This chapter explores the roots of the Sephardic Diaspora, particularly the amorphous structure of the Jewish community (aljama). Hispano-Jewish society was characterized by a loose association of local polities that were themselves divided by internal fissures among various factions and families. These tensions and mutual suspicions also pervaded the relationships among the rabbinic elite, popular preachers, and the general Jewish populace that both groups sought to guide. Although various factions sought leadership over Iberia's Jewish communities throughout the late medieval period, no single group emerged as the primary authority. Recognition of this internal complexity of the medieval Iberian aljama emphasizes that the reorganization of communal life in the Sephardic Diaspora was not the product of a natural solidarity inherited from the Middle Ages, and allows a greater appreciation of the individuality and effective pragmatism of the exiles.
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