Developments in Israeli Sepharadic Orthodoxy

As in Eastern Europe, the Sepharadic and North African Jewish communities did not experience movements for religious reform like the ones that arose in Central and Western Europe and in America. The main threat to their religious tradition came from the secular influences that they encountered under colonial rule, especially under French rule in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. At any rate, there was no need for a European-style "Orthodoxy."

With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and the riots and persecutions that resulted against the Jews of Arab countries, massive numbers of Middle-Eastern Jews were brought to Israel. The Israeli leadership, consisting largely of secular Ashkenazic Jews, often viewed the religious lifestyles of their "oriental" cousins as another manifestation of the cultural primitiveness that would have to be shed as part of their integration into a modern Western society. Many of the immigrants were persuaded to abandon the religious traditions of their former homelands.

During the first decades of Israeli statehood, North African Jews did not establish their own political or religious movements or institutions, and most were absorbed into the established Ashkenazic bodies. They were usually educated in the State Religious School System (even when religious Ashkenazim were sending their children to private religious schools and yeshivahs). The main religious political movements, the Aguddat Israel and the Mizrachi (which evolved into the National Religious Party), had few Sepharadim among their leadership.

By the mid-1970's the ethnic divisions between Ashkenazic and Sepharadic Israelis became a major social issue.

In the religious sphere this involved the creation of Sepharadic parallels to the mainstream religious parties

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