Sephardi identity has
meant different things at different times, but has always entailed a connection
with Spain, from which the Jews were expelled in 1492. While Sephardi Jews have
lived in numerous cities and towns throughout history, certain cities had a
greater impact in the shaping of their culture. This book focuses on those that
may be considered most important, from Cordoba in the tenth century to Toledo,
Venice, Safed, Istanbul, Salonica, and Amsterdam at the dawn of the seventeenth
century. Each served as a venue in which a particular dimension of Sephardi
Jewry either took shape or was expressed in especially intense form.
Significantly, these cities were mostly heterogeneous in their population and
culture—half of them under Christian rule and half under Muslim rule—and this
too shaped the Sephardi world-view and attitude. While Sephardim cultivated a
distinctive identity, they felt at home in the cultures of their adopted lands.
Drawing upon a variety of both primary and secondary sources, Jane Gerber
demonstrates that Sephardi history and culture have always been multifaceted.
Her interdisciplinary approach captures the many contexts in which the life of
the Jews from Iberia unfolded, without either romanticizing the past or
diluting its reality.