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The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience Hardcover – November 2, 1992

4.7 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Before the brutal expulsion of 300,000 Jews from Spain in 1492, Sephardic Jews thrived on the Iberian peninsula for more than a millennium, as Gerber relates in this stirring and riveting saga, a remarkable story of creative adaptation, minority achievement and survival. During the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry, Sephardim excelled in medicine, science, philosophy, music and literature. Columbus, evasive about his origins, kept close company with Jews, and several Jewish converts sailed with him. Gerber, director of the City University of New York's Graduate Center's Institute for Sephardic Studies, charts the haunted lives of "New Christians," secret Jews who were persecuted by the Inquisition, from Mexico to Peru, and surveys Sephardic communities that flourished openly from Romania, Syria and Turkey to the U.S. and Barbados. She examines the tensions between impoverished Ashkenazim (Jews of middle and northern Europe) and aristocratic Sephardim throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Betrayals and horrors of WW II and the Holocaust reinforced Sephardic Jews' resolve to leave the Muslim world, and Gerber incisively looks at today's Sephardic communities in Israel, France, the U.S. and Spain.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain, ending a centuries-long relationship with their Islamic and then Christian masters. During a part of this time, a veritable medieval golden age of poets and philosophers had flourished. Judah Halevi and Moses Maimonides are just two of the age's legendary figures whose works are still avidly read today. However, as Gerber reminds us, the Spanish or Sephardic Jewish experience did not end in 1492. Sephardic colonies sprouted all along the Mediterranean and in the sea-faring countries of Europe. Jews looked toward the New World too. Gerber tells their continuing story in a lively, readable, yet learned manner. This book is recommended for most libraries. Larger libraries should also consider the 1992 reissues of two classic works from the Jewish Publication Society: Yitzhak Baer's A History of the Jews in Christian Spain and Eliyahu Ashtor's The Jews of Moslem Spain .
- Paul Kaplan, Dakota Cty. Lib., Eagan, Minn.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (November 2, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029115736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029115732
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
THE JEWS OF SPAIN is an eminently readable and important survey history of the Ibero-Jewish experience from Biblical times. The Jews of Sepharad (Spain) are first mentioned in the Prophetic Book of Obadiah. From this beginning in antiquity, they can trace their history on Spanish soil right down to the present day.

Often abjured and ultimately expelled in 1492, the Sephardim nonetheless contributed much to the root stock of Spain and Portugal. One scholar estimates that 70% of all Spanish/Hispanic people today can trace their line back to some Jewish forebears, and in Portugal the percentage is an even more astounding 85%. Linguists are only now recognizing the strong Hebrew influence on the Spanish language (The honorific "Don" descends from The Hebrew word for Lord, "Adon").

Despite the institutional disabilities the Jews experienced as a minority in a land that was first Greco-Roman, then Christian, then Muslim, and finally again Christian, they prospered and thrived, becoming so much a part of the fabric of Spain that certain Spanish kings had themselves declared "King of the Three Religions" and had their tombs inscribed in Latin, Arabic and Hebrew. A Jewish "Golden Age" occurred under Muslim rule in the 1000s, when Jewish courtiers became noted poets, philosophers, cartographers, merchants, and even Prime Ministers. This pattern continued for a while under the Christian Reconquest, although increasing pressures were brought upon the Jews to convert. Nationwide pogroms in 1391 caused about half of Spanish Jewry to leave the fold, and again in 1492 most Jews chose conversion rather than exile from their beloved land. All told, about 300,000 Jewish people left Spain, scattering throughout the world.
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Format: Paperback
THE JEWS OF SPAIN - A History of the Sephardic Experience
Catergory listing: History/Judaica

Winner of the 1993 National Jewish Book Award for Sephardic

An advanced and scholarly research on the history of the
Tribe of Judah, (House of David) to its present status.

"Jane S. Gerber is to be congratulated for her rare
achievement, a work of serious popularization that will be
welcomed by anyone interested in Jewish history and the
Sephardic experience. The Jews of Spain compresses a wealth
of information into one volume with authority,
intelligence, and lucidity. It deserves the widest possible
-- Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi - Salo Wittmayer Baron Professor
of Jewish History, Culture and Society, Columbia University

"This unusually valuable book fills a long neglected need:
a readable and highly accessible one-volume treatment of
Sephardic Jewry from their earliest origins until today."
-- Benjamin R. Gampel - Associate Professor of Jewish
History, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America

"Gerber has brought [a] scrupulous sense of scholarship to
The Jews of Spain...Her intelligent, gracefully written
history is a welcome volume for the general reader; it fill
an important historical vacuum."
-- Barbara Probst Solomon, The Washington Post

"...Stirring and riveting...a remarkable story of creative
adaptation, minority achievement, and survival."
-- Publisher's Weekly
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Format: Paperback
It has often been difficult for me to keep old textbooks. Oftentimes they're dry as toast and I can't wait to foist them off to the university bookstore again. However, I kept Gerber's book after my Spanish Jewry class ended. Simply put, it's a nice little treasure.

At 300 pages, this is a compact volume. I don't know how Gerber managed to include Roman-era Jewish origins on the Iberian peninsula to Jewish revival in the post-Holocaust era - but she does it, and it never feels like she had to cram anything in. Her writing is fluid (there's no literary jargon, no dry analysis, just tight and concise writing that's a pleasure to read). Moreover, her historical analyses touch on Jewish interactions with both the Muslim and the Christian worlds, from the former's invasion of Spain to its overthrow by Christian rulers and then Jewish persecution under the Inquisition.

In short, Gerber's book is informative and FUN. At the back, there is a map section and an enormous list of further reading, should the reader be interested in delving further into Sephardic history. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
With an outstanding narrative, Gerber has been able to compress the history of the Sephardic Jews from the early establishment in the Iberian Peninsula (around 200 BCE) to present date. This represents a wealth of information the author had to deal with, understanbly forced to narrow down on several topics. The reader will in fact have an amazing overview of the history of the Sephardic Jews in a single volume. Highly recommended to anyone interestd in the history of a people endowed with faith, courage, and determination to face adversities.
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Gerber presents a piece that tells the story of the often neglected Sephardic Jew. In her piece, one can appreciate this group of jewry and realize their struggles and triumphants in a world that does not understsnd their purpose. Her treatment of the inquistion material in particular is breath taking and conjures up images of the modern inquistion across Europe that was the holocaust.
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