Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts - Volume 5, Numbers 3-4 (Fall 5754/1993)
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts

Volume 5, Numbers 3-4 (Fall 5754/1993)

"The Sephardic Political Experience"

Toward a Political History of the Sephardic Diaspora - Daniel J. Elazar

The Zionism of the Sephardic world was based more on a vision of restoring traditional Jewish life in the ancient homeland than one of revolution which sought to replace tradition with some modern ideology. Unlike their Ashkenazi brethren, Sephardim always saw themselves as actors in the political arena, not only within their communities but in the larger entities of which their communities were a part. This essay represents a first cut at what we know about the political history of Sephardic Jewry and especially the exiles from the Iberian peninsula in the years between 1492 and the demise of their communities in the twentieth century. Special attention is given to the Sephardic world's pre-Iberian antecedents, the involvement of Jews in imperial Iberian politics, the styles of Jewish community organization in Spain, and the various forms of political participation and involvement after the Explusion.

The Contribution of Spanish Jewry to the World of Jewish Law - Menachem Elon

Spanish Jewry's contribution to post-Talmudic halakhic literature may be explored in part in The Digest of the Responsa Literature of Spain and North Africa, a seven-volume compilation containing references to more than 10,000 Responsa -- answers to questions posed to the authorities of the day. Another source of law stemming from Spanish Jewry may be found in the community legislation (Takanot HaKahal) enacted in all areas of civil, public-administrative, and criminal law. Among the major questions considered here are whether a majority decision binds a dissenting minority, the nature of a majority, and the appropriate procedures for governance. These earlier principles of Jewish public law have since found expression in decisions of the Supreme Court of the State of Israel.

Isaac Abravanel and Aristotle's Politics: A Drama of Errors - Avraham Melamed

Aristotle's Politics was almost unknown in medieval Jewish philosophy, which in its political thought was mainly based upon Plato's Republic as transmitted by the Muslim commentators. This is why Abravanel's apparent usage of the Politics in his antimonarchist interpretation of I Samuel, 8 seems to be such a breakthrough in medieval Jewish political philosophy. Such a breakthrough seems conceivable when we take into consideration the influence exerted on Abravanel by scholastic political philosophy, which was heavily influenced by the Politics ever since the text was translated into Latin in the thirteenth century.

However, a close examination of Abravanel's text proves that his knowledge of the text derived from secondary sources, namely, from the interpretation of scholastic commentaries such as those of Aquinas and Paulus Burgos. He himself, most probably, never read the text itself. Consequently, there is no breakthrough in his usage of Aristotle. Although, apparently, Abravanel was influenced by scholastic philosophy more than any other medieval Jewish philosopher, he, too, just like his many predecessors, carried on the old Platonic-Muslim tradition in his political thought.

Communal Organization of the Jews of Tripolitania During the Late Ottoman Period - Harvey E. Goldberg

The Jews of Tripoli, Libya, trace the formation of their community in modern times to Rabbi Shimon Lavi in the sixteenth century. Systematic information on communal organization is available from the late eighteenth century onward. This essay outlines the traditional communal structure, and analyzes changes within the community resulting from the Ottoman reforms over the course of the nineteenth century. Communal organization reflected local traditions as well as influences from Jerba to the west and the Land of Israel to the east. Within the framework of time-honored norms and external changes, individuals and groups sought to shape communal life in accordance with their interests.

The Sephardi Diaspora in Cochin, India - Nathan Katz and Ellen S. Goldberg

The influx of Sephardim into the ancient Jewish community of Cochin, in south India, resulted in a pattern of social organization unique in the Jewish world: the infamous white Jew / black Jew / brown Jew system. The Jews of Cochin organized themselves in patterns derived from their Hindu social context, a system known in the West as the caste system.

The "white" or Paradesi ("foreign") Jews were Sephardi immigrants together with a few Jews from Iraq, Europe and Yemen, who joined with an indigenous elite. The "black" Jews, better known as Malabari Jews, were an ancient community which may have originated at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. Each of these groups were slave-holders, and manumitted slaves (meshuchrarim) from the Paradesi community were called "brown" Jews, while manumitted slaves from the Malabari community were known by the Malayalam (local language) term, orumakers. Paradesi Jews would not count any of the other groups for their minyan, would not allow them synagogal honors, would not marry them, and would not eat meat slaughtered by their ritual slaughterers.

Ever since the 1520 responsa by the eminent Sephardi halakhist Rabbi ibn Zimra, foreign Jews have been unanimous in condemning this discriminatory behavior, and Paradesi Jews in Cochin have been uniform in ignoring these admonitions. Yet while Indian culture may have been the source of the problem, it was also the inspiration for its solution. A.B. Salem, known as the "Jewish Gandhi," led sit-ins, hunger strikes, and other forms of "civil disobedience" (satyagraha) against these Paradesi practices, which came to an end only recently.

The Organizational Framework of the Jewish Communities in Italy - Yaakov Andrea Lattes

In 1987 the Union of Italian Jewish Communities signed an agreement with the Italian government which established the overall framework of activity for this institution and its relationship to the Italian authorities. This agreement, published as a state law, changed many aspects of the former system of organization of the Italian Jewish communities. The agreement also empowered the Union of Jewish Communities to draft a constitution for Italian Jewry which will govern its internal life and institutions.

The Jewish Community of Spain - Diana Ayton-Shenker

This article examines the political dynamics of the contemporary Spanish Jewish community. First, the community's history, foundation, settlement and early development are introduced. Then its organizational structure and function are addressed in the countrywide, local (particularly Madrid and Barcelona), and interational (relations with Israel) arenas. The community's legal status is explored next. The community's character emerges through an analysis of leadership dynamics; Jewish identity, assimilation, and integration; antisemitism and philosemitism. The study concludes with a look at current trends and directions.

The Integration of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews in Venezuela through the Decision-Making Process in the Educational System - Lily Blank

The development of the Jewish community in Venezuela and the integration of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews was made possible by two factors. The first is the democratic environment that had been present in the country since the arrival of the first Jewish settlers, which enabled the creation of the institutions of the community. The second was the effort of the Ashkenazi kehilla to create a Jewish educational system that offered "a little bit of everything" (Jewish history, tradition, Hebrew, Bible, and Yiddish) to every Jewish child, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, regardless of the economic or religious environment in the home.

The article begins by discussing aspects of Venezuelan life which help to explain the integration of the Jewish community in the country. The history of the community is reviewed as well as the behavior of the community and the Venezuelan government during the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel. The various immigrations, Jewish institutions, and decision-making processes are discussed, showing how educational and political issues and the structure of the Jewish community in the country have been shaped by the Venezuelan environment, yet reflect the continuity of Jewish history and culture. The Venezuelan Jewish community is seen to be organized following the constitutional principles of the Jewish political tradition. The article reviewed published material about athe Jewish community, discusses the theory and methodology used in the research, and presents findings, conclusions, and a discussion of directions for future research.