Difference Between Sephardic And Ashkenazi Jews In Modern Times

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For the most part, modern Jewish history deals with the political, social and economic advancements achieved by the Ashkenazi communities in Europe, America, and later -- Palestine. Because of it's relatively small size and involvement in the affairs of "civilized" countries of Europe and America, the Sephardi branch of Judaism is rerely dealt with in the context of modern Jewish history. Their developement is however, though not as influential upon the flow of the "mainstream" history as that of the Ashkenazi jewry, is nevertheless an area of interest to anyone undertaking a serious study of Jewish history. The theological difference between the two movements, the Sefardi and the Ashekenazi, lies in the traditional laws more than in written ones. Both take an Orthodoxal approach to the written law of the Torah, and the differences in its interpretation are subtle enough to be dismissed. However the traditions aquired, and at times given the power of laws, in the course of the long centuries of diaspora differ considerably from one branch of Judaism to another. Just as the worldwide language of the Ashekenazim, Yiddish, is a mixture of Hebrew with German, the common language used by the Sephardim Ladino, still in use in some parts of the world, is a dialect formed by combining Hebrew with Spanish. The Sephardim who have historically been more involved into the lives of the gentile societies where they settled don't have as strict a set of observances as do the Ashkenazis who have been contained in closed ghettos up until two centuries ago. The official doctrine of the Sephardis does not for example prohibit polygomy, whereas it hasn't been allowed in the Ashkenazi law since Middle Ages. Although the Ashkenazi traditions are somewhat stricter than those of the Sephardim, a greater percentage of Ashkenazi Jews have over the past century and a half stopped observing these traditions, becoming either "secular Jews", atheists, like the American Freethinkers, or simply converting. An even greater part have chosen to follow only a part of the traditional, or "oral", laws, forming widely popular Reform and Conservative movements. This phenomenon, if present within the Sephardic community exists on such a small scale that it can be discounted. The reason for this difference in the adherence of... ... middle of paper ... ...ht of self-rule. This raises problems that the Jews in other times, and even the Jews outside of Israel today do not have to deal with. Throughout Israel's brief history, a debate as to the extent to which the secular laws should follow the religious doctrine of Judaism had been an ongoing one. Such debates are naturally meaningless in the rest of the world, where the Jews are to follow the laws of the land. The different historical background of the two movements of Judaism has created a noticable gap in their culture, their traditional laws and their adherence of those laws. It has shaped the manner of their developement and the final result of it. The history itself was shaped by the environment in which the exiled Jews found themselves, and the attitude of the people who surrounded them. This attitude was in turn based around their religious doctrine. (1) Bernard Lewis, "The Jews of Islam" (2) Harvey Goldberg, "Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries", introductoin p15 (3) Norman Stillman, "Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries" Essay 1, "Middle-Eastern and North African Jewries" p67 1996, Lev Epshteyn, SUNY Binghamton.

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