The Jewries that inhabited the Iberian Peninsula were among the largest and longest existing Jewish communities outside of Israel since Roman times in the 1st century until its final expulsion in the 16th century as a consequence of the Catholic church incitement against Jews and Judaism
Under the Visigoths
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, the Visigoths invaded Iberia, and they found a sizable Jewish population there.
At the heart of Sephardic self-definition lies the memory of a Jewish Golden Age of philosophy, poetry, and science in tenth and eleventh century Andalusia
Taifas and the Reconquest
“While Jewish life in Mohammedan Spain was reaching its peak of material and cultural development, the foundation of new Jewish centers were being laid in the Christian territory to the north.
“The most distinctive aspect of the Sephardic tradition is its attitude to the general culture of the times. Rather than confine Jews to a cultural ghetto or to drive them to assimilation, the Sephardic culture provided the intellectual tools by which Jews could fully participate in their Jewish heritage and the culture of the general society.”
Under both Muslim and Christian rule, Jews attained eminent positions in the professions, commerce, and government as well as in elite literary and intellectual circles. Fifteen percent of the scientists were Jews
After the Spanish Expulsion
Sephardi Jews rose to distinction in many of the countries where they settled. Some economic historians have traced the decline of Spain after 1500, and the subsequent rise of the Netherlands, in part to the Sephardi commercial talent that was transferred from the one to the other.
Sephardim have an intellectually vibrant, compassionate, and inclusive philosophy. The general principles are 1. Joy in life; 2. A very optimistic religious worldview; 3. A strong sense of solidarity with the Jewish people as a whole; and 4. A sense of personal self-worth or interiority
Sephardic Concern for the whole
“Sephardic interest in the arts and sciences in addition to the study of holy texts, their interest in politics and large-scale commerce and not only in the narrow cultivation of religious observance — these are all aspects of the Sephardic concern for the whole.”
“The worst possible fate that could befall the Sephardim and the Jewish people would be for us to lose this breadth and openness of spirit to become isolated and segregated according to the present vogue. On the other hand, this openness is one of the greatest contributions that we can give to the contemporary Jewish world.”
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