Synopses & Reviews
Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies have seen an unprecedented diversification in focus over the course of the last twenty years, yet neither pedagogical materials nor documentary compendia have kept pace with these dramatic changes. This comprehensive documentary reader fills the void in modern Jewish and Ottoman history, presenting a staggering array of primary sources generated by or about Sephardi Jews in the heartland of modern Judeo-Spanish culture (Southeastern Europe and the Levant under Ottoman and post-Ottoman rule) and in its diaspora (the United States, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and Africa). The approximately 150 sources in this editionoriginally written in fifteen languages, including Ladino, Hebrew, Ottoman Turkish, Modern Turkish, French, Greek, Serbian, Croatian, Bulgarian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Yiddish, and Englishhave been selected carefully and specifically for students, researchers, and general readers. Individuals researching life in the nation-states that emerged after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire will find in this collection perspectives and selections previously inaccessible to them. At long last, this volume makes available the largely unknown works of the individuals who drafted them, and should expand the fields of Jewish Studies, Ottoman Studies, and Middle East Studies in multiple and crucial ways.
"This extraordinary collection of texts, eloquently presented and analyzed, opens a window to the Judeo-Spanish communities of the late Ottoman and post-Ottoman world, and the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and transnational world of the Mediterranean that the Sephardic Jews inhabited. Sephardi Lives greatly contributes to the scholarship of the lesser-studied culture of Ottoman Jews, their experience with the forces of modernity and the turbulent transition from empire to nation states, and ultimately, their destruction or dispersion from the Mediterranean. It will be an invaluable resource for students and scholars of modern Jewish, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean history."Daniel J. Schroeter, University of Minnesota
"Sephardi Lives covers a vast territory chronologically, geographically, and topically, ranging from secular and religious politics to everyday life. Highly engaging voices from eighteenth-century scholars and nineteenth-century divorcées to twentieth-century Ottoman draftees inform readers of the vast variety and richness of Sephardi experiences. For scholars as well as students, a pleasure to read."Marion Kaplan, New York University
"Sephardi Lives is a book like no otherthe first documentary history of the modern Judeo-Spanish world. It is a work of staggering erudition and deep empirical reach that the editors' discerning, creative, and intelligent hands deliver to the reader with deft care and smooth subtlety. Hailing from Salonica to Seattle, the Congo to Mexico, the hundreds of people you will meet in this book open up the Sephardi experience of the last few centuries in all its cultural richness, global stretch, and political and economic complexity. This is a book of singular importance that will remain foundational for generations of students and scholars."Alan Mikhail, Yale University
"Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950 is a gem of a book. It contains an expansive array of documents never before gathered together . . . with their translations from the many languages of the Sephardi world . . . This pioneering work by the editors Julia Phillips Cohen and Sarah Abrevaya Stein highlights a minority within a minority group, barely visible in standard Jewish history courses and texts, despite a flurry of excellent work in this field in the last few decades. With its depth and breadth of scholarship, Sephardi Lives both undergirds the studies that have preceded it and points the way forward. Indeed, the work has the potential to transform the teaching and understanding of modern Jewish history if it receives the attention it deserves."Diana Matza, H-Net
"Sephardi Lives presents the reader with an outstanding collection of primary source documents portraying a broad spectrum of experience in the lives of the Judeo-Spanish population expelled from the Iberian peninsula during the late 14th and 15th centuries. In contrast to other documentary histories this compilation focuses not only on the political, the famous, and the infamous, but also on the everyday affairs of the people . . . Rich and heterogeneous, this wonderful compilation is an outstanding endeavor to preserve a history and culture that might otherwise be lost. With notes and extensive index, Cohen and Stein's collection of documents are essential to the study of the Sephardim, and to the understanding of culture and its synthesis."Randall C. Belinfante, Jewish Book Council
"In their new anthology, Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950, Professors Julia Phillips Cohen and Sarah Abrevaya Stein present a vivid picture of the diverse ways in which the Jews residing in (and migrating from) what they call the 'Judeo-Spanish heartland of Southeastern Europe, Anatolia, and the Levant' adjusted to the profound changes of their era. Drawing on memoirs, newspapers, and a variety of archival sources written in 15 different languages, they give us a broad overview of a world that is in danger of being forgotten."Jewish Review of Books
"This collection is a most welcome contribution to Jewish studies in general and Sephardi studies in particular . . . The texts are very well chosen, presented in clear language, and each one is enhanced by an informative introduction and footnotes, providing reference notes regarding the source, its location in cases of archival sources and private collections, original language, and translator . . . It brings to light numerous aspects of Sephardi lives over a long period and broad geographical spectrum. It is an important contribution not only to Sephardi studies but to Jewish studies in general as well as to minority and cultural studies, and will most likely become a basic reference source."Rachel Simon, Association of Jewish Libraries
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 Levant, as well as the émigré centers which Sephardim settled throughout the twentieth century, including Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia.
About the Author
Julia Phillips Cohen is Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. Sarah Abrevaya Stein is Professor of History and Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies at UCLA.