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.

2018-2019 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation

Khalid Ben-Srhir

Jewish Studies in Morocco: A Conversation

Khalid Ben-Srhir (Mohammed V. University, Rabat)

Aomar Boum (UCLA)

January 15, 2019

Professor Boum will discuss Ben-Srhir’s personal and professional experiences with Jewish history in Morocco, as well as the state and future of research on Moroccan Jews and Judaism.


Thought Crimes: Subversive Politics in Art Made for Medieval Jews

Marc Epstein (Vassar College)

March 7, 2019

This talk will explore issues of temporality in illuminated manuscripts made for Jews in the fourteenth century. What happens, Epstein asks, if we consider the potentially politically subversive implications of implied action? What can we learn from such considerations about the political and theological views of the constellation of patrons, rabbinic advisors, scribes,designers, illustrators and illuminators who collaborated to produce these beautiful and iconographically complex masterpieces?

2017-2018 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation


Save the Data: A Sephardic Antique Roadshow

March 11, 2018
On March 11, 2018, the UCLA Sephardic Archive Initiative and UCLA Library and Special Collections held a joint event to celebrate and launch the latest stage of our collecting and archival projects. The program, “Save the Data: A Sephardic Antique Roadshow” was held at the Charles E. Young Research Library with support from the UC Humanities Research Initiative. Community members were invited to bring their personal and family documents and artefacts relating to Sephardic life and history that could be translated, and interpreted by our team of scholars and volunteers. The day proved to be an astounding success.

2016-2017 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation


Across Legal Lines: Jews and Muslims in Modern Morocco

Jessica Marglin (USC)

November 15, 2016
Through the experiences of a single Jewish family, Marglin charts how the law helped Jews to integrate into Muslim society—until colonial reforms abruptly curtailed their legal mobility.


The Jews and the Iranian Nation Building Projects of the 20th Century

Lior Sternfeld (Penn State)

February 14, 2017
Sternfeld’s talk analyzes the institutional history of the Jewish communities in Iran—and the pivotal role these institutions played in facilitating integration and other social developments.


Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece

Devin Naar (University of Washington)

March 14, 2017
Drawing on newly discovered archival materials in Ladino, Greek, Hebrew, and French, Naar demonstrates how the Jews of Salonica (Thessaloniki), sought to transform themselves from Ottoman Jews into Hellenic Jews during the early 20th century.

2015-2016 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation


Absence and Presence: Readings and Conversation

Dalia Sofer (Author)

April 14, 2016
Sofer discusses her story of rare-gem dealer Isaac Amin as he is arrested, wrongly accused of being a spy. Terrified by his disappearance, his family must reconcile a new world of cruelty and chaos with the collapse of everything they have known.

Photo- Balkan War (Ginio)

The Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the Jewish Communities of the Ottoman Empire: Between Participation and Exclusion

Eyal Ginio (Hebrew University)

April 19, 2016
Using the Ladino and Ottoman press, memoire literature and archival douments, Ginio discusses the dilemmas faced by Ottoman Jews, their changing perceptions of citizenship, and their role in public life on the eve of the Ottoman Empire’s demise.


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.

Maurice Amado Fellows 2016 - 2017

2016-2017 Summer Research Fellows

Jeremy Peretz (World Arts & Cultures) for research on syncretic Judaism in Guyana
Max Daniel (History) to study Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Jews in Los Angeles.


2016-2017 Maurice Amado Student Fellows

Max Daniel, Maurice Amado Fellow, Director of ucLADINO
Chris Silver, Maurice Amado Fellow, Manager of “Sephardic Archive”

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.

MaxDanielsMax Modiano Daniel

(History) completed his BA at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary in American Studies and Jewish literature, where he wrote his honors thesis on the image of Sephardic Jews in modern Jewish culture. After graduation he served as a Jewish Service Corps Fellow in Kishinev, Moldova, where he taught and did community work through the Joint Distribution Committee. He is director of the ucLADINO program.

Simone Salmon

received her BA in music with concentrations in music theory and harp performance from UCLA (2011), and her master’s degree in musicology from the University of Oxford (2014). Upon graduating from Oxford, she served as harpist and keyboardist for the 2014 Thelma Holt International Tour’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but soon found that her focus had shifted to music of the Middle East as she reviewed recordings of her family from Sephardic Turkey. She attempts to play the Turkish oud and additionally hosts a weekly radio show, Los Bilbilikos, in Santa Barbara on Judeo-Spanish music.

Chris SilverChris Silver

(History) received his BA in Middle Eastern Studies from UC Berkeley. Since graduating, he worked for Middle East-focused NGOs, including as director of the Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues. He is now the manager of the UCLA Sephardic Archive while completing his dissertation, “Of Harmony and Discord: Jews and North African Music in the Twentieth Century.”

Meet Some Recent UCLA PhDs Working in Sephardic Studies

BryanKirschen-213x300Bryan Kirschen

(Spanish & Portuguese) is now an Assistant Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at State University of New York, Binghamton. While working on his PhD in Spanish Linguistics at UCLA, Brian cofounded ucLADINO, a student fun organization whose classes, programs, and annual conference have revived interest in the endangered Judeo-Spanish language that Spanish Jews took with them after they were expelled in 1492.

Alma-Heckman_smAlma Heckman

completed her PhD in history from UCLA in 2015 and is now an Assistant Professor of History at UC Santa Cruz. She is currently working on a book manuscript elaborating on her dissertation, entitled Radical Nationalists: Moroccan Jewish Communists 1925-1975. Her project developed out of research she conducted on a Fulbright grant to Morocco in 2009-10 after graduating with a BA in French and Middle Eastern Studies from Wellesley College.

anat-pic_smAnat Mooreville

received her B.A. from Brown University and Ph.D. in History from UCLA. She is currently a post-doc at UC Davis where she is working on a monograph about the relationship between Jews, colonial medicine, and postwar global health in the twentieth century that centers on the eye-disease trachoma. She was previously the Hazel D. Cole Postdoctoral Fellow in the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her recent article, “Eyeing Africa: The Politics of Israeli Ocular Expertise and International Aid, 1959-1973,” has appeared in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of Jewish Social Studies.

Rachel-SchleyRachel Schley

received the UCLA Department of History’s Thomas E. Lifka Prize for dissertations filed in 2014-15 for her thesis, The Tyranny of Tolerance: France, Religion and the Conquest of Algeria 1830-1870. She is currently a Research Associate at Harvard University. Rachel’s BA is from UCLA, as well.

Murat_Yildiz-001-214x300Murat C. Yildiz

is an assistant professor of History at Skidmore College where he specializes in the cultural and social history of the modern middle east. He is also an assistant editor for the Arab Studies Journal. He earned his PhD in history from UCLA. He is currently working on a book manuscript that focuses on the similar and dissimilar ways in which Istanbul’s diverse population “worked out” new understandings of the self, body, gender, and community while exercising, competing, and having fun in schools, at sports clubs, in the press, and on the playing field.