainly in Thrace and Macedonia , whose capital, Thessaloniki, still had a Jewish population of around 20 percent in the interwar period. In addition to Fez and Thessaloniki, the cities of Istanbul , Jerusalem , Safed , Cairo , Ancona , Edirne and Venice are the centers of the Sephardic Rite .

After the introduction of the Inquisition in Portugal in 1531, the second wave of persecution against the Jews on the Iberian Peninsula began. In addition to the Jews, who remained in their faith, many converts ( conversos ) and those who were forcibly baptized, the Marranos , also emigrated. The refugees' main destinations were port cities, as many of them were involved in wholesaling. These cities include Casablanca, Bayonne , Bordeaux , Livorno , later also Amsterdam , Hamburg and London and Fez inland. The Portuguese Synagogue was inaugurated in Amsterdam on August 2, 1675 . In contrast to the earlier emigrants, they mostly spoke Portuguese or Spanish, no longer Jewish Spanish .

20th century

The last major wave of immigration reached Morocco during the Shoah in World War II , often as a stopover in exile overseas, but sometimes also as a destination for emigration . Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Yusuf (King Mohammed V ) refused to sign the “exceptional laws” of the French Vichy regime on the “treatment of the Israelites”. The North African Jews had received French citizenship in 1880 and made up a significant part of the European population in Algeria , among others , but were exposed to anti-Semitic persecution from 1940 to 1944.

After decolonization , also because of the increasing anti-Semitic attitude of the Muslim population, emigration began : Many Sephardic Jews left North Africa for Israel or for the French mainland. The large Jewish community in Paris (approx. 200,000 members) today consists largely of Jews from North Africa.

In February 2014 the Spanish government presented a bill for the re-naturalization of descendants of Sephardic Jews.

Sephardic Hebrew

The Hebrew Studies follows in the pronunciation of the Masoretic text with regard to the vowels of the Sephardic tradition. The Sephardic pronunciation is characterized by the realization of the Qames as a long a, while in Ashkenazi a short o is used.

In spoken New Hebrew ( Ivrit ), the pronunciation of the vowels follows the Sephardic tradition, while the pronunciation of the consonants is strongly Europeanized, which means that emphatic sounds are dispensed with.


In 2019, the number of Sephardim is estimated at 3.5 million people.

Sephardim in Israel

The religious Shas party in Israel sees itself in particular as the guardian of the Sephardic religious expression. In addition to the Ashkenazim , the Sephardi in Israel have their own chief rabbi .

Spanish and Portuguese citizenship

Spain and Portugal grant citizenship to the descendants of the Sephardim.

More than 130,000 Sephardic Jews applied for Spanish citizenship in the four years ending September 2019, the deadline set. Spain had given the foreign Sephardim since 2015 the opportunity to apply for Spanish citizenship without having to give up their current citizenship. Most of the applications came from Latin America, mainly Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela. There have been around 3,000 inquiries from Israel. The applications received are now being examined. In addition to proof of the Sephardic origin of the family, the applications had to contain the family name, proof of language skills and, if possible, a family tree.

See also


Web links

Commons : Sephardi Jews  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files
Wiktionary: Sephardi  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Sephardi  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Shalom . Deutschlandfunk , November 25, 2011
  2. Spain: Justice for Sephardic Jews .; accessed on March 8, 2014
  3. ^ Spain: Bill for the re-naturalization of descendants of Sephardic Jews .; accessed on March 8, 2014
  4. 3,000 Israelis apply for Spanish citizenship. In: Israelnetz .de. October 2, 2019, accessed October 5, 2019 .
  5. Hubert Kahl: Expelled Jews from Spain and Portugal: A passport for the descendants. Spiegel Online , February 3, 2015
  6. 3,000 Israelis apply for Spanish citizenship. In: Israelnetz .de. October 2, 2019, accessed October 5, 2019 .