Sephardic Studies

Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies

Housed in the Center for Jewish Studies, the Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies offers students at the undergraduate and graduate level the rare opportunity to focus intensively on the study of Sephardic history and culture.  It also hosts lectures, workshops and symposia that cultivate and stimulate this field and situate UCLA as one of its principle hubs.  It has supported international scholarship and curricular development through annual competitions for Maurice Amado Faculty Incentive Grants, and builds on the solid research and teaching program erected over the course of a decade and a half of Maurice Amado Lectures and more recently by the Maurice Amado Chair.

steinSince 2008, the Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies at UCLA has been led by Prof. Sarah A. Stein, the Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies. Professor Stein’s appointment was the result of a nearly twenty year search.  Author of award-winning books and an extensive body of scholarly articles, Stein was awarded the 2010 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for her book Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews and a Lost World of Global Commerce(Yale University Press). 


UCLA has supported programming in Sephardic Studies since receiving an endowment from the Maurice Amado Foundation in 1989. Initially UCLA hosted a series of distinguished and diverse scholars to serve as Visiting Maurice Amado Professors for one quarter each year.  Among the visitors were Professors Yom-Tov Assis, Jonathan Israel, David Gilitz, Moshe Idel, Moshe Lazar, Edward Seroussi, Jonathan Ray and Shalom Sabar.

Link to Read an Interview with Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Maurice Amado Chair


2013-2014 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation 

The Messiah, the Crowd, and the Critic

Seminar: Feb. 26, 2014 • 6275 Bunche Hall • 12 PM

Yaakov Dweck (Princeton)

An itinerant Sephardic rabbi, Jacob Sasportas (1610-1698), emerged in the middle of the 1660s as the most articulate opponent of the mass messianic movement coalescing around Sabbetai Zevi and his prophet Nathan of Gaza. This talk will focus on a central strand of his criticism, the enthusiasm of the Jewish crowd, and examine the different components of his criticism. A native of Spanish occupied Oran, Sasportas spent the second half of his life in the four major centers of the western Sephardic diaspora: Amsterdam, London, Hamburg, and Livorno.

Mixing Musics: Istanbul Jews and Their Sacred Song

Program: April 3, 2014 • Royce 314 • 4 PM

Maureen Jackson (Carleton College) and nir Beken (UCLA)

 This lecture-demonstration explores the linked histories of Istanbul, its Jewish community, and historical musical traces of multi-religious music-making in Ottoman and Turkish society. Author of the newly published Mixing Musics: Turkish Jewry and the Urban Landscape of a Sacred Song (Stanford University Press), Dr. Jackson focuses on the Jewish religious repertoire known as the Maftirim, which developed in interaction with Ottoman court music. Her research in Istanbul illuminates the people, places, and practices that shaped an Ottoman music world, Jewish cultural life, and continuities and ruptures experienced across the 20th and 21st centuries. Ethnomusicologist and oud master, Dr. Munir Beken, will bring to life the Turkish musical forms at the heart of Dr. Jackson’s study.


Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era

Seminar/Book Launch: May 6, 2014 • 306 Royce Hall • 12 PM

Julia Phillips Cohen (Vanderbilt)

 Sephardi Jews’ relationship with Islamic Ottomanism was in many cases deeply ambivalent. Finding themselves torn between civic and Islamic forms of imperial identification during the Ottoman Empire of the late 19th century, Otoman Jews soon learned that both position could entail uncomfortable choices and disturbing consequences.


Against Autobiography: Albert Memmi and the Production of Theory

Book Launch: May 15, 2014 • 314 Royce Hall • 12 PM

Lia Brozgal (UCLA)

The novels and essays of Judeo-Tunisian writer and thinker Albert Memmi are often understood to be deeply autobiographical and, indeed, much prevailing criticism of Memmi (and his Maghrebi contemporaries) remains invested in questions of authenticity, verisimilitude, and authorial identity. In this talk, Brozgal shifts the focus from the author to theoretical questions by setting Memmi’s work in dialogue with several major critical shifts in the late twentieth-century literary and cultural landscape. Showing how Memmi’s novels and essays produce theories that resonate both within and beyond their original contexts allows works of francophone Maghrebi literature to be read as complex literary objects, rather than as ethnographic curios.


Meet some of our graduate students:


anat-pic_smAnat Mooreville (History) received her undergraduate degree from Brown University.  Her research concerns how the ophthalmic disease trachoma became a focal point in considering the relationships between Jewish and Arab identities, cultures, and environments in Mandate Palestine, both through the Hadassah Medical Organization's anti-trachoma campaign in Yemenite communities, and for Jewish ophthalmologists in private practice.


Alma-Heckman_smAlma Heckman (History) received her undergraduate training at Wellesley College, where she worked with the distinguished historian of Sephardic culture Frances Malino; she subsequently received a Fulbright Fellowship to spend a year in Morocco exploring the history of Moroccan Jewry.
BryanKirschenBryan Kirschen (Spanish & Portuguese)  earned an M.A. in Spanish Linguistics from Middlebury College as well as an M.A. in Spanish Literature from SUNY at Binghamton. As an undergraduate at Binghamton, he majored in Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic. Kirschen’s interest is Judeo-Spanish, the language of the Sephardim dating back to the Iberian Peninsula. His research reveals how political, economic, and social processes are grounded in communicative practices and linguistic forms.


Rachel-SchleyRachel Schley (History) recently returned from a year abroad as a Research Fellow at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France. A graduate of UCLA, Rachel chose to continue her studies here because of the “caliber of the history department and the tremendous faculty.” Her research concerns the legalization of Algerian Jews under early French colonial rule.


CSUCLAbioChris Silver (History)  received his BA in Middle Eastern Studies from UC Berkeley. Since graduating, Chris has worked for Middle East-focused NGOs and recently served as Director of the Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues. He was the 2005 Haas Koshland Award winner, which supported a year of research and study in Israel, and a past recipient of a language fellowship from the American Institute for Maghrib Studies. His current research interests include the role of Jews in the North African music industry and Jewish life in the pre-Sahara.
Murat Yildiz-001Murat C. Yildiz (History)  received his B.A. in History and Political Science from UC San Diego. His dissertation, “Strengthening, Training, and Preparing the Sons of the Nation(s): Late Ottoman Physical Culture,” focuses on the emergence of a shared physical culture among Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Istanbul during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His research explores the interconnection of national and imperial identity, the body, and masculinity through the lens of physical training, gymnastics, and sports.