Sarah Stein in conversation with Aron Rodrigue on her new book Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Click here to register The Levy family
Sarah Stein in conversation with Aron Rodrigue on her new book Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
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.”
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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).
Aron Rodrigue is the Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University. He teaches courses in Modern Jewish History, the history and culture of Sephardic Jews, the Jews of Modern France, and the Ottoman Empire. His scholarship focuses on the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in modern times, and his writings are considered among the most influential in the field. Rodrigue earned his PhD at Harvard University, and has held fellowships at the American Academy of Jewish Research, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, among others.