March, 2020

24MAr6:30 pm- 8:00 pmSephardic Journeys Through the Twentieth CenturyAlbertine bookstore, 972 5th Ave6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Event Details

Sarah Stein in conversation with Clemence Boulouque on her new book Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Presented in collaboration with the Albertine Bookstore.

The Levy family established itself in Salonica (now Thessaloniki, Greece) in the 18th century and for some two hundred years published books and newspapers for the region’s Sephardic Jews. With the Ottoman Empire’s collapse, the Levys scattered throughout the world, but kept in touch through letters. Drawing on this rich correspondence, Sarah Stein, award-winning author of Extraterritorial Dreams, uses the family’s experience to trace the history of Sephardic Jews through the twentieth century, showing how individual lives were affected by world wars, shifting political boundaries, and the Holocaust—which wiped out several branches of the Levy family. Salonika, like many Mediterranean and Balkan ports, was a cultural medley difficult to imagine today. The Levys “were creatures of a polyglot empire, and nationalism wasn’t their style. Their faith was in Western progress and good will. After World War I, Sam, the journalist, had in fact written to the Versailles peace conference to propose that Salonica become “a free and neutral city administered by Jews” with a vote in the League of Nations: “a Jewish city-state that was neither Zionist nor Greek.” It was a great idea, and of course it was doomed along with the world he knew.”

Sarah Abrevaya Stein is Professor of History, Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies, and Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow and co-winner of the 2010 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, her award-winning books include Extraterritorial Dreams: European Citizenship, Sephardi Jews, and the Ottoman Twentieth Century (2016), Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria (2014), Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce(2008), and Making Jews Modern: the Yiddish and Ladino Press in the Russian and Ottoman Empires (2004).

Clémence Boulouque is the Carl and Bernice Witten Assistant Professor of Jewish and Israel studies at Columbia University. Her research interests include Jewish thought and mysticism and their intersection with psychoanalysis and the arts. A former radio host and book critic, she is also the author of novels and essays published by Gallimard in her native France. A graduate from the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris, the ESSEC business school, she established herself as a renowned writer as well as a literary critic in print and broadcast. Following her first book, Mort d’un silence, an acclaimed best-seller in France turned into a documentary (The Judge’s Daughter), she published seven books, ranging from fiction to book-length interviews, notably Amos Oz. 

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