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Lecture 14

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HIST 219
Dan Heller

Lecture 14: 23 October 2013 Sephardic Modernities? • Descendants of Jews who had fled Spain & Portugal • Moved to the Ottoman Empire • End of 19 century, 150,000 Jews in the empire • Why Jews in Ottoman Empire are overlooked: o Locate modernity exclusively in Western Europe, and Ottoman Empire is a place of backwardness and decline o Viewed Islam with contempt, and thought that living in Ottoman Empire meant that a person was reactionary o Sephardic Jews were “frozen in time” – unworthy of investigation th Sephardic Jews in the Early Modern, 16-18 Century • By the end of the 1600s, the ruler – sultan – rules vast domain o Boundaries extend from Hungary to Yemen in the south, Algeria to Iran • Living in two regions in the empire: north Africa, and Levant (Balkans, Adriatic Coast, Turkey) o Large towns and cities in this region o Lived amongst other ethnic groups State Relationship to Jews • In Ottoman cities, non-Muslims represented the majority o Greek, Bulgarian, Turkish o Diversity supported by Ottoman leaders o Encouraged to move to cities to stimulate the economy o 1906, population of Istanbul was 50% Muslim, 20% Greek Orthodox, 5.5% Jewish, 15% foreigner o Salonika, 1907: 39% Jewish, 29% Muslim, 25% Greek  Shut down completely on Sabbath  Call it the “Jerusalem of the Balkans”  Jews and Christians given the status of “Dhimmi” • Allowed Jews and other minorities to travel and settle wherever they wish to engage in almost every occupation and profession, and had the freedom to practice their religion and run their internal affairs including their own courts • Pay certain special taxes, had to be loyal to the Ottoman empire, experienced diminished legal status in certain instances (no public jobs, cannot join military, and testimony was invalid in Muslim court) What did they look like? • Allowed a tremendous degree of autonomy • Ottoman rulers generally don’t intervene in the affairs of minority communities • Each group was known as a “millet” o Millet system created religious based communities that operated autonomously o All minorities, not just Jewish o Had own courts, prisons, and inspectors of sins – “Berurei Averot”  Punishing those who committed moral and religious transgressions • Especially adultery • Age range to be married, women 8-12, men 13-16 • Tends to be that the family of the bride takes charge of the young couple • Share Torah and Talmud as well as the Jewish legal framework with Ashkenazi Jews • Economic: o Mostly poor, involved in small scale trade and shop keeping o Small elite that is involved in finance and international commerce  Work in the palace as financiers  Don’t dominate financial jobs, unlike Europe o Could be tobacco laborers, factory workers, seamstresses, lemonade vendors, Halvah makers • Interactions with neighbors: o Jews and non-Muslims minorities, were determined by their proximity  In mixed towns and cities, often lived in same neighborhoods or apartment building  Belong to same craft guild, shopped in same markets o Sometimes conflict, such as during crisis like plague or war  Fight over real estate, occupations  Jews & Serbs become more hostile when nationals take over region • Speak Ladino, follows Hebrew syntax but base language is Spanish • Key differences from Europe: o Jews were rural in Europe, here they live in cities o Ottoman rulers aren’t particularly worried about religious diversity  Different concern State Reforms • Triggered as a result of major crisis that sweeps the empire • 17-18 century – in political and economic decline • Used to be center for world trade, but in the period, loses much of its economic power as a result of trade across the Atlantic and trade in Asia • Also facing political challenges: 1. Coming from countries beyond the Ottoman Empire that are trying to carve place in the Empire – Austria, etc., wars taking place; 2. Within the empire – central government in the empire in Istanbul is losing control of the majority of the provinces to a group of noblemen known as the “ayan”; the second major group they have to contend with is the non-Muslims in the Balkans who in the 19 century create nationalist groups based on their villages, religions, and view themselves as linked together by common heritage and right to rule areas in which they live th • In the first half of the 19 century, national groups including Serbs and Romanians, Greece, Bulgaria – gain their own state • To control the empire 1830s, Sultan Abdulmecid I, implement plan from Mustafa Rashid Pasha who had studied in France and Western Europe, and the Ottoman Empire begins to adopt European military and state practices o Tanzimat Reforms – series of sweeping reforms that transform the bureaucracy, but also promotes loyalty amongst diverse populations and intervene in their internal affairs  New rights to non-Muslim communities as well as new restrictions
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