Friday 12 June 2015

I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition

In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella made the Alhambra Decree. This said that jews had to convert to Catholicism, or else. And if you only pretended to convert, and got found out, the Spanish Inquisition would have a word with you.

In response, a lot of people left Spain, and these are what we call the Sephardi jews, who have a slightly different culture from the Ashkenazi jews. I know this, because my sister (an Ashkenazi like me) married a Sephardi, and when I go each year to the Seder night, I see the differences; for example, Sephardis eat rice over the Passover, You might think that this is a pretty silly difference, but hey, religion. And in general, Sephardi cuisine is different from the Ashkenazi cuisine that is my heritage. This is important to me, because although I'm an atheist by conviction, I'm still gastronomically a jew.

Anyway. Good news. The Spanish has said that the Sephardis can return, only 523 years later. Which is jolly decent of them, but I doubt if my sister will be taking up their kind offer (and I'm not sure if it applies to her, since she's only Sephardi by marriage).

Update from my sister ...

Sephardim - there are some that stayed in middle east countries for over 2-3000 years ...Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Jordan, Israel etc. During that time some moved on. they settled in Spain, Portugal, France, Morrocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Italy. The Spanish and Portugese became prosperous and stayed. They even developed their own jewish language called Landino. They developed their own recipes etc so Spanish and Portugese are not the original Sephardim, but a sub group.

Others are just as interesting.  The Silk route meant that jews set up in China. They dressed  Chinese, and due to many generations of intermarriage they all looked Chinese. There are very few left now since early 20th century. Then the Cochin jews are said to be from a shipwreck and were isolated for hundreds of years in Cochin, India. They also intermarried and look very Indian. And the black jews of Ethiopia were practicing isolated. Rabbi's in Israel argued that they were not jewish, but they had great discrimination against them, and were in danger so they were airlifted to Israel. I think some over there still are not sure if they are jewish, and these black jews still suffer discrimination but can live in much more safety and comfort.

Solly's heritage is Iraq.  His family all spoke Arabic. Also English. Then the Iraqi Antisemitism started with mob murders. Then state got onto bandwagon and things got really bad. about 1920-30s (The Caliph was getting friendly with Hitler). Over the next few decades most jews left mainly forced out stateless and pennyless. Some got there money out.

Solly's Dad's family upped sticks and went to Burma where his dad was born. Mean while his mum's family went to Calcutta. His mum & dad both spoke English, but of course spoke Hindu and Burmese respectively. They adapted their Cuisine but are still heavily based on Iraqi Jewish food. His dad and most of his family had to escape Burma when the Japanese arrived in WW2. They went to Calcutta. but already the two communities were trading with each other.

Now you have typically Jewish food, that is Ashkenazi, Iraqi, Spanish/Portugese, Chinese, Indian, Morroccan, Lebanese, Syrian etc etc. Solly's family recipes are mainly Indian Jewish. The first time I ate at my inlaws they were surprised I had not met typically Jewish Food - Nope never seen Aloo Mekalla, Shiftas, yellow chicken, Pilou, etc!!

Here I will introduce an Ashkenazi twist of the Kons family. Our Grandpa  also had rice during Pessach I do not know why. He was from Romania. Before he left Romania he did go to Turkey to work for his uncle who was living there I guesstimate that may have been around 1890. 

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