Sephardic Rabbinic responses to modernity: Some central characteristics

Zvi Zohar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


One of the major issues of the cultural anthropology of Jewry is to define the details of difference, in social structure and culture, in various Jewish societies. The main categories of societies conceptualized in comparative studies in Jewish societies have mostly been, as in this introductory part of the volume, embarrassingly broad - the dichotomy of Sephardic as against Ashkenazic societies. Also in this introductory section, the chapters so far have mainly explored the major sociological components of differences between clusters of Jewish societies. The contribution of Zvi Zohar, Senior Scholar at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, now thrusts this exploration into the heart of Jewish culture, the legal doings of rabbis. On the base of extensive study of the writings of nineteenth and twentieth century Sephardic sages, he outlines a portrait of the style and content of their religio-Iegal rulings, which contrast markedly with those of comparable Ashkenazic rabbis. The material on which Zohar bases his conclusions pertains, as he indicates in the title, to the 'response to modernity.' Study of the rulings of Sephardic sages of an earlier period, who did not contend with modernity, might have led to a picture not that much different from their Ashkenazic peers. That in fact is the general thesis of this introductory section. But the volume is not devoted exclusively to traditional times, and many of the contributions treat transition to conditions of colonialism, migration and secularism. While Zohar's work contributes only indirectly to the issue of diversity in traditional Jewish societies, this study illuminates the issue in the context of Westernization.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJews among Muslims
Subtitle of host publicationCommunities in the Precolonial Middle East
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781349248636
ISBN (Print)9780333626559
StatePublished - 7 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Shlomo Deshen and Walter P. Zenner 1996. All rights reserved.


Dive into the research topics of 'Sephardic Rabbinic responses to modernity: Some central characteristics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this