Sephardi Jews

Sephardi Jews, also known as Sephardic Jews, Sephardim,[lower-alpha 1] or Hispanic Jews by modern scholars,[2] are a Jewish ethnic division originating from traditionally established communities in the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal). The term "Sephardim" also sometimes refers to Mizrahi Jews (Eastern Jewish communities) of Western Asia and North Africa. Although most of this latter group do not have ancestry from the Jewish communities of Iberia, the majority of them were influenced by the Sephardic style of liturgy and Sephardic law and customs from the influence of the Iberian Jewish exiles over the course of the last few centuries (including from the Sephardic Golden Age and the teachings of many Iberian Jewish philosophers). This article deals with Sephardim within the narrower ethnic definition.

Sephardi Jews
יהדות ספרד (Yahadut Sefarad in Sephardi Hebrew)
Total population
3,500,000[1][disputed ]
up to 15–20% of the global Jewish population
Regions with significant populations
 United States300,000
 United Kingdom10,500
Ladino, Arabic, Haketia, Judeo-Portuguese, Judeo-Berber, Judaeo-Catalanic, Shuadit, Hebrew, local languages
Local languages, primarily Modern Hebrew, French, English, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Ladino, Arabic
Judaism (Jewish secularism, Hilonim, Conservative Judaism, Masortiim, Modern Orthodox Judaism, Datiim, Haredi Judaism), or irreligious (atheist)
Related ethnic groups
Ashkenazi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, other Jewish ethnic divisions, Samaritans, other Levantines, Lebanese, Syrians, other Near Eastern Semitic people, Spaniards, Portuguese, Pieds-noirs and Hispanics/Latinos

Largely expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in the late 15th century, they carried a distinctive Jewish diasporic identity with them to North Africa, including modern day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt; South-Eastern and Southern Europe, including France, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia; Western Asia, including Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran; as well as the Americas (although in smaller numbers compared to the Ashkenazi Jewish diaspora); and all other places of their exiled settlement. They sometimes settled near existing Jewish communities, such as the one from former Kurdistan, or were the first in new frontiers, with their furthest reach via the Silk Road.[3]

The millennial residence of the Sephardim as an open and organised Jewish community in Iberia began to decline with the Reconquista. That community's decline began with the Alhambra Decree by Spain's Catholic Monarchs in 1492. In 1496 Portuguese king Manuel I issued an edict of expulsion of Jews and Muslims.[4] These actions resulted in a combination of internal and external migrations, mass conversions, and executions. In 2015, both Spain and Portugal passed laws allowing Sephardim who could prove their ancestral origins in those countries to apply for citizenship.[5] Spain's law offering expedited citizenship expired in 2019, but Portugal citizenship is still available.

Statue of Sephardic philosopher, Maimonides, in Córdoba, Spain

Historically, the vernacular languages of Sephardim and their descendants have been variants of either Spanish or Portuguese, though the Sephardim have also adopted and adapted other languages. The historical forms of Spanish that differing Sephardic communities spoke communally was related to the date of their departure from Iberia and their status at that time as Jews or New Christians. Judaeo-Spanish, sometimes called "Ladino Oriental" (Eastern Ladino), is a Romance language derived from Old Spanish that was spoken by the Eastern Sephardim who settled in the Eastern Mediterranean after the expulsion from Spain in 1492. Haketia (also known as "Tetouani" in Algeria), an Arabic-influenced variety of Judaeo-Spanish also derived from Old Spanish, was spoken by North African Sephardim who settled in North Africa after the expulsion from Spain in 1492.