The concept of Port Jews as postulated by David Sorkin and Lois Dubin provides us with an important corrective to historiographic wisdoms which locate the Jewish encounter with modernity as essentially a product of middle European and hence largely Ashkenazi interactions with the wider world. 1 By focusing instead on a handful of western Sephardi merchant communities, notably Bordeaux, Amsterdam and Trieste in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries - in some cases, a generation or more before the phenomenon of either the Court Jew or the maskil became significant - the Sorkin-Dubin thesis offers an alternative paradigm in which the economic take-off of the west is implicitly the transitional key. The forging of a distinctively western Sephardi encounter with modernity is thus predicated on a series of symbiotic relationships with commercially-orientated polities geared towards the opening of the new Atlantic economy and/or its transformative linkage with much older Mediterranean trading networks.