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The Sephardi Diaspora

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Randall C. Belinfante

By Randall C. Belinfante*

The exodus of the Jews from Spain began not in 1492, as many believe, but in 1391, when serious anti-Jewish riots broke out in Toledo and Seville.  In striving to convert the entire nation to the Catholic Christian faith, the Spanish leaders forced thousands of Jews to convert.  Many others fled the country.  Those that had converted came to be known as New Christians or Marranos (meaning “pig”). It was this group that was to become a target of the Inquisition, an organization charged with ensuring adherence to orthodox practice among Catholics but which also set about preventing people from backsliding into their “heathen” faiths.

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