Page 181 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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173
Double Quincentenary
world’s cultural patrimony. A plethora of musical and dance per­
formances brought Sephardi culture back to life, and proved at­
tractive to both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. Through these
events, contemporary Sephardim reconsidered their history and
their own relationship to it, although interestingly, litde new
scholarship was produced by Sephardim. Conferences, exhibitions,
costumed dance and song, offered opportunity to relive the Span­
ish past without necessarily engaging with it intellectually. Gene­
alogy was a popular theme, with many Sephardim eager to trace
their ancestry back to Spain or Portugal. Tours of Spain and Por­
tugal to visit long-deserted Jewish sites were popular. But with
their ethnic identity bound up in the rejection by their beloved
homeland, Sephardic opinion divided on whether to reconcile with
Spain by accepting the overtures for reconciliation extended by the
present government; or to retaliate against those who rejected
them by rejecting their twentieth-century heirs. While some coop­
erated with Spanish programs such as Sepharad 92, others refused
to participate in any event sponsored by the Spanish government,
or even to attend a ceremony at which a Spanish representative was
present.
The promptings of a Sephardi renaissance are becoming appar­
ent with respect to religious practice, with the founding of new
congregations based on Sephardic ritual. Will the revival of unique
Sephardi religious observance, with its concommitant shift of
Sephardim out of historically Ashkenazic congregations into newly
formed Sephardic ones, facilitate or obstruct closer relations be­
tween the two groups? The answer to this question is tied to the
question ofwhether Sephardim will remain fixated on past traumas
or will be motivated to awaken from the centuries-long slumber in­
duced by the trauma of expulsion. It also depends on the willing­
ness and the ability of Ashkenazim to view the Jewish world in
more ample terms, beyond the bounds of
yiddishkeit.
For the predominantly Ashkenazic AmericanJews, Jewish histo­
ry until now has meant primarily East European Jewish history.
The preeminent “fact” they “knew” about Sephardim was their
victimization by the Inquisition and subsequent expulsion from