Copyright 2012 Am Yisrael Chai
Date Last Updated: 20-Jan-2012

Am Yisrael Chai

Am Yisrael Chai - Sephardi Background Information

Sephardi Jews during the Holocaust on the eve of World War II, there were thriving Sephardi communities in Greece including Rhodes and surrounding islands, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, France, Netherlands, Morocco, Algiers, Tunisia, Turkey, and Iraq The Nazi Holocaust devastated these communities and almost completely destroyed their rich culture and heritage.

Anti-Semitism also spread to pro-Nazi Arab countries. The "Farhud", an Arabic term for "violent dispossession" marked the beginning of the end of the 2,600 year old Iraqi Jewish Community, just as Kristallnacht had signaled the destruction of German Jewry.  To learn more about the Farhud click on this link to see a short video on it.

Definition - Sephardi

A Sephardi Jew is a Jew who follows the customs and traditions followed by Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) before their expulsion in the late fifteenth century. This includes both the descendants of Jews expelled from Spain under the Alhambra decree of 1492, or from Portugal by order of King Manuel I in 1497, and the descendants of crypto-Jews who left the Peninsula in later centuries to North Africa, Asia Minor, the Philippines and elsewhere around the world, and the descendants of crypto-Jews who remained in Iberia. In modern times, the term has also been applied to Jews who may not have been born Sephardi (or even Jewish) but attend Sephardic synagogues and practice Sephardic traditions. Today there are around 12,000 Sephardic Jews in Spain and 2,500 in Portugal[1] (although it must be taken account that, when expelled from Portugal, Jews were allowed to stay if they converted to Christianity, resulting in a big percentage being assimilated in the Portuguese population. See: History of the Jews in Portugal). There is also a community of 600 in Gibraltar.[2]

The name comes from Sepharad, a Biblical location. This was probably the "Saparda" mentioned in Persian inscriptions: the location of that is disputed, but may have been Sardis in Asia Minor. "Sepharad" was identified by later Jews as the Iberian Peninsula, and still means "Spain" in modern Hebrew.

For religious purposes, and in modern Israel, "Sephardim" is often used in a wider sense to include most Jews of Asian and African origin, who use a Sephardic style of liturgy. This article is mostly concerned with Sephardim in the narrower ethnic sense, rather than in this broader Modern Israeli Hebrew definition. See also: Jewish ethnic divisions.

The term Sephardi can also describe the nusach (Hebrew language, "liturgical tradition") used by Sephardi Jews in their Siddur (prayer book). A nusach is defined by a liturgical tradition's choice of prayers, order of prayers, text of prayers and melodies used in the singing of prayers. Sephardim traditionally pray using Minhag Sefarad, which is quite similar to Nusach Edot haMizrach (liturgy of the Eastern Congregations). For more details of the Sephardic liturgy see Sephardic Judaism.

Note that the term Nusach Sefard or Nusach Sfarad does not refer to the liturgy generally recited by Sephardim, but rather to an alternative Eastern European liturgy used by many Hasidim.  


Total population

Sephardi Jews
1.5–2.0 million (estimate)
up to 20% of the total 'Jewish World' population

Regions with significant populations
 Israel 725,000
 France 350,000
 United States 100,000
 Argentina 60,000
 Canada 60,000
 Brazil 60,000
 Mexico 40,000
 Venezuela 35,000
 Uruguay 30,000
 Italy 30,000
 Turkey 25,000
 United Kingdom 18,000
 Spain 12,000
 Greece 8,500
 Chile 8.000
 Morocco 6,000
 Bulgaria 5,000
 Colombia 5,000
 Cuba 3,500
 Serbia 3,000
 Croatia 3,000
 Peru 3,000
 Portugal 2,500
 Tunisia 1,000
 Puerto Rico 1,500
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1,200
 Netherlands 1,000
 Gibraltar 600
 Philippines 500
 Macedonia 200
 Egypt 100

Famous Sephardi Jews

Sepharid Jews

1st row: Maimonides • Isaac Abrabanel • Baruch Spinoza • David Nieto • Daniel Mendoza • David Ricardo
2nd row: Moses Montefiore • Benjamin Disraeli • Sabato Morais • Emma Lazarus • Benjamin Cardozo • David de Sola Pool
3rd row: Basil Henriques • Pierre Mendès-France • Sam Costa • Jacques Derrida • Sílvio Santos • Hank Azaria

To read more about Sephardi Jewery go to Wikipedia