Saturday, 8 March 2014

New YouTube channel

Sephardic Genealogy has a new YouTube channel. Original content will be posted in the next couple of weeks, once I get a microphone!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Sephardic Spanish Nationality

The FCDE - the organisation of Spanish Jews - has published a statement on Sephardim receiving Spanish citizenship. Effectively they are saying that everything is provisional and that they are waiting instructions from the Spanish government on how to judge whether someone is eligible for a passport.

The Spanish Government seems to be confused. They believe:
  • There are 3.5 million Sephardim. I would guess there is a fraction of that number assuming we classify 'Sephardim' as Jews of Iberian origin who belongs to a Sephardic synagogue of that origin. If we are being more lax, then I have seen estimates that there are 17 million Brazilians of Sephardic origin.
  • There are Sephardic surnames. Not true. There are Spanish and Portuguese surnames used by Sephardim.
  • That Sephardim come from Spain. Yes, people did, but a Sephardic identity only developed after 1492. Prior to that, Jews will have identified with their city or region.
  • That Sephardic history in Spain ended in 1492. There is a whole tourist industry now re-vamping the old Jewish Quarters of cities. The 16th to 18th Centuries - the main Inquisition period - is erased from their consciousness.
  • That 21st Century morality must be applied to people living in the 15th Century.
  • Sephardim speak or spoke Ladino. Not true. Ladino was a language that evolved amongst the Eastern (Ottoman) Sephardim. Portuguese was the lingua franca of the Western Sephardim, although many also spoke Spanish.
  • That it is possible to prove genealogy. I am probably unusual in having genealogy back to Spain, but this is to ancestors who escaped in 1700. 
  • That Sephardim are a cohesive group originating in Spain. Not true. Other Jewish communities were absorbed by the Eastern Sephardim.
  • There is a difference between Spanish and Portuguese Jews. Probably most Jews in Portugal in 1493 had recently arrived from Spain, but a substantial number were Portuguese natives.
  • That the history is clean cut. It isn't. Perhaps a proportion of the ancestors of the Western Sephardim DIDN'T leave Spain in 1492. They kept their assets, and slipped out later.
  • Sephardim have been yearning for Spain. Not true. It's a foreign country. Many of our ancestors were actively involved in fighting the Spanish Empire and undermining its economy.
  • Sephardim can be identified. Well, no. Is someone - like me - with a Spanish surname, born into a Sephardic congregation but also with Ashkenazi ancestors, considered Sephardi by their terms? There is a famous Sephardic family called Eskenazi ('Ashkenazi'). Do we count them? What about descendants of Sephardim who later settled in eastern Europe, for example a branch of the Mendoza family who changed their name to Mendelevitch?
  • In a simple 'Exodus'. Yet the descendants of many 1492 exiles later returned to Spain.
  • Somehow the modern Spanish - probably most of whom now have some Sephardic ancestry - should apologise to us, many of whom probably have some non-Jewish ancestry
  • One group of people who weren't alive or involved in the event should apologise to another group of people who weren't alive at the time, or involved (or, in some cases, aware that these events had happened).

I have seen it suggested that there is Sephardic DNA. This is not true. For example, I have impeccable Sephardic lineage, family members burnt alive etc, but my DNA is probably indistinguishable from most Spaniards or west Europeans.

Part of me wonders if even Spanish philo-Semitism springs out of the ferocious anti-Semitic tradition of the Spanish Catholic Church. Maybe Prime Minister Rajoy and his friends believe we are all rich and own America! Some (admittedly stupid) Spaniards on Twitter are suggesting Sephardic visas are an indication of Israeli hegemony. Why Israel would want Jews to live elsewhere is not discussed. Lets see if the initiative stokes anti-Semitism in Spain.

Spain has about 25% unemployment and is facing the richest region declaring independence. Surely they have more serious priorities than nostalgic fantasies. Presumably the outcome of all this nonsense will be several thousand Israelis and Turkish Jews getting passports so they can settle in Britain or Germany, if they choose.

And, of course, what about descendants of Muslims expelled from Spain? 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Spanish Sephardic Nationality Fantasy

A bizarre week of disinformation. Spain (again) says they will give citizenship to Sephardim. According to one Spanish source, we are yearning to be reunited with them. News to me.

A Spanish newspaper's unsourced claim that Sephardim were besieging Spanish diplomatic posts has been uncritically repeated by sources as august as El Pais and the FT. Various Ashkenazim and Mizrahim have been excitedly pontificating on the subject. Happily, this nonsense hasn't caused a ripple in Sephardic social media.

According to Spanish sources there are 3.5 million of us, which is three million more than I would have guessed (adding both Western and Eastern Sephardim - meaning Jews of Iberian origin). The Spanish figure excludes the estimated 17 million Brazilian non-Jews of Sephardic origin. Given than Portugal only has a population of 10 million, we might expect an interesting dialogue between the Iberian neighbours.

I suppose some Israeli and Turkish Sephardim might avail themselves of the opportunity of getting an EU passport, so they can settle in Britain or Germany. Why anyone would want to settle in a country as anti-Semitic as Spain escapes me, not to mention a Spanish GDP now lower than Israel's and horrendous levels of unemployment.

Several Muslims on Twitter have reasonably suggested that they too should be included in this Spanish fantasy. Some not very bright Spanish Tweeters see an evil Israeli conspiracy, but haven't explained why Israel would want their citizens to emigrate.

What most shocks is the Spanish Government's ignorance of their country's history. I think they should also explain WHY they believe they need to make restitution to people they have never harmed. And why are they involving us in their fantasy life?

Friday, 7 February 2014

Moving the website

Starting to port my Sephardic genealogy website from Google Sites to its new home at the eponymous

Were I not committed to learning Drupal software, I would leave it where it is. Google Sites is beautifully simple, and well-suited for genealogists and family historians of all ages and abilities. Drupal is a total dog. Still not worked out how to integrate video with text, or why different text appears in random font sizes. Will get there eventually...