Tuesday, 23 October 2012
The "Ashkenazification" of Sephardi History
Yesterday I was in a bookshop (this is 2012, I wonder if it will still be there in 2015) and went to look at the Jewish history section. There were three shelves on the Holocaust and a couple more excoriating Israel. There was virtually nothing on any other aspect of 3,500 years of Jewish history. The bookshop was not in a Jewish area, so probably represents what the booksellers believe their customers want to know about Jewish history.
I suppose the simplification and misrepresentation of history is fairly normal. My mistake has been to understand Western Sephardi history within the context of an over-arching Jewish history. My impression now is that they were two different stories – Sephardi and Ashkenazi. By around 1800 (in England where I live) they began to merge or, more precisely, Sephardim were subsumed by the more numerous Ashkenazim.
The Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions were not a proto-Holocaust, although clearly both persecutions drew on an underlying tradition of European Christian anti-Semitism.
The dispersion of the Western Sephardim from Iberia was not a migration from an Old Country to a New Country. My impression was that they were like modern bankers, moving from hub city to hub city and wherever there might be an opportunity. Rather like a game of musical chairs, they settled wherever they happened to be when the music stopped.