The Origin of the Curaçao Sephardim and The Bond which Held the Diaspora Together

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2016-02-23

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Miller, Martin A

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Abstract

The Origin of the Curaçao Sephardim and the Bond Which Held the Diaspora Together explores two main questions regarding the Jewish Diaspora of Curaçao, "Where did the Jews of Curaçao originate from?" and "How did this diaspora, although scattered over time and space, remain unbroken for over five centuries? I trace the diaspora's origin to the Sephardic Jews of the Iberian Peninsula and examine how they came to the New World and Curaçao. I first analyze the Sephardim in the Americas from a historical perspective, tracking the Sephardic Jewish origin from Spain and follow their exile to Portugal in the late 1400s, then to the Netherlands exploring their travels to South America, and ultimately to the island of Curaçao in the 1600s. The journey begins by studying the Spanish Inquisition and how it served as the point of transformation which led to the first significant exodus of the Sephardic Jewish population out of Spain. I analyze how Christopher Columbus' first transatlantic journey may have been responsible for the initial introduction of the Sephardim to the New World. Following the expulsion and migration of the Sephardim from Spain and Portugal to the Netherlands, I explore how the Amsterdam Jews influenced the growth of a derivative Jewish Diaspora in the New World and Curaçao, exploring the Sephardim's expansive mercantile and business networks. I also analyze the sociological profile and cultural practices of the Curaçao Sephardic Diaspora in order to understand how the group avoided cultural and religious assimilation. One significant question is how did the Diaspora maintain its religious identity during a time of intense anti-Semitism? Ideological clashes and disputes of Curacao’s Jewish community and congregation are examined as they faced religious reform. In addition, central ties and influential figures among Curacao’s Jews, for example prominent Hahams and Rabbis, are studied to see how they shaped Curacao’s Jewish community. As I trace the history of these Caribbean Sephardic Jews, I examine how the diaspora remained loyal to Jerusalem through monetary donations and other gestures. This project reveals how the Sephardim faced and overcame both the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, cultural and religious intolerance, and how they remained connected through time and distance and ultimately built one of the most successful Jewish Diasporas in the New World.

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Galletta Lewis, Melissa (2016). The Origin of the Curaçao Sephardim and The Bond which Held the Diaspora Together. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11622.


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.