Until the publication of this remarkably comprehensive history of the Sephardi diaspora, only limited attention had been given to the distinctive Judeo-Spanish cultural entity that flourished in the Balkans and Asia Mir for more than four centuries. Yet the great majority of Sephardi Jews, after their expulsion from Spain in 1492 and subsequently from Portugal, found their way to this region, drawn by the political stability and relatively tolerant rule of the Ottoman Empire, as well as by promising socioecomic conditions. Esther Benbassa and Aron Rodrigue show how Sephardi society and culture developed in the Levant, sharing language, religion, customs, and communal life as they did where else, both during prosperous times and during the declining fortunes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The impact of westernization, the end of Ottoman power, and the rise of fragmenting nation-states transformed this vital community in the modern era. And, like many other Jewish communities, the unique Judeo-Spanish culture was dispersed and destroyed by the Holocaust and the migrations of the twentieth century. Sephardi Jewry presents its vivid history in a readable, well-documented narrative.
Esther Benbassa is Professor of Jewish History at the Universite de Paris IV, Sorbonne, and Director of Research at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique. Her books Jews in France (1999) and Haim Nahum (1995) are available in English. Aron Rodrigue is Eva Chernov Lokey Professor in Jewish Studies and Professor of History at Stanford University and the author of Images of Sephardi and Eastern Jewries in Transition (1993) and French Jews, Turkish Jews (1990).