** Jewish Diaspora country trends M-R

Jewish Diaspora: Country Trends (M-R)

Figure 1.--This well-to-do Jewish family was photographed in Salonica during the 1890s. Thesolonika at the time was still part of te Ottoman Empire. Note the European dress with the exception of the father's fez and the elderly grandmother's clothing shows a Greek influence. Greece acquired Thesolonika during the Balkan Wars (1911-13).

The various Jewish communites of the Diaspora interacted to varying degrees with the local culture. The Jews of the Diaspora developed remarkably diverse cultural lives as well as religious outlooks. These Jewish communities were established througout Europe as well as the Middle East. Spain and Portugal using law and the Inquisition kept Jews out of the Americas until independence (19th century). Egland did not, however, bar Jews from their American colonies. Each country has its own unique history of Jewish settlement and culture. Some like America, Poland, and Rusia had very large Jewish communities. Other countries have had only tiny Jewish communities. Some Jewish communities were destroyed or exiled in the Medieval era and n some instances later recovered. Some were irevocably destroyed. Jews and later Protestants were a major target of the Inquisition. Many of these communities were destoyed in thr 20th century. The NAZIs destroyed vibrant Jewish communities throughout the areas of Europe they occupied. The Arabs and Iranians have destroyed the Jewish communities in their countries. Here is what we know about the various Jewish communities of the Disopra. While small in number, Jews in many of these countries have played a major role in cultural and intelectual life.


Jews appeared in Morocco during the Diaporra following the Roman suppression of the Jewish Revolt (1st century AD). Most Jews after the Islamic conquest lived in ghettos known as mellah. There was a degree of toleration during the Islamic era, but also periods of persecution, including massacres. One such attack occuured in Fez in which 6,000 Jews were killed (1033). The largest attacks occurred in Fez and Marrakesh when over 100,000 Jews were killed (1146). There was another attack in Marrakesh (1232). There were also periods of toleration during whic Jews even received important appointments (13th-15th centuries). Many Jews expelled from Spin and Portugal souught refuge in Morocco (15th century). Some stayed in Morocco, others settled in other provinces of the Ottoman Empire. France occupied Morocco creating aprotectorate (1912). This brought French law to Morocco which ended the legal decrimination of Jews. This changed again after the fall of France (June 1940). The Vichy regime issued anti-Semetic laws which applied in Morocco. Many Jews were interned in work ca,ps. King Muhammad prevented deportation of Moroccan Jews to NAZI death camps. Some Jews with French passports were deported. The Allies landed in Morocco as part of Operation Torch (November 1942). This precented the NAZIs from proceeding furher against Moroccan Jews. Morocco at the time had over 250,000 Jews, the largest Jewish population in the Arab world outside of Palestine. After Israel declared independence and the Arab states invaded, Arabs rioted in Oujda and Djerada, killing 44 Jews. About 18,000 Jews emigrated, most but not all to Israel (1948-49). Jewish emigration slowed down after 1949, but continued at a few thousand annually during the 1950s, gradually reducing the Moroccan Jewish community.

(The) Netherlands

There were two Dutch communities in the Netherlands: the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim. The Sephardim arrived in the Netherlands by sea along with other Portuguese traders and became permanent when the Inquisition targeted Portuhuese and Spanish Jews. The Ashkenazim arrived overland beginning in the mid-17th century. These two communities remained separate, but the Dutch Republic recognized only one community to which a level of autonomy was granted within the larger Protestant (Calvinist) community. The authorities tolerated thev Jews to a greater degree than other Protestants and Catholics. Jew could not fully participate fully in civic life or join a guild. Dutch tolerance of Jews, however, led to a level ofvtrust among the Jews and an approsavch of negotiation and compromidse. The Sephardim faced the problem of aiding newly arrived Jewish refugeees. Some Dutch Jews during the 19th century integrated into Dutch society and became secularized. Often moving away from traditional Jewish areas. Others maintained Orthodox traditions and continued to live in Jewish neigbothoods, especially in Amsterdam. The bulk of Dutch Jews tookmiddle-of-the-road approaches which mean that they were not fully integrated. There was even a kind of Jewish economy. The Dutch diamond industry and segments of the textile industry were heavily Jewish. Many Dutch people did not fully accept Jews, although there attitudes were often more descrete than in other European countries. Anti-Semitism grew during the 1930s, boith because of the Depression and the arrival of large numbers of German Jews.


Norway is a small country. It also had a small Jewish population. The Jewish population in 1940 totaled about 2,100 people, about 1,500-1,600 were Norwegian citizens. The Norwegian Jews were largely concentrated in Oslo and to a lesser extent Trondheim.

Ottoman Empire

Jewish communities were established throughout the Roman Empire after the failure of the Jewish revolt and the Roman supression of the Jews. Several of the communities were established in Anatolia (often referred to as Asia Minor). Other Jewish communities were esablished in the Bakans and Levant which for a ime were contrilled by Byzantium. Generally these communities did not experience the severe repression that the Roman Catholic Church directed at the Jews. Gradually Byzantium was overwealmed, first by the Arabs and than by the Ottoman Turks. As the Ottomans occupied Aatolia and other areas formerly controlled by Byzantium, Jews came under their control. The great Byzantine capital, Constantinople, finally fell (1453). More Jews entered the Empire when the Ottomans offered refuge to the Jews expelled by Spain and Portugal--the Sephardic Jews. As the Ottoman Empire expanded, Turks became a minority in an Empire populated by Balkan Christians and Muslim Arabs. The Ottomans also held people from these areas with some suspicion, fearing the development of nationalist movements. The Jews on the other hand were a small minority. Thus they were often favored by sultans who often placed great trust in them. Ottoman rule in many cases help protect Jews from sometimes antagonistic local populations. Thus the situation of Jews in the Ottoman east was very different than in the Christian west.


The Romans in supressing the Jewish Revolt (70 AD) left Jerusalem to the jackels. Most of the Jewish population was killed, enslved, or fled. The Jews were thus dispersed throughout the Roman Empire or fled east to Persian lands. Jerusalem disappeared from history for more than two centuries. It did not reappear until the Emperor Constantine emraced Christianity. Constantine adired his mother Helena who was a Christian convert. Helena made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem(326). She claimed to have dicovered the true cross. And she built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Later her grandson, Julian the Apostate, argued that the Jewish Temple should be rebuilt. Jew throughout the Empire pryed for it, but of course it never occurred. During the reign of Emperor Heraclius, Christians massacered Jews (6th century AD). Mohammed adopted the Jerusalem Temple as his first qibla, the direction toward which Muslims should pray. Here he was inspired by the Jewish Torah and the desire to replace Judaism. Offended that the Jews would not convet, he turned tiward Mecca. Mohammed died (632). Two years later Arab armies took Jerusalem (634) as they pursued conquests in the Byzantine-controlled Levant. The Arabs built two mosques on the Temple Mount--Omar and Al-Aqsa. Islamic tradution claims that Mohammed ascended to heaven from the Dome on thec Rock, the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Pope Urban II launched the Crusades (1095) which brought Jerusakem and much of Pak=lestine under Christian control. The immediate result was caranage in the Temple Mount. One crusader wrote, "Wonderful sights were toi be seen. Our men cut off the headsof their enemies., others shit them with arrows so they fell from tiwers, others tirtured them .... Piles of heads, hands and feet were to be seen on the streets." As the Christians Knights put Muslims to the swird, they also burned Jews in ynsgogues. They bashed the cheads of babies against walls. They proceed to Helena's Church of the Holy Sepluchre seeking what remined of the True Cross. There a Norman Bishop had Greek Orthodox priests tortured to get them to reveal where the cross ws hidden. [Montefiore]

Papal States

The first suizeablr number of Jews are believed to have reach Rome in association with Judah Maccabeus. The Jewish Revolt caused a break between the Jews and Rome (66 AD). The horific Roman supression of the revolt and destruction of the Second Temple (70 AD) was a disater for the Jewish people. The Roman victory was commemorated in stone with the Arch of Titus. The Romans are believed to have transported about 10,000 Jews to Rome as slaves. They were employed on construction projects, especially the Colliseum. Slavery did not mean death and many of the Jews appear to have survived and prospered to a degree. They built 13 synagogues as well as numerous cemetaries. Many Romans looked on their religion as uncivilized. Jewish rutuals wee seen as barbaric. Unlike Christianity, however, it was a recognized religion. Jewish communities appeared in other areas, both the south abd north (Taranto, Ferrarra, and Milan). Many early Christian communities grew out of the Jewish community. The relations between the Jews and Christins begn to change dramatically after Constantine's conversion. The first major step toward intolerance was the Edict of Tessa Lonica issued by Teodosia (380). The Roman Empire had been very tolarant toward different religions. Now that Christians dominated the Empire they began to supress other religions. The Edict made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Authorities began to supress pagan worship. There was somewhat more toleraion for Jews. With the decline of the Western Empire, the papacy emerged as both the religious and temporal authority in Rome. Pope Leo saved Rome from Attila. This was thevbeginning of the Papal States. The principal power in Europe became the Holy Roman Empire, essentially Germany. Conditions for Jews changed depending on the pope, emperor, or local authorities. A major conflict developed between the pope and emperor. In general there was a degree of tolerance for Jews during the early medival period. Charlemagne for example defended the civil and commercial right of Jews. Charemagne was the most important force in Europe since the Roman Empire. Thus his tolerantbpolicies wer very influential, including in the Papal States. Jews in Italy and areas of Europe generally prospered. Jewish schools were founded in Bari and Otranto. This tolerant era began to change with the second millenium.


Spain completed the Reconquista, discivered the Americas, and expelled the Jews in the same year (1492). Jews could remain in Spain if they converted, but the Conversos (Mar-ranos) were treated with great suspicion and relentlessly hounded by the Inquisition (16th century). And the Inquisition attenpted to keep Jews out of the new colonies that were being founded. Some concersos sought to emograte to th colonies believing that the Inquisition would be less organized there. The Philippines (northern Samar) was one of the places where Conversos sought saftey. Here some Crypto-Jews attempted to practice their faith in secret. They were, however, unable to escape the Inquisition which procecutes some with little or no evidence. Jorge and Domingo Rodríguez reached the Philippines (early 1590s). They almost immediately attracted the interest of the Inquisition. They were tried, convicted, and sentenced to an auto da fe in Mexico City. (The Inquisition did not have an independent tribunal in the Philippines.) The conviction of eight other Conversos from the Philippines followed. As a result, virtully nothing is known about the presence of Jews in Spanish colonial Philippines as they could not identify as Jews, there was no possiblity of organizing a community or openly practicing their faith, This not change until the late-19th century with the arrival of the Levy brothers. They were Alsatian Jews fleeing German occupation after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). They founded many business ventures as did Leopold Kahn, another Alsatian Jew. The opening of the Suez Canal madethe Philippines more acceable to interational trade (1869). The Philippines economy benefitted and the number of foreign businessmen increased, including Jews. The Levy brothers were joined by Turkish, Syrian, and Egyptian Jews, and asmall Jewish community develooped for the first time. At the time the Americans arrived, there was small multi-ethnic Jewish communityin Manila of about 50 people. The United States seized control of the Philippines as a result of the Spanish-American War (1898-99). With the arrival of the Americans, Jews in the Philippines to officially organize and openly practice their faith..


Poland before the September 1939 German invasion had one of the largest and most vibrant Jewish communities in the world. The diaspora only included larger Jewish populations in America and Russia. Poland was an especially important center of Jewish cultural and religious life, not only because of thge size of the Jewish community but because large numbers of Polish Jews, unlike German Jews, were not assimilated into wider Polish society. Poland had a long history of openess to Jews in a still Catholic Europe seething with anti-semitism. Toland from the XIth century onwards had accepted Jews fleeing persecultion in from Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, and Turkey. In many countries the Jews were persecuted, restructed to ghettos, and often robbed, brutalized, and killed. Several countries including England, Spain, and Portugal expelled them entirely. The Holu Office of the Inquisition was tasked with ensuring that converted Jews ("conversos") were not secretly practing their faith. The Jews in Poland were permitted freedom of religious worship, the right to live in their own communities by King Casimir the Great in the 14th century a dispensation that was reaffirmed by later kings of Poland.


Portugal has one of the longest histories of Jewish settlement in Europe. Jewish settlement may date to the 8th century BC at the time of the first diaspora. the status of Jews has varied widely. There have been times in which Jews prospered and were honored members of society. At other times they have suffered horific persecution and were finally banished from Portugal. Many converted to Christianity. Some continued Jewish religious practices in secret. Other lost all identity as Jews. Portugal at the time of World War II had perhaps the smallest Jewish population in Europe . The country had a Jewish population of about 380 people and 650 Jewish refugees, mostly from Central Europe. The Government granted these refugees "resident" status.

Roman Empire

Little information exists on Jews in Rome during the Republic. Archeologists have found a bronze column in Ankara which confirms that the Emperor Augustus recognized the Jews of Asia Minor as an acceptable religiouus community. Despite the supression of the Jewish Revolt and the exile of the Jews, Roman emperors recognized Judiasm as a legal religion. Jewish communities were established throughout the Roman Empire after the failure of the Jewish revolt and the Roman supression of the Jews. Several of the communities were established in Anatolia (often referred to as Asia Minor). Other Jewish communities were esablished in the Balkans and Levant. Early Christians often emerged out of these Jewish communities. Recognition of the Jews was a status not conferred on the Christians, at first seen as a Jewish sect. Roman emperors to varying degrees supressed the Christians. The situation of the Jews changed with the assent of Constantine (4th century AD). Roman general Constantine seized control of the Empire and converted to Christianity. Gradually after his conversion, Christianity changed from a supressed sect to the state religion of the Empire. Relations between Jews and Christians had varied. Christinity emerged from the Jewsish community. Some Jews (like Paul) attempted to supress the Christians, but eventually more benign relations developed. This began to change when Christianity becamne the state religion. Christian emperors began to look on the Jews as subversive for their refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah. In addition, Christians thnks to St. Paul became a gentile religion. Thus Christians begn to see the Jews as a foreign group in thei midst. Many Church and state officials wanted to force the Jews to convert. St Augustine argued for a different approach. Augustine argued that the Jews should not be killed or even forced to convert. Rather he felt that they should be degraded and humiliated and live in poverty. This would be a just punishment for refusing to accept Christ. While Augustine's assessment is today seen as harsh and unjust, his influence probably saved the Jews from total annihilation in Western Christendom. With the fall of Rome (5th century), this was the view of the Jews that became prevalebnt in feudal Europe. Despite the influence of Augustine, Christian treatment of the Jews was relatively benign in the early Feudal period.


The first Jews to arrive in Roman Dacia may have been merchants. Jewish tombstones have been found in Romania dating from the Roman era. The first Christians in Romania may have been associated with the early Jews because Christianity began as the Jesus movement within Judiaism. Almost not information about early Jewish communities from this era survive. Aurelian was forced to withdraw the Roman Legionsn from Dacia allowing the Germanic Barbarians to occupy the province (272 AD?). Much of the Romanized population was evacuated. It is likely that this included most if not all of the small Jewish community. Romania did not exist in the Medieval era, but principaloties from which modern Romania was formed coaleased in this period. One of the most important Romanian principalities was Walachia which was founded about 1290. Many Jews expelled from Hungary (1387) emmigrated to Walachia. More Jews arrived after Spain expelled its Jews (16th century). Moldavia was an important stop in the trade routes between Poland-Lithuania and the Ottoman Empire. Jewish merchants participated in this trade and some settled in Moldavia. Jewish settlement was encouraged by Moldavian princes as helpful for this lightly populated principality. Moldavian princes in the 18th century the granted charters guaranteing a range of privliges to Jewish communities. These offers attracted Polish Jews. Anti-semitism was not as pronounced in Romania as in many other European countries. It has the same kind of roots in Romania as in other European countries. A major source of anti-Semitsm was not religious, but commercial. Greek Orthodox Christianity while geneally not as intensely anti-Semetic as Roman Catholcism was intolerant and priests preached anti-Semetic semons. The Church also influenced anti-Jewish legal measures. Anti-Semetic liternature began to appear in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, including Tthe Golden Order (Jassy, 1771) and A Challenge to Jews (Jassy, 1803). Emerging Romania Most of Romania's historic Jewish popultion was murdered by the NAZIs and Romanian Fascists during the World War II Holocaust.


Christians for centuries after the fall of Rome (5th century AD) gererally tollerated and coexisted with Jews and anti-Semetic eruptions were limited. At this time there were very few Jews living in Eastern Europe. Beginning with the Crusades (11th century) this began to change. Anti-Semetic laws, vicious programs, and expullsions spread in waves over Western Europe. European Jews fleeing the oppression of Roman Catholic Western Europe moved east to Polandand other Eastern Ruropean states. The Tsars did not tolerate Jews within their empires and as Muscovy expanded their were mass killings in newly acquired cities. The Tsar adopted an openly ant-Semetic policy (1721). Areas conquered by the Russian Army were cleared of Jews, such as the Ukraine (1727). This was normally done with great brutality. Ironically the Jews of Greater Russia developed into the largest and most important Jewish community in the world. This was in large measure the result of the Polish Partitions (1772-95) and the incorporation of Poland into the Tsarist Empire. Russian Jewery became the heart of the Jewish world and the origins of the Zionist movement. The opressive policies of the Tsars also lead many Jes to embrace socialism and revoutionary politics. As many as 5 million Jews are believed to have lived in Russia before World War I and the Revolution. Jews played a oprominant role in the Revolution and Bolshevik movement. Tsarist Russia became the Soviet Union and finally the Confederation of Independent States (CIS) with a deminished, but still very sizeable Jewish population. Rome


Montefiore, Simon. Sebag. Jerusalem: The Biography (Knopf: 2011). 650p.


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Created: 11:54 PM 3/7/2007
Last updated: 4:32 AM 2/23/2020