My name is Paul Avila (yea, I know, doesn't sound Jewish at all) I was born in the Azores Portugal and moved to the United States when I was 2. People always ask me if I am Persian. Never understood why. Especially with a Spanish, or what I thought was a Spanish last name. As I did a Google search for my last name, it came up as being Sephardic Jewish. I have no idea what Sephardic means and can't find to much about it on the net just tidbits here and there. My question is, has anyone here ever heard of a Sephardic Jew. If so, do you know where I can get more information about it? Very confused, never even knew there were Jews in Portugal. Please forgive me if this is not the right forum to ask this question.

  • The history of crypto Jews in Portugal may interest you. Many links if you Google for it. For example cryptojews.com/cryptoJewsinPortugal.htm Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 10:02
  • I would note, even if it's considered a Jewish name, it does not necessarily mean you have Jewish origins. (This is a general statment, your private case may be different).
    – JNF
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


Sepharadi Jews is a general term referring to the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula before their expulsion in 1492 by the Alhambra Decree. It can also refer to those who use a Sephardic style of liturgy, or would otherwise define themselves in terms of Jewish customs and traditions from the Iberian Peninsula. (Wikipedia) Roughly most Jews are either Sepharadi or Ashkenazi (descending from Germany). For further information, see the Wikipedia page about Sephardi Jews, and the one on the History of Jews from Portugal.

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    Thank you VERY much Michael. I appreciate your time giving me great information. As I continued to study, I have found that where I was born (The Azores Islands) was populates with 80% Jews. I don't want to ramble, but feel like I need to learn more about my ancestors and my Jewish roots. This is AWESOME!! Thanks again :)
    – Paul Avila
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 1:59
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    @PaulAvila Wishing you much success in your research / journey!
    – Dave
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 2:24
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    @PaulAvila I'm curious to hear where you found such a statistic - 80% of the population being Jewish seems quite large to me; even Israel doesn't have such a large percentage. BTW, here is a very conclusive study on the Jews community in Azores.
    – Michoel
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 2:40
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    @PaulAvila It's a pleasure to help you. Try Google Cache or The WayBack Machine for pages that are no longer online. The study I posted in the previous comment seems quite conclusive to me.
    – Michoel
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 3:00
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    @PaulAvila Even 20% is huge. According to here: "There is not a single Diaspora country [=outside Israel] where Jews amounted to 2.5 percent of the total population. Only 3 Diaspora countries had more than 1 percent."
    – Michoel
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 3:05

Jewish Encyclopedia (www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13430-sephardim) in a long online article defines Sephardim as 'descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal and who settled in southern France, Italy, North Africa, Turkey, Asia Minor, Holland, England, North and South America, Germany, Denmark, Austria, and Hungary.'

'Sephardim - Jewish Virtual Library' (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/sephardim) also is a link to a good article by Rebecca Wiener with information drawn from many sources, including Encyclopedia Judaica. Including the introduction, it is an eight-part article which discusses the Jewish presence in Spain from the time of King Solomon to the present.

  • +1 @Clifford Durousseau They were expelled during the inquisition and then resettled into europe, north africa, n. and s. america etc. I think if you say 'REsettled' your answer would be clearer. So the encyclopedia alludes to the notion that sephardim are defined as being differently named as a geographical consequence then.
    – gamliela
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 7:30

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