The descendants of Spanish Jewry, as distinct from the Ashkenazim, who are descended from German Jewry. The names Sepharad and Ashkenaz are found in the Bible but were used in the Middle Ages to denote, respectively, Spain and Germany. Spain was the land in which Jewry reached its Golden Age, as this has been called; an age which saw the flowering of Jewish culture and produced such eminent figures as Maimonides, Nahmanides, Judah Halevi, Ibn Gabirol, Abravanel, and many others. After the expulsion from Spain in 1492, Spanish Jews resettled themselves in the land of Israel (see SAFED), the Ottoman Empire, and North Africa and later in America, in Amsterdam, and in other European cities. Sephardim and Ashkenazim are not divided on doctrinal lines and should not be considered as two distinct Jewish sects. The differences, of which there are many, between the two groups are the result of different cultural conditions, local customs, and, especially, the different Halakhic authorities favoured by each group. The rivalry between the two groups was often intense in former times, but is less so nowadays. Located, in the nineteenth century, outside Germany, the Sephardim were far less influenced by the Haskalah than the Ashkenazim, which partly accounts for the absence of any organized Reform movement among the Sephardim, except for the comparatively mild form that emerged in London. The popular language of Sephardi Jews is Ladino, as Yiddish is of the Ashkenazi Jews. Because of the differences in law, custom, and ritual between the two groups, Sephardi Rabbis lead Sephardi communities and Ashkenazi Rabbis Ashkenazi communities.
Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.