David A. Wacks deposited Sefarad in the group Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History, Literature, and Culture on AJS Commons 7 months ago
From its linguistic origins as a Biblical land of great wealth across the sea, to its more recent nostalgic imaginary as a lost Golden Age of Mediterranean Jewish culture, Sefarad has been as much an idea as a physical place, a lens through which Iberian Jews have interpreted their world, first in al-Andalus, then in Christian Iberia, and later in the Sephardic communities they established around the world following their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula at the turn of the sixteenth century.
The idea of Sefarad was a product of the culture of al-Andalus, or Arab Islamicate Spain. During this period of Muslim sovereignty, Andalusi Jewish communities enjoyed the rights of dhimmi, subject religious minorities, to practice their religion and organize the affairs of their communities. This institutional autonomy allowed Andalusi Sepharadim to develop a uniquely Iberian culture within Andalusi society, one shaped by Islamicate and Rabbinic habits of thought but also by Hispano-Romance vernacular culture. As Iberia transitioned to Christian rule, Sepharadim found opportunity as mediators for Christian monarchs ruling an Islamicate society. Once most Muslim elites had left the Iberian Peninsula, the Sepharadim became the interpreters of the Andalusi intellectual legacy, which they disseminated in their writings, their religious practice, and their artistic production.
After their expulsion from the Peninsula at the turn of the sixteenth century, the Sepharadim, now in a diasporic network in communities aross the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, continued developing these practices in addition to speaking their own dialects of Spanish that continued to evolve over time in both written and spoken forms. In modernity, the idea of Sepharad continues to inspire a variety of historical and cultural visions of what Iberian Jewish life was and will be in the future.