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Sephardic (Sepharadi, Safardic ) Jew Definition

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Sephardic Jew- (derived from Hebrew) (Pron. Seh fahr' dic or Sfahr' dic. In Hebrew:  Sfah rah di' )

1. Properly, Jews who originally lived in the Iberian peninsula, apparently arriving with the Arab conquerors, and were expelled in 1492 from Spain, and in 1497 from Portugal (See Inquisition). These Jews settled in Holland and various parts of Europe, South America, Turkey and Palestine. Many Sephardic Jews, forced to convert to Catholicism by the Roman Catholic  Inquisition, became secret crypto-Jews to avoid persecution (see Marrano) , and many Catholic families in South America still remember this tradition. The Jews of Belmonte, Portugal, preserved their Jewish faith in secret, revealing it only in the twentieth century.

2. Sometimes used to refer to all non- Ashkenazic Jews, including those from Arab lands whose ancestors were never in Spain. When eastern ("Mizrahi") Jews use Sephardi in this way, they sometimes refer to descendants of Spanish Jews as "Spaniolim."

A better term used for all non-Ashkenazic Jews is "Mizrahi Jews". Sephardic Jews pronounced Hebrew in a way that was closer to the original Biblical Hebrew, and which was adopted by Eliezer Ben Yehuda when he revitalized the Hebrew language. The chief differences in pronunciation from Ashkenazic Hebrew are:

Sephardic Jews (and Israelis) pronounce the Kamatz as "ah" while Ashkenazim pronounce it as "oh"

Sephardic Jews accent the last syllable of nouns, while Ashkenazic pronunciation accents the penultimate (next to last) syllable. Modern Hebrew accents the last syllable of the noun, but if it is a name, pronunciation is often on the penultimate syllable - for example: U'ri the name versus Uri' the noun, meaning "my light."

Sephardic Jews and some Israelis pronounce the 'het as a deep guttural, rather than as a sound made by putting top of the tongue to the roof of the mouth, as in "loch" and the German "ich."

Sephardic Jews pronounce the thaf (T without an accenting dot) as "th." Israelis pronounce it as "t" while Ashkenazic Jews pronounce it as "s."

Sephardic Jews remained closer to the living Hebrew tradition than Ashkenazic Jews and provided much of  the actual impetus for proto-Zionism and the Early Zionist movement, founding Petah Tikva, the first Zionist settlement .

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Sepharadi, Safaradi, Sefaradi , Mizrahi Jews    Sephardic Jews 

Further Information: Inquisition  Can Sephardic Judaism be Reconstructed Ashkenazic Jews Image USA  - Magazine of the Sephardic Community

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel


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