Hîstôry¯a yêhûdît = Jewish history

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 21–35 | Cite as

Benjamin Disraeli and the myth of Sephardi superiority

  • Todd M. Endelman
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  1. 1.
    Battersea Papers, Add MSS 47910/5, British Library, London.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Stephen R. Graubard,Burke, Disraeli, and Churchill: The Politics of Perseverance (Cambridge, MA, 1961), 123; Robert Blake,Disraeli (Garden City, NY, 1968), 47. Blake's observation reveals more about him than it does about Disraeli.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hannah Arendt,Antisemitism, part 1 ofThe Origins of Totalitarianism (New York, 1968), 72–5.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Berlin's “Benjamin Disraeli, Karl Marx and the Search for Identity” appeared initially in theTransactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England 22 (1970): 1–20. It was reprinted inMidstream 16/7 (August–September 1970): 24–49, and in a collection of Berlin's essays, Henry Hardy (ed.),Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas (New York, 1979), 252–86. Translations have appeared in French, German, and Spanish.Google Scholar
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    Paul Smith, “Disraeli's Politics,”Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 37 (1987): 65–85; John Vincent,Disraeli, Past Masters series (Oxford, 1990); Stanley Weintraub,Disraeli: A Biography (New York, 1993).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See, e.g., Richard Shannon, “The Cult of the Prophet,”Times Literary Supplement, 29 November 1993, 3–4.Google Scholar
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    See also Abraham Gilam, “Disraeli in Jewish Historiography,”Midstream 26/3 (March 1980): 24–29; idem, “Benjamin Disraeli and Jewish Identity,”The Wiener Library Bulletin, n.s., 33/51–52 (1980): 2–8; Benjamin Jaffee, “A Reassessment of Benjamin Disraeli's Jewish Aspects,”Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England 27 (1982): 115–23; M. C. N. Salbstein,The Emancipation of the Jews in Britain: The Question of the Admission of the Jews to Parliament, 1828–1860 (Rutherford, NJ, 1982), chap. 5 (“Benjamin Disraeli, Marrano Englishman”); Todd M. Endelman, “Disraeli's Jewishness Reconsidered,”Modern Judaism 5 (1985): 109–23. Salbstein alone mentions Disraeli's invocation of alleged Sephardi superiority.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The most reliable account of Disraeli's ancestry is Cecil Roth,Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield (New York, 1952), chap. 1. See also Michael Selzer, “Benjamin Disraeli's Knowledge of his Ancestry,”Disraeli Project Newsletter 1/2 (1976): 8–17.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Benjamin Disraeli, “On the Life and Writings of Mr. Disraeli,” in Isaac D'Israeli,The Curiosities of Literature, new ed., 3 vols. (London, 1858), vol. 1: viii-ix.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    John Vincent (ed.),Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party: Journals and Memoirs of Edward Henry, Lord Stanley, 1849–1869 (Hassocks, Sussex, 1978), 32.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Quoted in Weintraub,Disraeli, 377.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    M. G. Wiebe et al. (eds.),Benjamin Disraeli Letters, vol. 4,1842–1847 (Toronto, 1989), 153.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Benjamin Disraeli,Coningsby; or The New Generation, bk. 4, chap. 10.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ibid., chap. 9.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ibid., chap. 10.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    John Vincent comments that as a rule “Disraeli said little about the lower races; his object was to praise, not disparage.”Disraeli, 27.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Benjamin Disraeli,Tancred; or The New Crusade, bk. 5, chap. 6.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    J. A. Gunn et al. (eds.),Benjamin Disraeli Letters, vol. 2,1835–1837 (Toronto, 1982), 109. The word “tudesco” (to use the more common Sephardi orthography) is an iberianized form of the Italian word “tedesco” (German), used by western Sephardim to refer to Jews from Germany and Poland. Although at first non-pejorative, it became, by the eighteenth century at the latest, a term of contempt, expressing disdain for persons considered to be of low, even disreputable, rank. I am grateful to Miriam Bodian, whose own research and writing focus on the Sephardi diaspora, for clarifying this for me.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Haim Hillel Ben Sasson, “Dor golei sefarad al atsmo” (The Generation of Spanish Exiles on its Fate),Zion 26 (1961): 23.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi,Assimilation and Racial Anti-Semitism: The Iberian and the German Models, The Leo Baeck Memorial Lecture 26 (New York, 1982).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Miriam Bodian, “‘Men of the Nation’: The Shaping of Converso Identity in Early Modern Europe,”Past & Present 143 (May 1994): 62.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Ben Sasson, “Dor golei sefarad,” 23–29.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    On the Iberian legacy of caste pride among western Sephardim, see Yosef Kaplan,Mi-natsrut le-yahadut: hayyav u-fealo shel ha-anus Yitshak Orobio de Castro (From Christianity to Judaism: The Life and Work of Isaac Orobio de Castro) (Jerusalem, 1982), 269–74; idem, “Political Concepts in the World of the Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam during the Seventeenth Century: The Problem of Exclusion and the Boundaries of Self-Identity,” in Yosef Kaplan, Henry Méchoulan, and Richard H. Popkin (eds.),Menasseh ben Israel and His World (Leiden, 1989), 45–62.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Yosef Kaplan, “Yahasam shel ha-yehudim ha-sefaradim ve-ha-portugalim li-yehudim ha-ashkenazim be-amsterdam be-meah ha-17” (The Relationship of Spanish and Portuguese Jews to Ashkenazi Jews in Amsterdam in the Seventeenth Century), in Shmuel Almog et al. (eds.),Temurot ha-historiyah ha-yehudit ha-hadashah: kovets maamarim shay le-Shmuel Ettinger (Transformations in Modern Jewish History: Essays Presented to Shmuel Ettinger) (Jerusalem, 1987), 399.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Kaplan, “Yahasam,” 403–406; idem, “The Portuguese Community in 17th-Century Amsterdam and the Ashkenazi World,” in Jozeph Michman (ed.),Dutch Jewish History, vol. 2 (Jerusalem, 1989), 33–34, 43–44.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Jozeph Michman, “Beyn sefaradim ve-ashkenazim be-amsterdam” (Between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Amsterdam), in Issachar Ben Ami (ed.),Moreshet yehudei sefarad ve-ha-mizrah (The Sephardic and Oriental Jewish Heritage) (Jerusalem, 1982), 136–37.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Albert M. Hyamson,The Sephardim of England: A History of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community (London, 1951), 170–71, 190, 228. Hyamson claims that the authorities' motivation was a concern “lest the numbers of these individuals [non-Sephardim] should become too large so as perhaps to threaten the preservation of their Community as a Sephardi one” (170).Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Isaac de Pinto,Apologie pour la nation juive, ou, réflexions critiques sur le premier chapitre du VII. tome des oeuvres de monsieur de Voltaire au suject des Juifs (Amsterdam, 1762). On Pinto's work in general and the genesis of his apology in particular, see Arthur Hertzberg,The French Enlightenment and the Jews (New York, 1968), 142–53, 180–83, 269–70.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Pinto,Apologie, 12–16.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Quoted in Frances Malino,The Sephardic Jews of Bordeaux: Assimilation and Emancipation in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France (University, AL, 1978), 32.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Diogene Tama (ed.),Transactions of the Parisian Sanhedrim, trans. F. D. Kirwan, mimeographed ed. (Cincinnati, 1956), 19.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    The campaign of the Sephardim to secure exemption is described in Malino,Sephardic Jews of Bordeaux, 95–109.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Todd M. Endelman,The Jews of Georgian England, 1714–1830: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society (Philadelphia, 1979), 231–36.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    The document is reproduced in full in Charles H. L. Emanuel (ed.),A Century and a Half of Jewish History Extracted from the Minute Books of the London Committee of Deputies of the British Jews (London, 1910), 10–12.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    [Isaac D'Israeli], “A Biographical Sketch of the Jewish Socrates,”Monthly Magazine, vol. 6, pt. 2 (1798): 38–44; “On the Late Installation of a Great Sanhedrim of the Jews in Paris,” ibid., vol. 24, pt. 2 (1807): 34–38; “Acts of the Great Sanhedrim at Paris,” ibid., 134–36, 243–48.Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    [Isaac D'Israeli],The Genius of Judaism (London, 1833), 237–8, 244–8.Google Scholar
  37. 38.
    Hugh A. MacDougall,Racial Myth in English History: Trojans, Teutons, and Anglo-Saxons (Hanover, NH, 1982), chap. 5; Leon Poliakov,The Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalist Ideas in Europe, trans. Edmund Howard (New York, 1977), 50–2.Google Scholar
  38. 39.
    Luke Owen Pike,The English and Their Origins (London, 1866), 15.Google Scholar
  39. 40.
    MacDougall, 94.Google Scholar
  40. 41.
    Ismar Schorsch, “The Myth of Sephardi Supremacy,”Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 34 (1989): 47–66; Ivan Marcus, “Beyond the Sephardi Mystique,”Orim: A Jewish Journal at Yale 1/1 (1985): 35–53.Google Scholar
  41. 42.
    Walter Boehlich (ed.),Der Berliner Antisemitismusstreit (Frankfurt a.M., 1965), 37–8; John M. Efron, “Scientific Racism and the Mystique of Sephardi Racial Superiority,”Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 38 (1993): 75–96; Jacques Kornberg,Theodor Herzl: From Assimilation to Zionism (Bloomington, 1993), 76–7.Google Scholar
  42. 43.
    See, for example, Todd M. Endelman, “The Frankaus of London, 1837–1967: A Study in Radical Assimilation,”Jewish History/Historiyah Yehudit 8/1–2 (1994): 1–38.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Haifa University Press 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd M. Endelman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MichiganUSA

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