In Toledo, Jews translated Arabic texts to the romance languages, as well as translating Greek and Hebrew texts into Arabic. Jews also contributed to botany, geography, medicine, mathematics, poetry and philosophy. The sciences flourished especially astronomy. Abraham Zacuto and Levi ben Gershon, great lights that emerged from the Golden Age of Spain, created instruments and maps that guided maritime exploration. 'Abd al-Rahman's court physician and minister Hasdai ben Isaac ibn Shaprut, was the patron of other Jewish scholars and poets. Jewish thought during this period flourished under famous figures such as Samuel Ha-Nagid, Moses ibn Ezra, Solomon ibn Gabirol Judah Halevi and most famously, Moses Maimonides.
Maimonides, born in Cordoba in 1135, was the preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars of all time. He worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain, Morocco and Egypt. With the contemporary Cordoban sage Averroes, he promoted and developed the philosophical tradition of Aristotle.
Caught between both Moslem and Christian rulers, Jews joined the armies of Alfonso VI of Castile, with as many as 40,000 joined in the fight against the Almoravids, who also had large numbers of Jewish troops in their armies.
In 1497, as part of the Reconquista and Christianization, Portugal followed Castille and Aragon and expelled the Jews, bringing the Jewish contribution to Iberian culture and the sciences to an abrupt end. It is estimated that the Jewish population numbered 500,000 in the 15th century, making it a greater percentage of the peninsula than Jews are today in the United States.
The Sephardic Jewish Diaspora would spread over the Mediterranean, and make up the first Jews of the New World. And wherever they went, the Jews continued to speak Ladino, Judeo-Spanish.
Not even 100 years later, with the defeat of the Armada, Spain began it retreat into history. In a monumental 1987 visit to Los Angeles’ Sephardic community, King Juan Carlos I apologized for and affirmed the tragic mistake of his ancestors that also helped bring an end to his country’s power.
This summer Temple Beth Ami will make an exciting visit to Spain and Portugal, and retrace the footsteps of our ancestors. Included on our itinerary are visits to both ancient synagogues and modern Jewish centers. We will have the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Spanish and Portuguese coasts that still inspires poetry and song. Join us as we explore the rich cultural history of Sepharad. More information can be found on our website:
We will be having an informational tour meeting on Thursday, January 11th at 7 pm with videos and literature on our journey (Spanish wine and cheese too!). Please call 661-255-6410 to RSVP.
Buen dya, (good day in Ladino)
Rabbi Mark Blazer