III. The Sephardic Jewish Diaspora
After the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 ce, the Jews spread throughout the Mediterranean world. A major community eventually formed in the towns of the Iberian peninsula. The Sephardim, from the Hebrew for Iberia (“Sepharad”), played a prominent role in the culture and economy of both Muslim and Christian Spain and Portugal. (Item 11 is a chart drawn by one of a flourishing community of medieval Jewish chart makers.) But with the Christian reconquest of Spain, the victorious Catholic sovereigns, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, decreed on March 31, 1492 that all Jews — young and old, male and female — were to leave Spain by the last day of July or convert to Christianity. Muslims were also expelled as part of the Spanish “reconquista.” An estimated 10,000 families chose to stay behind, many of whom embarked on a life of crypto-Judaism. Some 30,000 families (about 200,000 people) fled to foreign countries. The bulk of them crossed the border into Portugal, where another attempt at forcible conversion in 1497 pushed many out of Iberia altogether. Most Sephardim sought refuge within the Balkan and North African territories of the Ottoman Empire while others dispersed throughout the cities of the Mediterranean . In later centuries, Sephardim moved to northwestern Europe and the New World [11, 15]. The several stages of the Sephardic Diaspora therefore constituted one part of the much larger Jewish Diaspora.