steinHoused in the UCLA Alan D. Leve 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 open to the academic and wider Los Angeles community that cultivate and stimulate this field and situate UCLA as one of its principle hubs.  It has supported international scholarship, building 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.


Since 2008, the Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies at UCLA has been led by Prof. Sarah Abrevaya Stein, the Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies. Professor Stein’s appointment was the result of a nearly twenty-year search.  Author of five books and an extensive body of scholarly articles, Stein’s research has been lauded and supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, American Historical Association, and National Jewish Book Council, which awarded her the 2010 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. An elected member of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Stein is co-editor (with David Biale of UCD) of the distinguished Stanford University Press Series in Jewish History and Culture and co-editor (with Tony Michels and Ken Moss) of Jewish Social Studies.


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.

2014-2015 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation


Ladino’s Controversial History

Olga Borovaya (Stanford)

October 14, 2014
For more than a century, everything related to the history and use of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) has been a matter of disagreement among scholars. In this talk on the Ibero-Romance language used by Sephardi Jews in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean in the 16th through mid-20th centuries, Borovaya will offer a history of the Sephardi vernacular and elucidate some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the language.

Photo (Kosansky)

When Jews Speak Arabic: Jewish Languages in Colonial Morocco

Oren Kosansky (Lewis & Clark College)

February 24, 2015
The Jews of Morocco have long used multiple languages within North Africa and broader Mediterranean networks. Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish, Berber, and Arabic were among the idioms in common usage. Yet, the early twentieth century marked a significant language shift that captured the interest of French colonial forces that occupied Morocco from 1912 – 1956. Reducing a much more dynamic linguistic environment to a single channel of transformation, colonial linguists focused predominantly on Arabic as the language of a receding Moroccan Jewish past and French as the language of more promising future. This presentation considers how such studies represented Moroccan Jews as both indigenous North Africans limited by their Oriental language and potentially modern subjects of the colonial project.  I conclude by considering how French colonial research continues to inform the study of Modern Judeo-Arabic, particularly with respect the relationship between spoken and written language.


Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700–1950

Sarah Abrevaya Stein (UCLA)

April 21, 2015
This ground-breaking documentary history contains over 150 primary sources originally written in 15 languages by or about Sephardi Jews. Designed for use in the classroom, these documents offer students an intimate view of how Sephardim experienced the major regional and world events of the modern era. They also provide a vivid exploration of the quotidian lives of Sephardi women, men, boys, and girls in the Judeo-Spanish heartland of the Ottoman Balkans and Middle East, as well as the émigré centers which Sephardim settled throughout the twentieth century, including North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

2014-2015 Events Cosponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation

schechter geniza

Languages of Everyday Writing in the Medieval Islamic World: History, Methodology, Digital Prospects

An International Workshop on Digital Geniza (UCLA)

December 8-9, 2014
The Cairo Geniza consists of over 380,000 fragments of writing composed between 870 and 1896 CE. While most are biblical, Talmudic, and rabbinic texts, the Geniza’s 8,000-18,000 ‘documentary’ fragments offer a unique window on daily Jewish life. However, since the contracts, doctors’ prescriptions, shopping lists, and business letters are written in dialects of medieval vernacular Arabic in Hebrew characters, often interspersed with Hebrew and Aramaic, very few scholars have direct access to them. This academic workshop, intended for faculty and graduate students, is part of an effort to develop a research website to make these remarkable primary sources more accessible.


They Were Promised the Sea

Film Screening and Discussion

February 4, 2015
Kathy Wazana’s They Were Promised the Sea is an intimate journey shot in Morocco, Israel-Palestine, and New York. Her research into her family origins in Morocco unleashed a complex web of questions about dual identity, political opportunism, and the challenges faced by those torn between Homeland and Promised Land.

Edwin Seroussi

Folksongs of Modernity: A Judeo-Spanish Perspective

Edwin Seroussi (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

February 25, 2015
Edwin Seroussi is the Emanuel Alexandre Professor of Musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Director of the Jewish Music Research Centre. He has published extensively on North African and Eastern Mediterranean Jewish musical traditions, on Judeo-Islamic relations in music and on Israeli popular music. He foundedYuval Music Series and is editor of the acclaimed CD series Anthology of Music Traditions in Israel.

ucLADINO logo

Documenting Judeo-Spanish

4th Annual ucLADINO Symposium

March 3-4, 2015
Graduate students, professors, scholars, and community activists from a variety of disciplines will present research geared to this year’s theme, “Documenting Judeo-Spanish.” Avner Perez, Founder and Director of the Ma’ale Adumim Institute for the Documentation of Judeo-Spanish and Sephardic Culture (Israel), and Marie-Christine Bornes Varol, Professor of Judeo-Spanish Studies at the National Institute for Oriental Languages & Civilizations (INALCO- France) will be the keynote speakers. For location and schedule please

Maurice Amado Fellows 2014 - 2015

2014-2015 Summer Research Fellows

Ceren Abi (History)

for research in Istanbul libraries on the impact of the Allied occupation after World War I on the diverse Jewish communities of the Ottoman Empire

Bryan Kirschen (Spanish & Portuguese)

for field work on interactions of U.S. Ladino speakers with modern Spanish speakers. He also received a Bluma Appel Summer Research Fellowship for this project.

Ethan Pack (Comparative Literature)

to attend a two week summer school in Granada, one of the major centers of Al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) followed by archival research in Israel on the writings of the medieval Sephardic Rabbi Abraham Abulafia. Pack’s research is supported by a Bluma Appel Summer Research Fellowship, as well.


2014-2015 Maurice Amado Program Scholarship in Sephardic Studies

Yaron Spiwak (Jewish Studies)

will use the grant to create a documentary about the journey of his mother’s large family from Fez, Morocco to Israel in the 1950s. He plans to interview his mother and her eight siblings and create a video.


2014-2015 Maurice Amado Student Fellows

Bryan Kirschen

Maurice Amado Senior Fellow

Jennifer Guiterrez

Maurice Amado Junior Fellow

Payton Phillips Quintanilla

Maurice Amado Junior Fellow

Meet Some of our Graduate Students working in Sephardic Studies

Ceren Abi

(History) earned her B.A. in History and Political Science from Istanbul Bilgi University and her M.A. in European History through an international program which encompassed study and research in Leiden University, the Sorbonne, and Oxford University. After working at the UN Development Program in Istanbul, Turkey, she received a Fulbright Fellowship for her doctoral studies at UCLA. Her research concerns the occupation of the Ottoman Empire after WW I and the kaleidoscopic relationships between occupiers and occupied peoples, especially the Levantine and Jewish communities.

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.

BryanKirschen-213x300Bryan 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.

Chris SilverChris 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-001-214x300Murat 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.