The Jews. The Sephardic Jews

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The Jews

In this presentation, you will learn a few facts about the Jews:

Their origins.

Their religion.

Their traditions.

The presence of the Jews in the Iberian Peninsula.

The Sephardic Jews.

1. Who are the Jews?

Where do they originate from?

A little bit of History...

Who are the Jews?

The Jews are a nation, a people and a religion.

They originate from an area located in the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia (approximately the territory occupied by Israel nowadays).

The Jews have a very rich cultural heritage that has been preserved and transmitted for generations.

According to the Bible, Abraham was selected by Yahweh (or Jehovah) as the founder of the Hebrews, 'the chosen people'.

Yahweh signed a pact with Abraham. God would become the protector of the Hebrews (or Jews).

It is difficult to know when Abraham lived.

Abraham had a son called Isaac. Isaac had a son called Jacob.

Jacob had twelve children. They founded the twelve tribes of Israel.

The sacrifice of Isaac proved the loyalty of Abraham to Yahweh

Around the year 1000 BC, David founded the kingdom of Israel

David conquered Jerusalem, the holy city of the Jews

David was succeeded by Solomon. It was a time of splendour for the Jewish people. Solomon built the First Temple of Jerusalem

After Solomon died, the kingdom was divided in two: Israel and Judah

By 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Israel.

In 586 BC, the Babylons conquered Judah.

The temple of Jerusalem was destroyed for the first time.

Thousands of Jews were taken to Babylon and were enslaved.

In 539 BC, the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians.

As a consequence, the Babylonian empire disappeared. Many Jews were allowed to go back to Jerusalem.

A second temple was built in Jerusalem.

In 63 BC, Pompey conquered the territory of Israel.

Israel was under Roman rule.

In 66 AD, the Jews rebelled against the Romans. In 70 AD, the second temple was destroyed.

Today, only the Western Wall of the temple remains. Some Jews gather there everyday to pray.

After the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, the Jews migrated to other areas of the world.

First, to Asia and Africa.

And later to Europe and America.

Jews lived all over Europe during the Middle Ages, the Modern Era and the Contemporary Era

Some of these Jewish migrants arrived at the Iberian Peninsula, and established there as early as the 4th century AD.

The Jews stayed in the Iberian Peninsula until 1492.

They lived in the Peninsula for over 1000 years.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany.

Germany was suffering a severe economic crisis those days.

And Hitler unfairly, ridiculously blamed the Jews (among others) for that crisis.

The nazis were racists. Their foolish ideas caused the death of millions of innocent people in the world.

It is estimated that 6 million Jews were exterminated by the German nazis during World War II

After the Holocaust (or Shoah), many Jews returned to their original land.

The state of Israel was created in 1948.

Israel has 8 million inhabitants.

75 % of them are Jews, and 20 % Arabs.

However, most Jews don't live in Israel.

There are very important Jewish communities in the US, South America and many other countries.

2. What is the Jewish religion (Judaism) like?

Judaism is a monotheistic religion.

Jews call their god Yahweh, or Jehovah

The first five books of the Bible (the Torah) are the basis of the Jewish religion.

A baby born from a Jewish woman becomes automatically Jewish.

Males are circumcised on their eighth day of life.

Someone who is not born from a Jewish mother can also convert into Judaism.

However, Jews usually don't try to convert anybody.

The practice of the Jewish religion implies to follow many rules, customs and traditions.

Jews pray at the synagogue

They also pray privately in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening.

The rabbi is the spiritual guide of a Jewish community.

There are strict rules about the foods Jews are allowed to eat

- They can't eat certain animals (like shellfish or pork), but they can eat other animals (cows, sheep, goat, etc.)

- They eat only fish with fins and scales.

- Meat and milk must not be consumed together.

- Only animals who have been blessed by the rabbi before slaughter can be eaten.

A teenage boy becomes an adult at the age of 13.

A teenage girl becomes an adult at the age of 12.

When they are 13, phylacteries and a tallit (a shawl) are given to boys

Ritual baths (or mikveh) are taken in many circumstances

- After a woman has given birth to a child.

- By a bride, before her wedding.

- By a father, previous to the circumcision of his son, etc.

Weddings are happy ceremonies

The bridegroom breaks a glass with his foot in memory of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.

When someone dies, mourning lasts for one week.

People remain inactive during the mourning period.

They don't work, or shave.

Music is not allowed during those days.

3. Feasts

Jews celebrate many feasts during the year.

These are some of the most important ones.

New year's day

- The sacrifice of Isaac is commemorated.-A special horn (shofar) is blown.- The sins of the previous year are symbolically thrown to a lake or a river.

Nine days later, Yom Kippur is celebrated

It is the holiest day of the year.

It is a day of fasting and intensive praying.

On Yom Kippur, Jews ask Yahweh to forgive their sins.

People wear white clothes.


It commemorates the life in the desert and the Exodus from Egypt.

Every family builds a hut on the outside.

Festival of lights (Hanukk) is a happy celebration. A candle is lighted every day. No shool for eight days!

Pourim is the equivalent of the Christian carnival. It is also a happy time

Jewish Easter commemorates the Exodus from Egypt.

A special type of bread is eaten.

In the past, a lamb was sacrified.

The Sabbath (Saturday)

Saturday is the holy day of the week for the Jews. It is a day of rest.

Strict (or orthodox) Jews don't write, work, cook, drive, wash clothes or burn anything.

It is a family day. Some Jews go to the synagogue.

4. The Jews in the Iberian Peninsula

It is difficult to know exactly when the first Jews entered the Iberian Peninsula.

After the destruction of the second temple of Jerusalem (70 AD), some Jews must have settled in Hispania.

There is archaeological evidence of the presence of Jews in the Peninsula from the 4th century, that is, still during the Roman Empire.

During the late Roman empire, Jews were Roman citizens.

They had their own laws, and were mainly respected.

During the Visigothic kingdom, things changed.

After Reccared converted into catholicism, Jews were no longer accepted, and they started to be persecuted in the Iberian Peninsula.

Many laws that restricted the liberties of the Jews were passed.

When the muslims invaded the Iberian Peninsula, Jews were more respected in general.

Jews had to pay taxes to the muslim governors.

Some Jews had political power during the caliphate of Crdoba.

Almoravids and almohads were less tolerant with other religions.

So Jews started to be discriminated.

Jews in Al Andalus

Some Jews were merchants, doctors, or cultivated the land.

They spoke Arabic in Al Andalus.

Some Jews were famous singers and poets.

Maimnides was a famous Jewish doctor and philosopher who lived in Al Andalus

When the Way of St James was created in the 9th century, some Jews migrated to the Christian kingdoms in the North.

Jews saw opportunities of trade with the pilgrims, and settled in the towns near the Way.

The Christian kings needed people to settle in the territories they conquered to the muslims.

So at first, Jews were mainly respected.

For many years, Jews, Christians and muslims co-existed in the Peninsula

Some Jews cooperated with king Alfonso X in the School of Translators in Toledo.

However, Christians became more intolerant against the Jews from the 14th century.

They started to be discriminated, and segregated.

The reason? Just religious intolerance.

Some christians began to accuse the Jews of doing horrible things, all of them false: killing babies, poisoning water, having pacts with the devil, etc.

In 1391, thousands of Jews were massacred in Spain and other countries.

In the 15th century, the Spanish Jews had to live in enclosed quarters, couldn't sell certain products to christians, were not allowed to be doctors any more, etc.

Some Jews were forced to convert into Catholicism

Some synagogues were converted into christian churches

On May 31st, 1492, the Catholic Kings decided to expell all the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula

The Jews had two choices: either convert into Christianism, or leave Spain

Those who didn't convert had two months to leave.

They couldn't take any gold or silver with them, only personal belongings.

Jews had been living in Spain for over 1000 years. The Catholic kings said: one king, one religion