Abraham Ibn Ezra and the Natives: An Ethnic Morphology of Modern Jewish Scholarship

Noah S. Gerber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A bias toward medieval Sephardic Judaism and its early modern Occidental offshoots has accompanied critical Jewish scholarship for two centuries. This essay examines how this bias has structured latter-day Sephardic and Mizrahi involvement in the discipline, with Abraham Ibn Ezra as a case study. While the nineteenth-century textual remapping of Ibn Ezra drew on numerous Mizrahi communal genizot, the early twentieth century witnessed the emergence of an intellectual conversation between European Jewish and Mizrahi savants in tracing the medieval poet’s historical sojourn in non-European lands. Subsequently, a specifically Zionist emphasis on the ingathering of Ibn Ezra lore somewhat reduced Mizrahi agency to the category of folklore, with the primitivism of the tales gathered associated almost exclusively with non-European comprehension of this medieval Sephardic icon. The divide between a veteran “first” Israel versus a “second” Israel helped solidify this ethnic distinction in cultural labor, with the tide reversing itself only recently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-50
Number of pages26
JournalAJS Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2023


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