Launched in the spring of 2015, the UCLA Sephardic Archive Initiative (SAI), aims to:
work with partners in the UCLA Library and Special Collections to identify collections of interest
help UCLA Special Collections accession material sources related to Sephardic heritage
through open-access, online exhibits, use these collections to share the history and culture of Sephardic California with students, scholars, and an international user public
The SAI has worked with UCLA Special Collections to help it acquire the major archival holdings of the Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, an institution whose roots reach back to the second decade of the 20th century and the beginnings of Sephardic settlement in Los Angeles. Other recent acquisitions include the Moreno and Dagmar Gabay Book Collection, which includes over 150 volumes of Sephardic religious and devotional works written in Hebrew and Ladino and published between the 17th and 20th centuries in the centers of Ottoman and Italian Jewish publishing. Finally, we are thrilled that Special Collections has received the Al Finci Archive, which provides an intimate portrait of a couple whose paths criss-crossed Hitler’s Europe – in Yugoslavia, Poland, and Italy – and who established themselves in Los Angeles after the Holocaust. All three of these collections have been deeded to Special Collections and are in processing.
In addition, the SAI also aims to highlight the Sephardic experience in Los Angeles through curated digital history exhibits featuring these collections of archival materials. Originally founded by Jews from Turkey, Greece, Ottoman Palestine, and the Island Rhodes at the turn of the 20th century, L.A.’s Sephardic community today includes native-born Angelenos and immigrants from Iran, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Israel, each with their own traditions, institutions and cultural forms.
Los Angeles holds the key to a complex story of Jewish migration and urban diversity, one in which multiple Jewish diasporas met, collided, merged, built communities, and maintained their cultural distinction while nonetheless becoming threads of a larger California fabric. And yet the story of migration, settlement, and civil and cultural life of the diverse community of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Jews to and in the City of Angels has yet to be systematically taught, written, or told. Our digital LA Sephardica will reverse these trends by placing scholarly essays alongside photographs, scrapbooks, maps, videos, music, and other archival materials to illuminate the fascinating intersection of stories that are at once global and regional, diasporic and local, linking southern California to North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, the eastern Mediterranean, Europe, and beyond.
By combining the collection and preservation of historic materials with the creation of content about those materials, the SAI aims to enhance our understanding of Sephardic Jewish history in Los Angeles and throughout the global diaspora.
Visit our contact page if you are interested in contributing to this project or in donating materials to the UCLA Library: