The early modern period—spanning roughly from the late fifteenth through the late eighteenth centuries—is distinguished by several remarkable developments that are often associated with the modern world: it was an age of scientific discoveries, of the unprecedented dissemination of ideas through the newly-invented printing press, of the emergence of new national political structures, and of the breakdown of traditional sources of authority. Jews and Christians alike were transformed by these dramatic changes. Jews traveled and migrated more frequently and farther than ever before; boldly challenged the authority of their rabbis; used the press to spread Hebrew books, new and old, to ever wider-audiences; and mingled with Christians and others in unforeseen ways. In the 2014 Penn Lectures in Judaic Studies, Moving into Modernity: The Shaping of Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe, Katz Center fellows will explore many different aspects of this fascinating period.
What happened to the Sephardic Jews after the expulsion from Spain in 1492? What were their lives like in their new homes? The legal questions that Sephardim asked their rabbis and the answers they gave—collectively known as responsa—are full of information on this subject. We will examine some of these fascinating documents to see what we can learn about everyday life among the exiled Sephardim.
Matt Goldish holds the Samuel M. and Esther Melton Professor of History Chair and is the director of the Melton Center for Jewish Studies at The Ohio State University. His books include Judaism in the Theology of Sir Isaac Newton (1998), which won the Salo Baron Prize from the American Academy for Jewish Research, The Sabbatean Prophets (2004), and Jewish Questions: Responsa on Sephardic Life in the Early Modern Period (2008).