Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Who are the Sephardim?

The Book of Obadiah (1:20) refers to “The captives of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad”. In his commentary on the text, the 12th Century scholar Abraham Ibn Ezra said that Sepharad was Spain. He said the community descended from Jews exiled after the Roman Trajan destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

According to DNA tests, some Iberian Jews have patrilineal lines back to the ancient Middle East. They probably descend from Jewish merchants who arrived in Roman times. Others descend from Berbers or members of the pre-existing Romanised population who converted to Judaism some time before around 600AD.

Today, Sephardi often means any Jew who is not Ashkenazi (a Jew originating in Germany and eastern Europe). The category includes Jews from the Middle East whose ancestors were never in Spain, Jews from central Asia, India and even Ethiopia. This blog is specifically about those people whose ancestors were Jews, or former Jews, in 15th Century Iberia (today’s Spain and Portugal).

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