Ketubot of the Sephardic Diaspora

(Jewish Communities of Spanish and Portuguese Origin)

The Jews of Spain and Portugal were expelled from those countries in 1492 and 1497 respectively. However, for centuries they continued to maintain their separate Iberian identity and unique heritage. The large majority settled in the Ottoman Empire. Other centers of Sephardic life were the Netherlands and Italy. While the Sephardic Jews no matter where they settled usually retained their Hispanic surnames, the Jews of the Ottoman Empire in particular also maintained their language, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish). Examples of post-expulsion ketubot in the exhibit are from Thessaloniki (Greece), Gibraltar, Bucharest (Romania), Jerusalem, Piri-Pasha (Turkey), and Tetuan (Morocco). The couples named in the marriage contracts from Bombay and Damascus included in the exhibit may have been descendants of Spanish/Portuguese Jews. The Sephardic Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire did not use figurative art in their ketubah decorations. Those in Italy and the Netherlands, however, did since figurative art was so prevalent in the cultural environment in which they lived.

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