From the Mediterranean to St. Louis and Beyond: Sephardic Jews, Migration, and Race in the United States

  • Sunday, April 18, 2021 • 5:00 pm
  • Virtual Event

Devin E. Naar, PhD – Isaac Alhadeff Professor of Sephardic Studies and Chair of the Sephardic Studies Program at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Sephardic Jews from the Muslim world of the Ottoman Empire who came to the United States during the early twentieth century stood apart from the vast majority of American Jews, not only due to their relatively small numbers, but also because of how immigration authorities and established Ashkenazi Jewish institutions (mis)classified and racialized the newcomers due to their distinctive places of origin, languages, cultures, customs, and appearance. This lecture tells the little known story of Ottoman Jews in the United States, including their efforts to navigate an American immigration system profoundly shaped by racial hierarchies, antisemitism, and Islamophobia; their attempts to evade deportation; and their initial forays into establishing new communities, institutions, and cultural initiatives across the country–including in St. Louis.

Devin E. Naar is the Isaac Alhadeff Professor of Sephardic Studies and associate professor of history and Jewish studies at the University of Washington. An alumnus of Washington University in St. Louis, Naar served as a Fulbright scholar in Greece. As chair of the Sephardic Studies Program, he has established one of the world’s largest digital repositories of books and archives pertaining to the Sephardic Jewish experience. His first book, Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece, won a 2016 National Jewish Book Award as well as the 2017 Edmund Keeley Prize for best book awarded by the Modern Greek Studies Association. His new book project focuses on Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, Race, and Migration in the United States.

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