Housed 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.

2019-2020 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation

Image (Danon)

Modernity in the Eastern Sephardi Diaspora: The Jews of Late Ottoman Izmir

Dina Danon (Binghamton University)

February 12, 2020
This lecture will tell the story of a long overlooked Ottoman Jewish community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Drawing extensively on a rich body of previously untapped Ladino archival material, the lecture will also offer a new read on Jewish modernity. Across Europe, Jews were often confronted with the notion that their religious and cultural distinctiveness was somehow incompatible with the modern age. Yet the view from Ottoman Izmir invites a different approach: what happens when Jewish difference is totally unremarkable? What happens when there is no “Jewish Question?” Through the voices of beggars on the street and mercantile elites, shoe-shiners and newspaper editors, rabbis and housewives, this lecture will underscore how it was new attitudes to poverty and social class, not Judaism that most significantly framed this Sephardi community’s encounter with the modern age.

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.