Family Papers and Ottoman Jewish Life After Empire

Episode 434

hosted by Sam Dolbee

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlay | SoundCloud

In this episode, historian Sarah Abrevaya Stein speaks to us about the journey of one Jewish family from Ottoman Salonica in the late nineteenth century to Manchester, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and beyond during the twentieth century. In her new book Family Papers, she reveals the poignant continuities and changes that accompanied the Sephardic family's movement from an imperial world into a national one through stories of displacement and genocide, endurance and survival. She also discusses the cache of family papers that allowed her to provide this uniquely intimate vantage on large-scale historical transformations.

Stream via SoundCloud 

Contributor Bios
Sarah Abrevaya Stein is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, as well as Professor of History and the Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies at UCLA. She is the award-winning author and editor of nine books. Her new book, Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century, is available in November of 2019 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Sam Dolbee is a postdoctoral fellow in the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University. His research is on the environmental history of the Jazira region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.


Episode No. 434
Release Date: 19 November 2019
Recording Location: Hagop Kevorkian Center, New York University
Audio editing by Sam Dolbee and Chris Gratien
Music: Zé Trigueiros, "Chiaroscuro" and "Big Road of Burravoe"
Bibliography courtesy of Sam Dolbee and images courtesy of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux


Spectators watch the port of Salonica engulfed in flames, 1917. Mémorial de la Shoah/Musée, Centre de documentation, MLVII_1482

Esther (granddaughter of Sa'adi) and Michael Salem share Turkish coffee, Didsbury, c. 1935. Courtesy of Alan Salem.

Select Bibliography

Esther Benbassa and Aron Rodrigue, Sephardic Jewry: A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).

Deborah Cohen, Family Secrets: Shame and Privacy in Modern Britain (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Julia Phillips Cohen, Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Devin Naar, Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016).

Aron Rodrigue and Sarah Abrevaya Stein, ed. A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica: The Ladino Memoir of Sa'adi Besalel a-Levi, trans. Isaac Jerusalmi (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012).

Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019).

Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Extraterritorial Dreams: European Citizenship, Sephardi Jews, and the Ottoman Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016).

Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008).


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.