There is still much confusion about the difference between Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews. Norman Berdichevsky provides some useful definitions in Heritage Florida Jewish News. (With thanks: Michelle)
Any serious student of Jewish history and tradition knows that the
only authentic Sephardim are the descendants of the Jews expelled from
Spain and Portugal. They went on to settle in Western Europe including
England, Holland, Denmark, North Western Germany, colonial America, the
Caribbean and Brazil as well as in lands dominated by Islam, throughout
North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, the Balkans and across the Levant.
There are thus many Sephardi Jews who have always lived in Europe and
many Jewish communities around the world composed of both Sephardim and
Ashkenazim, who lived together and intermarried, notably in Italy,
Egypt, Syria and Bulgaria, where later Ashkenazi immigrants arrived and
were welcome by Sephardi residents. This has also been true in the
Caribbean, South America and modern Israel.
Kurdish Jews being airlifted to Israel
Just as America's
Afro-American population has gone through several self-designations
indicating a search for their authentic identity ranging from Black to
Colored to Negro and then Afro-American and for some, back to Black
(originally a term of disparagement used by whites), Israel's Jews of
Afro-Asian origin have shifted from Sephardi to Mizrachi (Oriental). For
religious purposes, "Sephardi" describes the nusach ("litugical
tradition") used by most non-Ashkenazi Jews in the Siddur (prayer book).
reality, there are also many Jews who are neither Ashkenazi nor
Sephardi. These include the Jews of Ethiopia, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran,
Yemen, the Caucasus region (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Armenia), all of whom are recognized as being of Afro-Asian origin yet
have nothing to do with the original Sephardim. They are the descendants
of the Jews who fled into exile following the Assyrian, Babylonian and
Roman conquests of ancient Israel. No doubt, they were later joined by
numerous converts who were attracted to the high moral and ethical
principles that distinguished Judaism in ancient times from pagan and
There is indeed a serious social and
geo-cultural cleavage in Israel's diverse Jewish population groups,
precisely because all the four divisions overlap to a considerable
degree. Most of the Jews from Africa and Asia arrived in Israel after
1948 and being relative newcomers had to adjust to difficult conditions.
Most of them arrived destitute and unlike many of the Ashkenazim never
received any reparations for their confiscated property.
still tend to have larger families and as a rule are much more
religiously observant than the Ashkenazim who established the secular
norms and institutions of the Zionist movement and later of the State of
Israel. It is only human nature that the new arrivals from Asia and
Africa resented the more established veteran European settlers and those
new immigrants from Europe who immediately found more personal
connections and sympathy with the veteran Ashkenazi settlers through a
common knowledge of Yiddish and shared political and social backgrounds.
list of new army recruits will probably reveal names like de Leon,
Toledano, Castro, Franco, Mizrahi, Dayan, Gabbai, Abulafia, Kimhi,
Shar'abi, Sassoon, Azulay, Kadouri, Marziano, Ohana, Aflalo and Hasson,
as often or more than Schwartz, Goldberg, Wolf, Guttmann, Rabinowitz,
Berdichevsky, Kaplan or Finkelstein. So how then can they then be one
people? They are, because history, traditions and their faith (whether
they are orthodox observant or secular) have instilled in them the idea
of sharing a common peoplehood.
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