Saturday, 19 November 2011

Judeo-Spanish Balkans, 1849

A report from a Mr Parsons, quoted by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1849. I suspect the respondent may be the Rev. Justin W. Parsons who was resident with his wife in Salonica.

The report suggests that Spanish was the Jewish culture in the Balkans, except in those territories that had been long held by the Austrian Hapsburgs.

The Jews of Seres [Serres, Greece], as also those of the other cities of Macedonia, and of the cities of Bulgaria, Servia [Serbia] and Wallachia [more or less southern Romania] seem to have gone forth originally from Salonica. They have the same language [Spanish]; while the Jews of the southern provinces speak Greek. But all have the same blind submission to the rabbies, the same prejudices, the same evasions of the truth, the same subterfuge. “Gold is their god, and traffic is their religion,” one would say who should meet them only in their fair. But in their prayers, and their observance of the Sabbath, the Deceiver causes them to appear, to themselves at least, devout and holy, separate from all the nations, the favorites of heaven.

Parsons perhaps overlooks the former influence of Spanish Jewish communities in what were Venetian enclaves along the Adriatic coast.

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