the evolution of a Sephardic community in the light of its regulations


UID/HIS/04666/2019The forty-two Ascamot prepared by the Parnasim David Abrabanel Dormido and Eliau de Lima and the Gabay Moseh Baruh Louzada in 1663 formed the first regulations of the newborn Congregation of Spanish and Portuguese Jews of London. Originally based on the bye-laws of the Amsterdam and Venice congregations, the Ascamot of the K. K. Sahar Asamaim were subject to continuing reformulations and additions. Therefore, they tended to depart from their initial models and acquire particular features, which mirrored the specific characteristics of the Jewish community of London in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as the challenges posed by its evolution and interaction with the surrounding context. “A noble monument of Jewish piety happily combined with political and social wisdom”, in Lionel Barnett's words (El Libro de los Acuerdos, Oxford, 1931), the Ascamot regulated not only the organisational structure and financial sustainability of the congregation, but also the ritual, the relation with other Jewish communities, the potential conflicts between its members, the welfare, the censorship, and other issues related with the daily life of the community. This paper will analyze the first Ascamot of the London's Sephardic congregation and its following addenda and revisions until the publication of a new code in 1785: Ascamot, para o Governo da Congrega de Saar-Ahamaim de Londres (London, 5545). These byelaws will be confronted with the entries of the Mahamad minute books, where the reasons for such alterations and additions can be found. Based on these sources, we will try to trace the portrait of a changing community from its first times to the consolidation after the Sephardic influx from Portugal in the 1720s and 1730s and its exponential demographic growing. The Portuguese Nation of Hamburg hosted some of these doctors who were forced into exile and there stood out for their practice of medicine and for their contribution to the advancement of medical knowledge. The Portuguese doctors gained prestige among their peers with whom they exchanged missives and advised themselves, serving simultaneously the community as well as the principal princes and aristocrats. This success of Portuguese New-Christian doctors in the diaspora assured them a certain aversion on the part of the local doctors and gave rise to a series of controversies that spread by pamphlets. The Portuguese doctors were obliged to respond by letters and even printed works to face the discredit that many wanted to impute to them. The present study deals with the physicians of the Portuguese Nation of Hamburg and their contributions to the community and to the advancement of Medicine. At the same time, it seeks to verify the strategies of discrediting used and the capacity of response taken by individuals or by the community.publishersversionpublishe

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