Launched in the spring of 2015, the UCLA Sephardic Archive Initiative (SAI), aims to:
work with partners in the UCLA Library Special Collections to identify collections of interest
help UCLA Library 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 Library 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, now currently open to the public. 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, and the papers of Al and Rose Finci, 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. Finally, we are thrilled that Special Collections has recently received the Danielle Avidan and Anna Mireille Abitbol Archive, which documents the lives of an Algerian-born painter and photographer and her Moroccan-born daughter as they witnessed war, decolonization, art and fashion on three continents. All three of these collections have been deeded to Special Collections.
In addition, the SAI launched its first digital project celebrating 100 years of Sephardic life in Los Angeles in February 2020. This rich collection of 25 multimedia essays showcases the vibrancy of Sephardic culture in the City of Angels, shedding light on its astonishing diversity past and present. We explore the intersecting migratory, cultural, and urban histories of Jews from across the Mediterranean and Middle East, from Iraq and Iran to North Africa, Ottoman Anatolia and the Balkans (as well as the post-Ottoman states of Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Palestine, Syria, and beyond). Los Angeles thereby holds the key to a complex story of Jewish migration and urban diversity, one in which multiple Jewish diasporas met, collided, merged, and maintained their cultural distinction while nonetheless becoming threads of a larger California fabric.
“100 Years of Sephardic Los Angeles” offers glimpses of some of the most unique, noteworthy, and intimate aspects of this oft-overlooked part of the city’s history. Our contributing authors include artists and curators, graduate students and established professors, historians, anthropologists, literary scholars, linguists, and musicologists – each considering how L.A.’s Sephardic community worked and relaxed, socialized and served their city, prayed and performed, and came to understand themselves as Jews and as Angelenos.
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. If you are interested in contributing to this project or in donating materials to the UCLA Library, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.