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Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  161 ratings  ·  22 reviews
The history of the Jews of Spain is a remarkable story that begins in the remote past and continues today. For more than a thousand years, Sepharad (the Hebrew word for Spain) was home to a large Jewish community noted for its richness and virtuosity. Summarily expelled in 1492 and forced into exile, their tragedy of expulsion marked the end of one critical phase of their ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 31st 1994 by Free Press (first published 1992)
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Jun 08, 2010 rated it liked it
This is not a well-written book (the author struggles to write a clear sentence) but it is well worth reading. The post-explusion coverage is better than the descriptions of what came before in Spain. Although here in America our Jewish community was founded by the Sephardim, the coming of the Ashkenazi Jews has eclipsed these beginnings. It's almost as if the Sephardic experience is perceived as peripheral to the main course of Jewish history. As Gerber points out, nothing could be further from ...more
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating! The Jews of Spain details the history of Jews in Spain for that past 2,000 years, beginning with the Jews who came with the Romans to the Iberian Peninsula. There is rich detail about the flowering of science and Jewish literature during the 800 year Moorish occupation of the peninsula during the Umayyad Caliphate in Cordoba, and the tragic expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella right after the Moors were finally defeated in the Battle of Granada. Gerber cont ...more
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This gave me invaluable info on the Moorish occupation of Spain, the Reconquest, the Inquisition, and the differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews. I had hoped that it might shed some light on some of the crypto-Judaic heritage in my native San Luis Valley, but instead it helped me realize how obscured that past really is. This is not just due to the 500 years since my Spanish ancestors came to the New World, but also because there were two hundred years, starting in 1391, where there w ...more
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
Written by a Jew and addressed specifically to a Jewish audience, there's no question about it that -regardless of the importance and quality of this work- it is an exercise of Jewish apologetics as few have been consummated. And I don't mean it in a bad sense; a little more of the kind should be expected from other quarters: Christian, to look no further. Why, we have our own tragic story to tell, and no need to point to culprits now. But, in the present times, it seems that Christians are the ...more
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-themes
excellent history and detail while keeping the broad sweep
Elliott Bignell
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came to this volume as part of a project to further my education about Islam and its relationship with the rest of the world, which had led me to an interest in the Golden Age of ha Sefarad, and to inform myself further about Judaism, about which I have had too little information to understand its relationship with the world at all. This book serves both purposes beautifully. While serious in tone, it is very readable indeed and provides what I would judge to be a good, neutral perspective. My ...more
Lauren Albert
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I found this book fascinating and full of surprising facts (the Liberty Bell was brought to America on a ship owned by a Jewish merchant, for instance). The Jewish population clearly often had a disproportionate effect on the countries where they settled: "an estimated thirty-five to sixty percent of the income in every one of the Iberian kingdoms was provided by Jews.” This was, of course, due to punishing taxes inflicted on them. But, it also meant that the countries that expelled them suffere ...more
Lois Portnoff
Aug 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have some background about the Sephardic Jewish community but I had never internalized what it meant to be unable to find a place to live...where no country anywhere would welcome these people.

The book is comprehensive and an easy read.
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Scholarly but eminently readable. Gerber provides a sweeping panormaof these Separdim from the beginning of their settlement during Roman times and after they were expelled in 1492 through modern times. The first half the book focuses on these Jews while they were living in Spain, the influence of Islamic culture, the "Golden Age" and effort at conversion by the Church and its monarchs. The second half of the book details what happended to the Jews after they were expelled from Spain, the relent ...more
N. N.
Apr 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: europe, jahan-islami
This is a solid treatment of an important topic in the history of the world. Also, Sephardic history is an aspect of the background to the Arab-Israeli conflict that is missed by a lot of people who otherwise read everything they can get their hands on about that topic. I only gave it 3 out of 5 stars because it is marred by political editorializing and the printing (at least of my version) was so bad as to be almost unreadable in certain places (I also found the inclusion of long sections of tr ...more
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
The 500 year history of Sephardic (Spanish) Jews and their Diaspora from 1492, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled all Jews from Spain (on the same day Columbus set sail to find a western route to India -- through the formation of the Israeli state and the election of Sephardic Jew Menachem Begin as prime minister. The Sephardic diaspora eventually spreads from Portugal to other European countries, North and South America, and North Africa, and then they continue to flee the Inquisit ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Writing in February 2019
I got the book as a present seven years ago.
I read it only this year with an interest in the demography of The Jews of Spain after their many experiences of expulsions, assimilations and tortures of the Jews in Spain.

The book is a very comprehensive research.

Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While some sections could begin to feel a bit pedantic and choppy, it was still a fascinating read. The level of persecution the Jews have endured is unrivaled. Their commitment to provide for and support their fellow brethen is phenomenal.
Sep 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Not dry at all and contains a good overview of the history of the Sephardi Jews (of particular relevance to me given my background!)...if you have an interest in the topic, it's a pretty light read (as far as history books go). ...more
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For a history book this one is really good. It is not written in an overly pretentious manner and is an enjoyable read.
Sep 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
For me this was an introduction to Jewish Sephardic history and culture. My appetite is whetted and I am hungry for more information now.
Jun 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I had to take my time reading it though because it's not a story, it's a history book. ...more
Denise DeRocher
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
A concise account of when, how and why the Jews of Spain were kicked out of the country - great history.
May 08, 2008 rated it liked it
If there's a history buff in you, this should be picked up. It's a good book, but not for everybody. ...more
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“In later centuries, both Spanish and Italian patriots have claimed him; but in fact the background of this obscure map maker and sea captain is extremely vague. He himself was always quite evasive about his origins, although he claimed to come from Genoa. In Spain he referred to himself as a foreigner (extranjero), but he kept his journals and made marginal notations in his books in Spanish, not Italian; his letters to his brother Bartholome and his son Diego were also written in Spanish, and he wrote Latin in a recognizably Spanish manner. Yet his Spanish was the language of the fourteenth century, and his characteristics seemed to suggest a Catalan background. Furthermore, although he made an elaborate show of his Christian piety, he always kept company with Jews and Muslims.” 0 likes
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