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Roots: Part VI: Sephardic Jews
By Mike Martin - December 9, 2008


Sephardic Migration
A Sephardi is a Jew with family origins in the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal). This includes both the descendants of Jews expelled from Spain under the Alhambra decree of 1492, or from Portugal by order of King Manuel I in 1497 and their descendants who left the Peninsula in later centuries. In modern Israel and sometimes for religious purposes "Sephardim" is often used in a wider sense to include most Jews of Asian and African origin, which use a Sephardic style of liturgy.

This has meant that a large number of Jews of Arabic and Persian background are called Sephardic Jews even if they have no historical or ethnographic connection to the Iberian Peninsula. Sometimes all Jews who are not identified as Ashkenazi are defined as Sephardi by default, simply because they are not or do not follow Ashkenazi practices or traditions.

Prior to 1492, substantial Jewish populations existed in most Spanish provinces and some of the more notable were located in Toledo, Córdoba, and Granada. Following the 1492 expulsion from Spain, and the subsequent expulsions in Portugal, these Jews settled mainly in Morocco, the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey, Greece, Southwest Asia, North Africa and Bosnia and Herzegovina), southern France, Italy, Spanish North America, (Southwest United States and Mexico), Spanish South America and the Philippines and Portuguese Brazil, as well as the Netherlands, England, Germany, Denmark, Austria and Hungary.

As a result of the Jewish exodus from Arab lands, many of the Sephardim from the Middle East relocated to either Israel or France, where they form a significant portion of the Jewish communities today.
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