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A Leap of Faith: Isaac Caro’s “Tefillin Case” and the Quest for Sephardic Material Culture

Hosted By: Orange County Community Scholar Program (CSP)

While the legacy of Sepharad looms large in the imagination of contemporary Jews, academics, and cultural institutions, the physical remnants of Jewish Iberia are really quite limited. To this effect, a recent headline in the Times of Israel reported: “In Spain’s Jewish museums, almost nothing is actually from Spain.” It is time to re-evaluate some of the objects repeatedly used to represent Jewish life in Iberia; in fact, we may find that some “Jewish” objects in the world’s collections may not actually be Jewish at all. This talk will highlight a small, shield-shaped brass object in Toledo Cathedral’s Sacristy which has been presented in several publications as the tefillin Case of Yitzhak Caro (b. Toledo 1458, d. Ottoman Empire, 1535). This event will examine the object’s antiquity, its identification as a tefillin case, its connection with Caro, and offer an alternative scenario.

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