Jews In The Early Modern World

From Nov ’07 Spotlight: This year’s Chicago Humanities Festival runs from October 27 through November 11, and Dean Phillip Bell, chief academic officer at Spertus Institute, is prominent on the program. Bell’s session, “Weathering the Storms,“ is scheduled for 1 PM on Sunday, November 11, at the Claudia Cassidy Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center on Randolph and Michigan.

To get ready, I read Bell’s newly published history Jews in the Early Modern World. Regular readers of this column know that I am extremely interested in how the Diaspora produced separate Ashkenazic, Mizrachic and Sephardic populations now living side-by-side in Israel today. I found lucid answers to many of my questions in the excellent chapter “Settlement and Demography,” complete with charts and maps of various migratory patterns that turn out to be far more complicated that I’d ever imagined. For example, while many Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in the Fifteenth Century moved to the Ottoman Empire (becoming the Ladino-speaking residents of Turkey and the Balkans), some moved to Hamburg. They developed intricate relationships, once there, with local Jews, even though, as Bell explains: “these communities were very different in terms of religious customs and social and economic status.”

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