Research Focus IV:

Sephardic Perspectives

Sephardic Studies have up to now found their way into Jewish studies in Germany only in exceptional cases. Nevertheless, the research on Sephardic Judaism is far from being an “Iberian special issue.” Over the course of centuries, Sephardic Jews have shaped the history of Western European Judaism, Judaism of the Ottoman Empire, in the Atlantic world, and in the European colonies in Asia and Africa. They have not only contributed fundamentally to the history of the medieval philosophy, to the Kabbalah, and to the development of Early Modern knowledge. Up to the 18th century, they have been involved in the inclusion of non-Jewish knowledge into cultures of Judaism and in the dissemination of Jewish knowledge in non-Jewish cultures. Eventually, episodes from the history of the Sephardim in the Jewish Enlightenment and the Science of Judaism became models of a successful integration of Jews into European societies of their time to Ashkenazi thinkers. New research attributes particularly the “Conversos” (baptized Sephardim) an important role in the education of protomodern identities and early modern forms of skepticism.

The research focus “Sephardic Perspectives” aims to take account of these contexts at the ZJS. The focus is not so much on comparing monolithic analyses of “the Ashkenazi Judaism” with monolithic analyses of “the Sephardic Judaism.” Rather, it is on associating different Jewish and non-Jewish cultures and rethinking them from a global-historical perspective. The research under the title “Sephardic Perspectives” includes, on the one hand, projects that deal with the thinking, knowledge and actions of Sephardim, and on the other hand, projects that investigate perspectives on and interactions with Sephardim. At the same time, the main emphasis of this research focus is on the Middle Ages and the centuries from the displacement of the Sephardim from the Iberian Peninsula to the emergence of the Science of Judaism. Current debates shall always be taken into account, where possible.