Cities of Splendour in the Shaping of Sephardi History

BookCities of Splendour in the Shaping of Sephardi History

Cities of Splendour in the Shaping of Sephardi History

Access Token


Other Formats



Sephardi identity has meant different things at different times, but has always entailed a connection with Spain, from which the Jews were expelled in 1492. While Sephardi Jews have lived in numerous cities and towns throughout history, certain cities had a greater impact in the shaping of their culture. This book focuses on those that may be considered most important, from Cordoba in the tenth century to Toledo, Venice, Safed, Istanbul, Salonica, and Amsterdam at the dawn of the seventeenth century. Each served as a venue in which a particular dimension of Sephardi Jewry either took shape or was expressed in especially intense form. Significantly, these cities were mostly heterogeneous in their population and culture—half of them under Christian rule and half under Muslim rule—and this too shaped the Sephardi world-view and attitude. While Sephardim cultivated a distinctive identity, they felt at home in the cultures of their adopted lands. Drawing upon a variety of both primary and secondary sources, Jane Gerber demonstrates that Sephardi history and culture have always been multifaceted. Her interdisciplinary approach captures the many contexts in which the life of the Jews from Iberia unfolded, without either romanticizing the past or diluting its reality.


'Highly readable and enlightening... Gerber paints an illuminating picture of a vivid Jewish sub-culture always in contact with the non-Jewish, Christian and Muslim, surroundings... Cities of Splendour will be of great value for many scholars and students of Sephardic and Jewish history.'
Carsten Schapkow, Sephardic Horizons

'This book is a gem. It is an appetizer, the main course, and the dessert, depending on the reader’s choice and level of knowledge. There are sufficient footnotes supporting the facts to allow the serious researcher to go beyond the text... There is something delicious here for all our readers, and the book will leave you well informed and satisfied.'Claudia Hagadus Long, Ha Lapid

Author Information

Jane S. Gerber is Professor Emerita of History and director of the Institute for Sephardic Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is a past president of the Association for Jewish Studies. She is author of Jewish Society in Fez: 1450–1700 (1980), The Jews of Spain (1992), winner of a National Jewish Book Award, and Sephardic Studies in the University (1995), and editor of The Jews in the Caribbean (also published by the Littman Library). She has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the Hebrew University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, and has lectured widely in the United States and elsewhere. She headed the Advisory Board of the American Sephardi Federation and served on the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History and the Academic Board of the Rothberg School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Plates9
Note on Transliteration10
Map of the Sephardi World11
1. Poetry and Politics in the Caliphate of Cordoba, 950‒115018
2. Crossing the Borders of Art and Society: Toledo as a Meeting Place of Cultures, 1150‒135059
3. The Search for Redemption in Safed, 1500‒160097
4. The Jews of Venice: Between Toleration and Expulsion, 1516‒1648135
5. Reconstructing Sepharad in Istanbul and Salonica, 1492‒1600182
6. Jewish Life in Amsterdam and the Formation of the Western Sephardi Diaspora, 1579‒1700245