Last updated on: 6/25/2008 | Author:

Who Are the Sephardic Jews?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)


This site was archived on Aug. 3, 2021. The two-state solution is no longer the most popular solution among the jurisdictions involved. A reconsideration of the topic is possible in the future.

Chaim Potok, PhD, in his 1978 book on the history of the Jews, titled Wanderings, wrote:

“The Hebrew word for Spain, Sepharad, apparently comes from the twentieth verse of the one-chapter Biblical book Obadiah: ‘…And the captivity of Jerusalem that is in Sepharad…’ There it seems to refer to Sardis in distant Asia Minor. The name subsequently came to be used for the faraway western land we now call Spain. The Jews of that land and their descendants constitute Sephardic Jewry, one of the two major branches of the Jewish people.”


Dilip Hiro, MA, author and jounalist, in his 2003 book The Essential Middle East: A Comprehensive Guide, wrote:

“In the Middle Ages (476-1492 A.D.) Sepharad meant Spain, and the term Sephardi was applied to the Jews of Spain. When expelled from Spain in 1492, and later from Portuagal, most Sephardi Jews settled along the Shores of the Mediterranean, establishing large, influential, and flourishing communities in Morocco, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and the Levant [the Middle East bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea]. From the sixteenth century onward, differences between Sephardim and Ashkenazim became sharper. These pertained to synagogue architecture and rites (of Babylonian origin for Sephardim, and Palestinian origin for Ashkenazim), their pronunciation of Hebrew, and their social customs. The mother tongue of Sephardim was Judeo-Spanish or Ladino.

As inhabitants of Palestine since the late fifteenth century under the Ottomans, Sephardim claim the longest residency in Israel, where they have had their own chief rabbi. After the founding of Israel in 1948, the immigrating Oriental Jews — originating in the Arab countries away from the Mediterranean, and in Iran and India, where their rites were neither Sephardic nor Ashkenazi — were classified Sephardic. With a large influx of Jewish immigrants from the Arab states, the percentage of Sephardim rose sharply. Due to this, and a higher birth rate among them, they became a majority in the mid-1960s. Three decades later they lost that position due to a large influx of Ashkenazim from the former Soviet Union. Sephardim are about one-fifth of the world Jewry.”


David K. Shipler, MA, Author, in the 2002 edition of his Pulitzer Prize winning book Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, wrote:

“The Sephardim, a term initially applied to the Jews in Spain, now include those with origins mostly in the Muslim countries of North Africa and the Middle East, as well as those from Sephardi communities in Greece, Bulgaria, South America, India, and elsewhere. Colloquially, they are also known as Oriental or Eastern Jews. Although some families can trace their presence in Palestine back for six or eight generations, Sephardim began arriving in Israel in large numbers only during the 1950’s, well after the Ashkenazi establishment was firmly in place.”