Answers to Questions by Yair Davidiy (13 November 2017, 24 Heshvan, 5778)
Did the Sephardic Jews have an identified homeland after expulsion, and if so what was that nation?
The picture shows a Sephardic Synagogue in London. In Hebrew the word "Sepharad" (cf. Obadiah 1:20) means Spain. Jews from Spain were referred to as "Sephardim" in the plural. The Jews in Spain had been influenced more by Sages from Babylon whereas those of Northern Europe (i.e. "Ashkenazim") had taken their lead to a greater degree from Sages in the Land of Israel. The Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. Some stayed and pretended to be Christians while preserving a semblance of Judaism. They were known as Anusim or Marranoes. A portion of these later joined the other Sephardim but some remained. Descendants of these Marranoes or "Secret Jews" are still to be found among Gentile Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian populations since portions of Italy were then ruled from Spain. The Sephardim who left Spain went mostly to North Africa and to Eastern Communities such as Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, etc. They joined existing communities. They were however more culturally advanced and often religiously more knowledgeable. The Jewish communities they came to settle in often accepted them as leaders and guides and took their customs. Consequently today in Israel Jews from North African, and Eastern communities are frequently all referred to as "Sephardim." There were also Sephardim in Balkan areas and elsewhere in Europe. Even among the Hasidim we find families of Sephardic origin. The Hagar family, for instance, gave rise to the Vishnitzer Hasidic dynasty which is very important. They were originally from Spain. The Hagar family had a tradition that they were from the Tribe of Benjamin. Among other of the Sephardim there were families that traced their ancestry back to King David of the Tribe of Judah, e.g. the Abarbanel family and the Dayan family who later moved to Halab (Aleppo) in Northern Syria.