<i>Last Century</i> of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.
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Monastir´s Jewish Quarter

The Sephardic Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943. A web companion to a new history.

In the period before 1863, the entrance to the Jewish quarter separated more than it connected the Jews to the rest of Monastir. The narrow, gated passageway set between two houses was meant to restrict traffic, not encourage it, and it seemed to promise access only to a warren of similar alleys.

But once past this corridor Monastir´s Jewish world expanded. The center of the Jewish quarter was a large courtyard surrounded and enclosed by the houses, which presented their backs to Monastir. This was "The Great Court," called kortijo by the Sephardim.

Seyes bien vinidu

Individual homes around the courtyard were little more than a room or two in which several generations of a family slept and ate, and indoor kitchens were almost unheard of in Monastir, so the courtyard served as an extension of the crowded residence and a host to domestic life.

It held the communal ovens, coal-sheds, and other resources, and it was here that Monastirli women cooked and baked, and where neighbors greeted each other with a stylized formality.

"Buenuz díes" (Good day), brought the rhyming response "Buene salú y vides" (Good health and life). Or the reply might be "Seyes bien vinidu" (Let good things come), which brought in return, "Seyes bien fayadu" (Let all be well with you).

No hiding place

Although Jews in the Ottoman Empire were never forced to live in separate sections of their cities, as they were in Christian Europe, it was common for Jews to live in enclaves of their own.

This communal separateness corresponded well to the arrangement of Ottoman society, which recognized its subjects as members of religious groups.

The kortijo also had advantages for the organization of Sephardic society. Like all communities, it upheld its values through a combination of social pressure and formal policing, both of which were easily accomplished in the cortijo.

With everyone exposed to the eyes and judgments of their neighbors, people were sure to conform to social norms, such as regular synagogue attendance.

According to a witty Monastirli proverb (refrane), the Jewish quarter was all-knowing: Dil Dió y dil vizinu no si puedi nade incuvrir (From God and from the neighbor one can't hide anything).

<i>Last Century</i> of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.

Last Century of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.
by Mark Cohen

LIST PRICE: $34.95


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