The expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the 15th century was a period of great upheaval, as a Spanish-Portuguese diaspora formed in Western Europe and the Mediterranean basin. At the same time, many conversos remained in their home country, while many others emigrated and attempted to rejoin the Jewish community.
As a result, there arose in communities such as Amsterdam, London, northern Italy and other places the beginnings of Jewish Enlightenment and early secularization, as the confrontation with the ideas of the Enlightenment and the modern world brought the challenge of Jewish identity to the fore. Jewish secularization did not commence in Mendelssohn’s Berlin of the 18th century, nor in Eastern Europe of the late 19th century. Secularization has been a slow but steady process through the 15th-18th centuries. Heretics and tragic figures from Converso families in Amsterdam such Uriel De Costa and Baruch Spinoza pioneered Jewish secularism, while an Italian rabbi in London named Rabbi David Nieto attempted to combat it. The addition of Sabbateanism and the rise of the court Jews in Germany in the 17th century, only led to an increasing trend towards secularization, long before Berlin and Mendelssohn.
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