Who Are The Ashkenazim, The Sephardim And The Mizrahim?

1038 words - 5 pages

After the Romans conquered Jerusalem and caused the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD many Jewish people fled to Europe and other countries. The two main groups that emerged during this time were the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. Both these groups set up new lives in foreign countries and had to grow accustomed to their traditions and beliefs. The Ashkenazim settled mainly in Germany and spoke Yiddish while the Sephardim settled mainly in Spain and spoke their own distinct language, a combination of Hebrew and Spanish, known as Latino. Ladino is written using Hebrew letters and is still spoken among the Sephardi community today. Both groups spoke Hebrew although slightly differently. The Sephardic Jews are sometimes split into two sub-groups to include the Mizrahi Jews who settled in North Africa and the Middle East. However most often the term Sephardic will be used to refer to both groups. The Sephardim lived in relative peace with their Muslim neighbours, even though they were deemed to be second class citizens they could still freely practice their religion. The Ashkenazim did not have the same experience with their Christian counterparts and would often experience anti-Semitism. In the 1200s and 1300s riots broke out against them and they were forced to flee from Germany.

Ashkenazim is the term used to describe the Jewish people who emerged urging the Middle Ages in central Europe. The “Judaism of the Middle Ages was a religion of exile” (Eliezer, 2009, 65). The words Ashkenazi (or Ashkenazim) are derived from the Hebrew word ‘Ashkenaz’ which “is a name that appears in the Bible (Genesis 10:3 and elsewhere) …medieval Jews adopted it as the Hebrew word for Germany” (Eliezer, 2009, 66). The earliest Ashkenazi communities “were founded in the Rhineland in what is now western Germany” (Karesh and Mitchell, 2006, 33). The Ashkenazim mainly kept to themselves and they established their own rules. They continued to study the Talmud and “Jewish study took place in a number of important centres such as Mainz and Worms in the Rhineland” (Cohn-Sherbok, 2003, 154). The Ashkenazim people were also interested in writing religious poetry which “they modelled on the liturgical compositions (piyyutim) of fifth and sixth century Israel” (Cohn-Sherbok, 2003, 154). However, some Ashkenazi Jews experienced anti-semitism violence in these Christian countries. Many Jewish people were killed during this violence in what Robert Seltzer called a “supercharged religious atmosphere” (1980). In the closing centuries of the Middle Ages many Ashkenazi Jews moved to Italy and Poland in search of new and better opportunities and to escape their deteriorating living conditions in the Rhineland and central Europe, “migrations took place to Italy and Poland… by the sixteenth-century Poland had emerged as the foremost centre of Ashkenazic Jewish scholarship” (Eliezer, 2009, 67).
The Sephardic Jews were from Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East. Often they are...

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