Crypto-Jews

A history of the marrano diaspora.

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The creation of the marranos and the return to Judaism of some in the following centuries, particularly in the Ottoman Empire, Amsterdam, and small settlements in the south of France, offers a different model of understanding Jewish modernity. Unlike their Ashkenazic counterparts, the Sephardic Jews who underwent the marrano experience came to their Judaism with a split between Jewish ethnicity and Jewish religious practice.

The experience of multiple Jewish identities engendered for some a belief in skepticism--doubt regarding any and all particular religious principles and practice--most famously in the case of Baruch/Benedict Spinoza. The crucible of crypto-Judaism had formed a Jewish identity that was less than the full complement of religious ideals, and at the same time, a sense of Jewish belonging that was greater than any sum of legal precepts.

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Joshua Teplitsky is a doctoral candidate at New York University in the departments of History and Hebrew & Judaic Studies. His research focuses on the Jewish experience in early modern Prague, and the culture of Jews in early modern Europe more generally.