Housed in the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, the Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies offers students at the undergraduate and graduate level the rare opportunity to focus intensively on the study of Sephardic history and culture.  It also hosts lectures, workshops and symposia open to the academic and wider Los Angeles community that cultivate and stimulate this field and situate UCLA as one of its principle hubs.  It has supported international scholarship, building on the solid research and teaching program erected over the course of a decade and a half of Maurice Amado Lectures and more recently by the Maurice Amado Chair.

The UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies is pleased to announce that Aomar Boum has been appointed as the new Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies. Boum has interdisciplinary training in anthropology, history, and Middle Eastern and North African studies. His research, both past and ongoing, reflects an expansive vision of Sephardic studies that aligns with the breadth of focus associated with the Maurice Amado Chair. He has authored or co-authored five books, among many other works, and has a forthcoming book project provisionally entitled “Moroccan Frames, Jewish Portraits: Diasporic Histories from Los Angeles.” His body of work includes localized ethnographic publications on Jewish- Muslim relations in Morocco; efforts to situate Jews and Muslims in relation to other ethnic and religious groups in the Maghrib and the Middle East; research related to the Holocaust and North Africa; and, more recently, work on Moroccan Jewishness as a global phenomenon.

At the Alan D. Leve Center, Boum has led efforts to build partnerships with the Moroccan Jewish community here in Los Angeles and in Morocco, and helped to secure our campus as a destination for scholars and students invested in the histories, cultures, languages, and literatures of Maghribi Jewries.

We congratulate Professor Boum and extend our deepest gratitude to the Maurice Amado Foundation for their enduring support and generosity. Since 1989, Sephardic Studies has developed into an ambitious and intellectually exciting academic focal point on campus, due in great part to our sustained partnership with the Maurice Amado Foundation. As we consider the future of the program under Aomar Boum’s tutelage, we look forward to continuing our collaborative work.

UCLA has supported programming in Sephardic Studies since receiving an endowment from the Maurice Amado Foundation in 1989. Initially UCLA hosted a series of distinguished and diverse scholars to serve as Visiting Maurice Amado Professors for one quarter each year.  Among the visitors were Professors Yom-Tov Assis, Jonathan Israel, David Gilitz, Moshe Idel, Moshe Lazar, Edward Seroussi, Jonathan Ray and Shalom Sabar.

Meet Aomar Boum, UCLA’s new Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies

As a professor of anthropology and of Near Eastern languages and cultures at UCLA, Boum takes a global perspective on the history of Jews from Morocco, including those who settled in Los Angeles, New York or Montreal, while also examining the larger context of minorities in the Middle East and North Africa. (photo: Joel Mason-Gaines/USHMM)

Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies

2022-2023 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation

Recording History: Jews, Muslims, and Music across 20th Century North Africa

Christopher Silver (McGill University) with Aomar Boum (UCLA)

October 20, 2022

If twentieth-century stories of Jews and Muslims in North Africa are usually told separately, Recording History demonstrates that we have not been listening to what brought these communities together: Arab music. With this book, Christopher Silver provides the first history of the music scene and recording industry across Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, and offers striking insights into Jewish-Muslim relations through the rhythms that animated them.

The Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies

2021-2022 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation

Forging Ties, Forging Passports: Migration and the Modern Sephardic Diaspora

Devi Mays (University of Michigan) with Aomar Boum (UCLA)

June 1, 2022

Forging Ties, Forging Passports is a history of migration and nation-building from the vantage point of those who lived between states. Devi Mays traces the histories of Ottoman Sephardi Jews who emigrated to the Americas—and especially to Mexico—in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the complex relationships they maintained to legal documentation as they migrated and settled into new homes. Mays considers the shifting notions of belonging, nationality, and citizenship through the stories of individual women, men, and families who navigated these transitions in their everyday lives, as well as through the paperwork they carried.

Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies

Refusing the Gift of Citizenship

Charles A. McDonald (Northwestern University) with Aomar Boum (UCLA)

November 3, 2021

Scholars writing about the Iberian citizenship laws have argued that we need to investigate how applying for citizenship has often prompted Sephardi descendants to rethink their ancestry, identity, and attachments. But what about those who chose not to apply? How should we read their decisions? Based on ethnographic fieldwork with prospective citizenship-seekers, this talk reads the refusal of citizenship as a political claim. I argue that any reckoning with the Iberian citizenship laws is incomplete without an analysis of how people negotiate citizenship and its attendant claims, particularly when states promote citizenship as a form of historical reparation.

Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies

2020-2021 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation

The Sultan’s Communists: Moroccan Jews and the Politics of Belonging

Alma Heckman (UC Santa Cruz) with Chris Silver (McGill) and Aomar Boum (UCLA)

April 26, 2021

Challenging traditional narratives of Moroccan Jewish history in the 20th century, The Sultan’s Communists explores the lives of five prominent Moroccan Jewish Communists involved in Morocco’s national liberation project who survived oppressive post-independence authoritarian rule to become heroic emblems of state-sponsored Muslim-Jewish tolerance, offering a new perspective on how Jews grappled with colonialism, nationalism, Zionism, and citizenship in the context of the post-independence Arab world.

Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies

The Blood Libel in Modern Eastern Europe: A Social History

Bryan K. Roby (University of Michigan) in conversation with Aomar Boum (UCLA)

November 5, 2020

This talk explores African-American interactions with Middle Eastern Jewish Israelis in the 1950s and 1960s. The focus will be on how African-Americans navigated racial constructs in Israeli society as well as an exploration of their observations on racial dynamics in Israel. I center the travel writings of scholar and social worker Ida B. Jiggetts, who wrote extensively on the social positioning of North African and Yemenite Jewish immigrants to Israel. I conclude with reflections on how Israeli Jewish racial constructs influence current day perceptions of Israel.

Maurice Amado Seminar in Sephardic Studies

2019-2020 Events Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation

Image (Danon)

Modernity in the Eastern Sephardi Diaspora: The Jews of Late Ottoman Izmir

Dina Danon (Binghamton University)

February 12, 2020
This lecture will tell the story of a long overlooked Ottoman Jewish community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Drawing extensively on a rich body of previously untapped Ladino archival material, the lecture will also offer a new read on Jewish modernity. Across Europe, Jews were often confronted with the notion that their religious and cultural distinctiveness was somehow incompatible with the modern age. Yet the view from Ottoman Izmir invites a different approach: what happens when Jewish difference is totally unremarkable? What happens when there is no “Jewish Question?” Through the voices of beggars on the street and mercantile elites, shoe-shiners and newspaper editors, rabbis and housewives, this lecture will underscore how it was new attitudes to poverty and social class, not Judaism that most significantly framed this Sephardi community’s encounter with the modern age.

2018-2019 Events/Podcasts Sponsored by the Maurice Amado Foundation


Thought Crimes: Subversive Politics in Art Made for Medieval Jews

Marc Epstein (Vassar College)

March 7, 2019

Marc Michael Epstein will explore issues of temporality (the way in which the passing of time is indicated or implied) in illuminated manuscripts made for Jews in the fourteenth century. What happens when, viewing images as a frozen snapshots in time, we consider the potentially politically subversive implications of the implied action that will ensue in the moment after the one that is frozen in the frame? What can we learn from such considerations about the political and theological views of the constellation of patrons, rabbinic advisors, scribes, designers, illustrators and illuminators who collaborated to produce these beautiful and iconographically complex masterpieces?

Khalid Ben-Srhir

Jewish Studies in Morocco: A Conversation

Khalid Ben-Srhir (Mohammed V. University, Rabat) with Aomar Boum (UCLA)

January 15, 2019

Professor Khalid Ben-srhir is by academic trade an expert on British Moroccan relations. However, in Morocco he is also known as “Mr. Jewish Studies translator.” Ben-srhir started his career as a secondary school teacher in Morocco’s southern hinterland before he joined University Mohamed V as a Professor. Today, he is not only the editor of the oldest history journal in Morocco, Hesperis-Tamuda, but also a pioneer and an established name in the Arabic and French translation of Jewish Studies scholarship. In this informal conversation, UCLA Professor Aomar Boum will talk with the Center’s Moroccan guest about his personal and professional experiences with Jewish history in Morocco, as well as the state and future of research on Moroccan Jews and Judaism.

Maurice Amado Fellows

2019-2020 Maurice Amado Research Fellows

Fall 2018/Winter 2019
Simone Salmon (Ethnomusicology) traveled to Albuquerque, NM to present a paper on Jewish diaspora at the annual Society for Ethnomusicology conference.

Maxwell Greenberg (Chicana/o Studies) traveled to Tijuana, Mexico to conduct dissertation research at the National Government Archives where he digitized and transcribed
oral histories with Sephardic entrepreneurs central to the development of Tijuana’s economic and urban development in the 20th century.

Spring/Summer 2019
Maxwell Greenberg (Chicana/o Studies) traveled to Boston to present a paper at the 2019 Latin American Studies Association Conference on “The Borderlands of Jewishness in 20th Century Tijuana, Mexico.”

Molly Oringer (Anthropology) conducted ethnographic research in Beirut on “Spatial Relations: Post-War Rehabilitation and the Afterlives of Jewish Terrains in Lebanon.”

Simone Salmon (Ethnomusicology) traveled to Istanbul Technical University to present a paper on “Multivalent Ladino Song in Los Angeles.”

Jessie Stoolman (Anthropology) traveled to Morocco to research at the national archives in Rabat and the library in Tetouan to study the racialization of minority communities under Spanish colonialism, namely, Jewish and black communities.

Harrison Woods (History) visited Beirut, Lebanon to study Jewish political culture at American University of Beirut’s archive as well as the National Archives.

2018-2019 Maurice Amado Student Fellows

Max Daniel (History) Project Manager, Sephardic Archive Initiative project.

Rachel Smith (History) Lead Researcher, Sephardic Archive Initiative project.

2018-2019 Summer Research Fellows

Kaleb Adney (History) traveled to Thessaloniki to do research in the Historical Archive of Macedonia and look at records from the Ottoman Empire.

Julie Botnick (Info. Studies) created a participatory digital community archive in partnership with the Los Angeles Sephardic community to present at the Association of Jewish Libraries conference.

Molly Oringer (Anthropology) traveled to Beirut to explore how sites of a former Jewish community that has all but disappeared embody the ostensibly multifaceted, multi-sectarian nature of Lebanon—once considered the impetus for the so-called Balkanization of the region.

Simone Salmon (Ethnomusicology) presented a paper at the International Council for Traditional Music Mediterranean Symposium in Essaouira, Morocco.

2017-2018 Maurice Amado Student Fellows

Max Daniel (History) ucLADINO/Maurice Amado Fellow, Manager of Sephardic Archive project.

2017-2018 Summer Research Fellows

Simone Salmon (Ethnomusicology) attended a Soletrero workshop at the University of Colorado, Boulder on the cursive form of Ladino that resembles Arabic script.

Max Daniel (History) to research U.S. Sephardic communities in the mid-to-late 20th century, with a primary focus on Los Angeles.

Max Greenberg (History) to examine oral histories of Sephardic immigrants to Mexico City in the archives of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as part of a larger project on San Diego’s Jewish Mexican-American community.

2017-2018 Maurice Amado Student Fellows

Max Daniel (History) ucLADINO/Maurice Amado Fellow, Manager of Sephardic Archive project.

2016-2017 Summer Research Fellows

Jeremy Peretz (World Arts & Cultures) for research on syncretic Judaism in Guyana
Max Daniel (History) to study Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Jews in Los Angeles.


2016-2017 Maurice Amado Student Fellows

Max Daniel, Maurice Amado Fellow, Director of ucLADINO
Chris Silver, Maurice Amado Fellow, Manager of “Sephardic Archive”

Meet Some Recent UCLA PhDs Working in Sephardic Studies

BryanKirschen-213x300Bryan Kirschen

(Spanish & Portuguese) is now an Assistant Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at State University of New York, Binghamton. While working on his PhD in Spanish Linguistics at UCLA, Brian cofounded ucLADINO, a student fun organization whose classes, programs, and annual conference have revived interest in the endangered Judeo-Spanish language that Spanish Jews took with them after they were expelled in 1492.

Alma-Heckman_smAlma Heckman

completed her PhD in history from UCLA in 2015 and is now an Assistant Professor of History at UC Santa Cruz. She is currently working on a book manuscript elaborating on her dissertation, entitled Radical Nationalists: Moroccan Jewish Communists 1925-1975. Her project developed out of research she conducted on a Fulbright grant to Morocco in 2009-10 after graduating with a BA in French and Middle Eastern Studies from Wellesley College.

anat-pic_smAnat Mooreville

received her B.A. from Brown University and Ph.D. in History from UCLA. She is currently a post-doc at UC Davis where she is working on a monograph about the relationship between Jews, colonial medicine, and postwar global health in the twentieth century that centers on the eye-disease trachoma. She was previously the Hazel D. Cole Postdoctoral Fellow in the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her recent article, “Eyeing Africa: The Politics of Israeli Ocular Expertise and International Aid, 1959-1973,” has appeared in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of Jewish Social Studies.

Rachel-SchleyRachel Schley

received the UCLA Department of History’s Thomas E. Lifka Prize for dissertations filed in 2014-15 for her thesis, The Tyranny of Tolerance: France, Religion and the Conquest of Algeria 1830-1870. She is currently a Research Associate at Harvard University. Rachel’s BA is from UCLA, as well.

Christopher Silver

serves as Segal Family Assistant Professor in Jewish History and Culture in the Department of Jewish Studies at McGill University. He earned his PhD in History from UCLA. Recipient of awards from the Posen Foundation, the American Academy of Jewish Research, and the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, Silver’s scholarship on Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia has appeared in Hespéris-Tamuda, History Today, and online for the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia. He is currently completing a book manuscript on the subject of Jews, Muslims, and music in twentieth century North Africa.

Murat_Yildiz-001-214x300Murat C. Yildiz

is an assistant professor of History at Skidmore College where he specializes in the cultural and social history of the modern middle east. He is also an assistant editor for the Arab Studies Journal. He earned his PhD in history from UCLA. He is currently working on a book manuscript that focuses on the similar and dissimilar ways in which Istanbul’s diverse population “worked out” new understandings of the self, body, gender, and community while exercising, competing, and having fun in schools, at sports clubs, in the press, and on the playing field.