Page 103 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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four centuries of Sephardic history. T he term “Sephardic” is
used here loosely, and refers not only to groups with Iberian
background, bu t also to those who are culturally or liturgically
close to them.
A good starting po in t is
H isp a n ic Cu ltu re and Character of
the Sephard ic Jews
(New York, 1952), by Mair Jose Benardete.
Benardete, himself a Sephardic Jew born in a town in Turkey,
writes history as a living part of his own being. He is sensitive,
thoughtful and powerful. He penetrates the history of Sephardim
and understands them because they are, after all, his own
parents, grandparents and ancestors. His book is not only about
history; it is a historical document in its own right.
A general cultural and historical background of Jewish life
in Islamic lands is provided by the late Professor H. Z. Hirsch-
berg in his article, “T he Oriental Jewish Communities.” I t
appears in Volume I of
R e lig io n in the M id d le East
1969), edited by A. J. Arberry (pp. 119-225). Hirschberg draws
on his considerable research in Sephardic responsa literature
as well as on his knowledge of Moslem life. The article is es­
pecially helpful in offering a picture of Jewish communal or­
Dr. Hayyim J. Cohen, in his
T h e Jews of the M id d le East,
(Jerusalem, 1973), presents a valuable study of recent
Jewish life in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Iran,
Aden and the Arabian Peninsula. He traces the historic back­
ground of the Middle-Eastern Jewish communities and outlines
the political, demographic, economic, educational and social
changes, which dramatically affected them since 1860. Himself of
Middle-Eastern background, Dr. Cohen intimately understands
the people and events he describes. Dr. Cohen’s study is im­
portan t on a practical as well as academic level. Since a very
large percentage of Jews in Israel is of Middle-Eastern origin,
the Jewish State itself cannot function properly without under­
standing the background of so many of its citizens. Hostilities
and social frictions which sometimes mark the inter-relationships
between the Ashkenazic “establishment” and the “Eastern” Jews
in Israel often stem from ignorance or lack of respect. Everyone
interested in the social and cultural welfare of Israel should
find Cohen’s book necessary reading.
Andre Chouraqui, in his
B e tw een East and W es t