Sephardim (səfärˈdəm) [key], one of the two major geographic divisions of the Jewish people, consisting of those Jews whose forebears in the Middle Ages resided in the Iberian Peninsula, as distinguished from those who lived in Germanic lands, who came to be known as the Ashkenazim (see Ashkenaz). The name comes from the placename Sepharad (Obad. 20), which early biblical commentators identified with Iberia. With the migration of the Iberian Jews, particularly following their formal expulsion from Spain in 1492, Sephardic communities were established throughout Southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, in some cases absorbing smaller local Jewish populations. Smaller groups of Sephardim also settled in Holland and elsewhere in Western Europe. In many areas, Sephardic Jews retained many aspects of Judeo-Spanish culture, including a language called Judezmo (or Ladino, Judeo-Spanish, or Spanioli), which retained many characteristics of medieval Castilian combined with Hebrew, Turkish, Arabic, and other elements. Literature in the language includes religious works (e.g., the Bible translations of the 14th and 15th cent.), as well as folktales, songs ( romanceros ), essays, and journalism.
Those Sephardim who were forced to convert to Christianity during the period lasting from the 1391 massacres in Spain to the 1497 forced baptisms in Portugal, and who secretly maintained a Jewish life, were given the pejorative title of Marrano [pig] by the Christian populace. As time passed, many made their way to more tolerant lands, where they openly returned to Judaism, ending their double lives. They or their descendants founded the Jewish communities of Amsterdam, Hamburg, London, and New Amsterdam (New York City), among others. Many Sephardic communities were decimated in the Holocaust, and others were depleted by emigration to Israel and elsewhere.
There are many Sephardi works of mussar. In fact, the first books of mussar were written by Sepharadim. Here’s are some:
According to Julia Phillips Cohen, summarizing the work of Matthias B. Lehmann on Musar literature in OttomanSephardic society:
Beginning in the eighteenth century, a number of Ottoman rabbis had undertaken the task of fighting the ignorance they believed was plaguing their communities by producing works of Jewish ethics (musar) in Judeo-Spanish(also known as Ladino). This development was inspired in part by a particular strain within Jewish mysticism (LurianicKabbalah) which suggested that every Jew would necessarily play a role in the mending of the world required for redemption. The spread of ignorance among their coreligionists thus threatened to undo the proper order of things. It was with this in mind that these Ottoman rabbis–all capable of publishing in the more highly esteemed Hebrew language of their religious tradition–chose to write in their vernacular instead. While they democratized rabbinic knowledge by translating it for the masses, these “vernacular rabbis” (to use Matthias Lehmann’s term) also attempted to instill in their audiences the sense that their texts required the mediation of individuals with religious training. Thus, they explained that common people should gather together to read their books in meldados, or study sessions, always with the guidance of someone trained in the study of Jewish law.
Among the most popular works of Musar literature produced in Ottoman society was Elijah ha-Kohen’s Shevet Musar, first published in Ladino in 1748. Pele Yoetz by Rabbi Eliezer Papo (1785–1826) was another exemplary work of this genre.