Introduction to Sephardic History in Greece


Wednesday May 4

Time (Eastern Time)

6:00 PM  –  7:15 PM


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Introduction to Sephardic History in Salonica
May 4 - 25, 2022
Join the Museum for an intimate tour through the history of Sephardic Jewry, Ladino culture, and the Jewish heartland of southeastern Europe and Anatolia—all through the tale of a single, extraordinary family from Salonica (current-day Thessaloniki, Greece). This virtual adult education course will be taught by Dr. Sarah Abrevaya Stein, the Viterbi Family Endowed Chair in Mediterranean Jewish Studies at UCLA, and will meet weekly on Wednesdays in May from 6:00 to 7:15 PM ET. Space is limited.

Dr. Stein is the author or editor of nine books. Her most recent book, Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century, explores the intertwined histories of the Levy family, Sephardic Jewry generally, and the dramatic ruptures that transformed southeastern Europe and the Judeo-Spanish diaspora. The book also traces the history of a collection, reflecting 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.

Non-members: $144
Individual, Dual, and Friends and Family members: $115
Sustaining level Museum memberships and above ($250+): Free

Registration is for the full series. Classes cannot be purchased individually. All registrants will receive access to recordings of the classes. 
Session 1: Sephardic Foundations

Wednesday, May 4 | 6:00 to 7:15 PM ET
We begin with a whirlwind exploration of 500 years of life in the Ottoman Empire, beginning with the arrival of Jewish refugees from the Iberian Expulsion in the late fifteenth century, the initial shaping of a Judeo-Spanish language and culture in diaspora, and Jews’ integration into a complex Ottoman social landscape. During these foundational centuries of modern Sephardic history, the Levy family migrated to the Ottoman lands from Amsterdam, Italy, Eastern Europe and beyond, eventually creating a thriving publishing house they would maintain for generations. In the increasingly vibrant port city of Salonica, this family joined and became cultural leaders of an internally-diverse “Sephardic” Ottoman community.
Session 2: The Shaping of Modern Sephardic Culture
Wednesday, May 11 | 6:00 to 7:15 PM ET
By the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Salonica was a pivotal center of the modern Jewish world—and one of the few cities in the world to claim a majority Jewish population. Using the Levy family as a guide, we explore the feel of daily life in Salonica, the evolution of Ottoman society, the paths of modernization that Sephardic youth gravitated towards at a time of social change, and the radical challenges and opportunities facing Jewish women, men, and children. All this took place against the backdrop of dramatic shifts within the Ottoman Empire and, eventually, its dismantling and the creation of new states. How did the Sephardic community—and the Levy family in particular—whether these ruptures? What choices shaped their experience of the twentieth century?
Session 3: The Holocaust
Wednesday, May 18 | 6:00 to 7:15 PM ET
The Holocaust is all too often thought as an Ashkenazi trauma. But in Salonica (and Greece more generally) Sephardic Jews suffered among the highest rates of annihilation anywhere in Europe. Our third session explores the unfolding of the Holocaust in the Sephardic heartland of Europe, and traces its horrific effects upon the Levy family, now scattered across Greece, France, Portugal, Spain, England, and beyond. We learn, too, about a dreadful family secret: that one member of the Levy clan abetted the Nazi occupiers, proving to be, after the war, the only Jew in all of Europe to be tried by a state at the behest of its community, found guilty of collaboration, and executed for his crimes.

Session 4: Postwar Recalibrations
Wednesday, May 25 | 6:00 to 7:15 PM ET
With the near evisceration of Jewish Salonica, how did the Levy family remain connected to their past, and one another, in the wake of the Holocaust? Our final course considers how the post-war decades were experienced by Sephardic Jews as they sought restitution, reparations, and recovery. We follow the Levy family through to the present day, considering how their lives (and the fabric of their family tree) were forever changed by a book about their shared past.