The Sephardic Studies Collection
The Sephardic Studies Collection at the University of Washington is one of most expansive and fastest growing repositories of source materials pertaining to the Sephardic Jewish experience. The Collection showcases a wide array of published and unpublished materials, including novels, prayer books, bibles, manuscripts, and letters, as well as audio.
Documents produced by Sephardic Jews between the 17th and mid-20th centuries with a particular emphasis on the Ladino language (also known as Judezmo or Judeo-Spanish).
The Benmayor Collection of Sephardic Ballads and Other Lore
Over 140 recordings of Sephardic Jews who were born and raised in the former Ottoman Empire and who immigrated to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, collected by Professor Rina Benmayor beginning in 1972.
Ballads that derive from cassical Roman and Greek hisotry and legends.
Ballads that tell a story from the Bible, using the romance form.
Ballads that derive from French medieval epic poems and legends of the rein of Charlemagne.
Traditional Spanish four-verse poems.
Traditional rituals for trauma and warding off the evil eye.
Consejikas de Johá, or humorous trickster tales derived from the Turkish Nasreddin Hodja, who in Ladino became known as Johá.
Ballads that narrate historical events of national significance, including epics of the Reconquest and border conflicts between Christians and Moors.
Popular love songs that express human emotions but are not ballads in structure or form, and do not narrate a story.
Ballads that narrate fictional stories about love, murder, incest and other misfortunes, often with women in leading roles. Also includes fantastical stories of animals and humans.
Songs with religious themes that are not in ballad form.
About the Sephardic Studies Collection
The Sephardic Studies Collection at the University of Washington is one of most expansive and fastest growing repositories of source materials pertaining to the Sephardic Jewish experience. The Collection showcases a wide array of published and unpublished materials, including novels, prayer books, bibles, manuscripts, letters, newspapers, magazines, songbooks, poetry, theater scripts, marriage contracts, photographs, postcards, and books on religion, history, grammar and more. These documents were produced by Sephardic Jews between the 17th and mid-20th centuries with a particular emphasis on the Ladino language (also known as Judezmo or Judeo-Spanish). The languages contained in these documents also include Hebrew, Aramaic, Turkish, Arabic, Yiddish, French, English, Greek and Italian. Most of the artifacts originated in the former Ottoman Empire, from Turkey and Greece as well as Israel and Egypt. Others were published in Vienna, Livorno, Seattle, New York, Baghdad and Amsterdam.
Until now, the written record of the experiences, anxieties and aspirations of Sephardic Jews remain dispersed and largely shrouded in mystery. Assembled from the bookshelves, closets and basements of residents and institutions in the greater Seattle region, and increasingly elsewhere in the country and abroad, this collection of books constitutes one of the largest Ladino libraries in the United States — and the most extensive repository of digitized Ladino texts in the country — with more than 500 original works written in Ladino. The collection sheds light on the lesser known history and culture of Sephardic Jews, and it has sparked a revival of interest among academics and community members alike. As the Collection continues to expand, new acquisitions are constantly made and new contributions are always welcomed.
The Sephardic Studies Collection also includes over 140 recordings of songs from the Benmayor Collection of Sephardic Ballads and other Lore. Professor Benmayor began recording these songs in 1972, for her PhD dissertation, and she published her findings in the book Romances Judeo-Espanoles de Orient [Judeo-Spanish Ballads from the Eastern Tradition]. These songs, known as romansas, were sung by Sephardic Jews who were born and raised in the former Ottoman Empire, mainly from Rhodes, Marmara and Tekirdag, all of whom immigrated to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century.
Learn more about the Sephardic Studies Collection in this article about the project.
About the Sephardic Studies Collection Database
Dr. Devin E. Naar
Dr. Devin E. Naar, The Isaac Alhadeff Professor in Sephardic Studies and Chair of the Sephardic Studies Program, and Ty Alhadeff, the Sephardic Studies Research Coordinator, have prepared and continue to manage the Collection. The database will be updated periodically as new artifacts are added to the digital collection. In addition our staff will continue to update the information attached to each artifact as new research enhances the descriptive records.
Both Naar and Alhadeff, as well as graduate and undergraduate students, and other partners, both academic and lay, publish regular articles highlighting "treasures" from within the Sephardic Studies Collection. These articles both situate texts and artifacts within their historical context and often include excerpted translations from Ladino (and other languages) into English. These articles appear on the Sephardic Studies webpage of the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies website.
A special debt of gratitude is owed to:
Sephardic Studies Founders Circle members: The Isaac Alhadeff Foundation, Eli and Rebecca Almo, Joel and Maureen Benoliel, Richard and Barrie Galanti, Harley and Lela Franco, and Marty and Sharon Lott
Numerous community partners and supporters