Life, Memory, and History: Public Lecture

Dr. Sarah Abrevaya Stein
Dr. Sarah Abrevaya Stein

Why does a family save its papers?  How does the instinct for preservation defy wars, fire, and genocide; migration and conversion; family feuds; and even a stubborn disconnection from the past?  What do we preserve and what does it mean to those who find it? For answers to these questions, come and engage with Dr. Sarah Abrevaya Stein, CU-Boulder’s Program in Jewish Studies’ 2015 Sondra D. Bender Visiting Scholar, who will deliver a public lecture and book signing on April 16, 7:00 p.m. in University Memorial Center 235. Stein, Professor of History and Maurice Amado Endowed Chair in Sephardic Studies at UCLA, has researched and written extensively on Sephardic Jewry. Her talk, Family Papers: A Sephardi Journey through the Twentieth Century, will use one family’s archive to answer those perennial questions. This story about a single family’s drive to collect and preserve is also the story of the intertwined histories of Sephardi Jewry and the twentieth century—a century of stunning tumult for this community.

Stein is one of the most important authors and scholars of her generation. Her most recent book, “Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria” (University of Chicago Press, 2014) explores the history of a small community of Jews who lived in the M’zab valley in colonial French Algeria. Joshua Schreier, of Vassar College, describes “Saharan Jews” as “fascinating…extremely well-researched book, and imaginative.” Benjamin C. Brower, from the University of Texas at Austin, writes that “this wonderfully told story breaks new ground in the history of North Africa . . . and like the very best work of historians it gives rise to a critical interrogation of the present.” In 2014, Stein and co-editor Julia Phillips Cohen published “Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950” (Stanford University Press, 2014), which won a 2014 National Jewish Book Award, the largest prize for Jewish literature. Stein’s previous books include “A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica: The Ladino Memoir of Sa’adi Besalel a-Levi” (Stanford University Press, 2012), co-edited with Aron Rodrigue and translated by Isaac Jerushalmi; “Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce” (Yale University Press, 2008), 52nd Annual New England Book Show Winner, Winner of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the largest book prize in Jewish literature in the world; “Making Jews Modern: the Yiddish and Ladino Press in the Russian and Ottoman Empires“(Indiana University Press, 2004), winner of the Salo Wittmayer Baron Prize for Best First Book in Jewish Studies for 2003 and Koret Jewish Book Award Finalist, 2004.

Stein, an elected member of the American Academy for Jewish Research, received her A.B. from Brown University in 1993 and her doctorate from Stanford University in 1999. Her scholarship has ranged across the Yiddish and Ladino speaking diasporas and the British and French imperial, Russian, American, Ottoman and wider Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African settings, but is always engaged with the reasons for and manifestations of Jewish cultural diversity in the modern period.

The Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder provides an outstanding liberal arts education, fosters critical thought and instills an appreciation of humanity’s interrelatedness and diversity by studying the world’s oldest global people. With internationally acclaimed faculty engaged in cutting-edge research and opportunities for students to study with leaders working in the field of Jewish Studies, the program offers an innovative curriculum designed to provide a strong foundation in cultural education and connect Jewish thought and text to action and people’s lives. The Program in Jewish Studies offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jewish Studies as well as minors in Jewish Studies and Hebrew/Israel Studies. For more information visit,

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