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June 16, 2017     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 16, 2017 The Sephardim--Part I Sephardic Jews from Spain. By Norman Berdichevsky Many American Jews, who are at least 95 percent Ashke- nazi by origin, also find it hard to relate to those Jews in Israel whose cultural background is so different. By origin, approximately 50 percent of the Israeli Jewish population identify themselves as "Edot HaMizrah" (The Eastern com- munities) and are generally distinguishable by the many factors that are attribut- able to a different cultural heritage and separation by many centuries from the Ashkenazim--in their genetic make -up (often but not always skin complexion), and awhole host of traits such as male- female relationships, social conventions, attitudes to- wards child upbringing, dress, food preferences, music, use of language (pronunciation, vocabulary, syntax and gram- mar of both Hebrew and vari- ous Judeo-hybrid languages), courtship, marriage and di- vorce customs, sex attitudes, perception of time, attitudes toward literacy, learning and education, recreation and lei- sure pursuits, work ethic, at- titudes towards public space, respect for authority, the rules by which status and rank are determined, prevailing ideas of liberty and restraint, views of wealth, folklore and superstitions. and the Diaspora that followed the 1492 expulsion from the Iberian peninsula. Techni- cally speaking, calling all Jews who were and are indig- enous to Asia and African as Sephardim is wrong histori- cally and just as misleading as European settlers calling the native peoples of the Western hemisphere "Indians." Any serious student of Jewish history and tradition knows that the only authentic Sephardim are the descen- dants of the Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal. They went on to settle in Western Europe including England, Holland, Denmark, North Western Germany, colonial America, the Carib- bean and Brazil as well as in lands dominated by Islam, throughout North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, the Balkans and across the Levant. There are thus many Sephardi Jews who have always lived in Eu- rope and many Jewish com- munities around the world composed of both Sephardim and Ashkenazim, who lived together and intermarried, notably in Italy, Egypt, Syria and Bulgaria, where laterAsh- kenazi immigrants arrived Although a gross simplifi- andwerewelcomebySephardi cation, it has become accept- residents. This has also been able parlance to divide all Jews true in the Caribbean, South into two major geo-cultural America and mQdern Israel. groups: "Ashkenazim" from Just as America's Afro- the Hebrew term Ashkenaz Americanpopulationhasgone that came to denote Eastern through several self-designa- and Central Europe, and"Sep, tions indicating a:search for hardim," from the Hebrew their authentic identity rang- term Spharad, denoting Spain ing from Black to Colored to FUNERAL HOME ~. CREMATORY Jewish Graveside Package: , raW, Staff $200.00 - Tra rtation to_ metery Call us to re iE es Orgamzer. g 407-695-CARE (2273) www. DeGusipeFuneralHome,com Maitland 9001 N. Orlando Avenue Maitland, FL 32751 Sanford 905 Laurel Avenue Sanford, FL 32771 West Orange 1400 Matthew Paris Blvd Ocoee, FL 34761 Negro and then Afro -American and for some, back to Black (originally a term of disparage- ment used by whites), Israel's Jews of Afro-Asian origin have shifted from Sephardi to Mizrachi (Oriental). For religious purposes,"Sephardi" describes the nusach ("litugi- cal tradition") used by most non-Ashkenazi Jews in the Siddur (prayer book). In reality, there are also many Jews who are neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardi. These include the Jews of Ethi- opia, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, the Caucasus region (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Tajiki- stan, Uzbek stan, Armenia), all of whom are recognized as being of Afro-Asian origin yet have nothing to do with the original Sephardim. They are the descendants of the Jews who fled into exile following the Assyrian, Babylonian and Roman conquests of ancient Israel. No doubt, they were later joined by numerous converts who were attracted to the high moral and ethical principles that distinguished Judaism in ancient times from pagan and polytheistic religions. There is indeed a serious social and geo-cultural cleav- age in Israel's diverse Jewish population groups, precisely because all the four divisions overlap to a considerable de- gree. Most of the Jews from Africa and Asia arrived in Israel after 1948 and being relative newcomers had to adjust to difficult conditions. Most of them arrived desti- tute and unlike many of the Yemeni Sephardic boys in Egypt. Ashkenazim never received any reparations for their confiscated property. They still tend to have larger families and as a rule are much more religiously observant than the Ashkenazim who established the secular norms and institutions of the Zionist movement and later of the State oflsrael. It is only human nature that the new arrivals from Asia and Africa resented the more established veteran European settlers and those new immigrants from Europe who immediately found more personal connections and sympathy with the veteran Ashkenazi settlers through a common knowledge of Yiddish and shared political and social backgrounds. A list of new army recruits will probably reveal names like de Leon, Toledano, Castro, Franco, Mizrahi, Dayan, Gab- bai, Abulafia, Kimhi, Shar'abi, Sassoon, Azulay, Kadouri, Marziano, Ohana, Aflalo and Hasson, as often or more than Schwartz, Goldberg, Wolf, Guttmann, Rabinowitz, Berdichevsky, Kaplan or Fin- kelstein. So how then can they then be one people? They are, because history, traditions and their faith (whether they are orthodox observant or secular) have instilled in them the idea of sharing a common peoplehood. Jews, although a small minority in the South, were well respected and even elected as mayors in towns such as Ocala and Tampa in the 1890s long before the post-World War II mass migration to the state! The fact that these mayors were all conservative businessmen does not fit the "image" of the natural tendency of American Jews towards liberal/Left and radical politics. Prior to the mass immi- gration of Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia following the Civil War, the Ameri- can Jewish community was predominantly Sephardi (of Spanish-Portuguese origin and who later emigrated to Holland and then the New World), and German-Alsatian. The Jews of Savannah, New Orleans, Charleston and nearby Georgetown were wealthy, conservative, very educated and cultured and predominantly of Sephardi origin. They gravitated toward Reform but were determined to maintain a strong sense of communal identity. Cultural and folklore difference Sephardim eat rice during Pesach. They have a more re- laxed attitude toward sex and erotic themes (song), are more self-forgiving, self-mocking and understanding of human faults and weaknesses. They are less maudlin; Zionistleader and great poet, Ze'ev Jabotin- sky, explained his support of the Sephardi (Judeo-Spanish) pronunciation of Hebrew as due, in part, to appreciation of the gayer, more carefree, less inhibited nature of the Sephardim and their Medi- terranean traditions than the heritage of the more morose and somber Ashkenazi (East European Jewish) past.