The 2016 Adam Cherrick Lecture -- Family Papers: A Sephardi Journey through the Twentieth Century

Sarah Abrevaya Stein

Why does a family save its papers?  How does the instinct for preservation defy wars, fire, and genocide; migration and conversion; family feuds; even a stubborn disconnection from the past?  What do we preserve and what does it mean to those who find it?  And what is lost to those of us—the great majority in this day and age—who no longer write letters and no longer have family papers to save? A Sephardi Journey through the Twentieth Century meditates on these questions whilst undertaking a voyage through the intertwined histories of Sephardi Jewry and the twentieth century—a century of stunning tumult for this community.  While it tells the history of a single family, this presentation is also the history of a collection:  a reflection on how one family archive came to be built and preserved, and how it knit together a family even as the historic Sephardi heartland of southeastern Europe was unraveling.  

Sarah Abrevaya Stein (PhD Stanford) holds the Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her scholarship, which explores how modern Jewish lives have been shaped by local, national and global forces, has been supported by prestigious fellowships from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, and others. Her books have won the Salo Wittmayer Baron Prize in Jewish Studies (Making Jews Modern: The Yiddish and Ladino Press in the Russian and Ottoman Empires, Indiana University Press, 2004); the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature (Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce, Yale, 2008) and the National Book Award (Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950, coedited with Julia Phillips Cohen, Stanford, 2014). Stein’s recent publications include A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica: The Ladino Memoir of Sa’adi Besalel a-Levi (coeditor with Aron Rodrigue, Stanford, 2012); Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria, (Chicago, 2014); and the forthcoming Extraterritorial Dreams: European Citizenship, Sephardi Jews, and the Ottoman Twentieth Century (Chicago).  Stein is an elected member of the American Academy for Jewish Research, co-editor of the Stanford University Press Series in Jewish History and Culture (with David Biale), and co-editor of Jewish Social Studies (with Tony Michels and Ken Moss).

This lecture is free and open to the public.