Seattle Sephardic Treasures

Nuevo Silibaryo Espanyol: A rare Ladino language textbook published in Salonica, 1929 (Courtesy of Isaac Azose)

Seattle Sephardic Treasures is a key project within the wider Sephardic Studies Initiative of the UW Stroum Jewish Studies Program.

Click here to download a brochure with more information.

Since the Seattle Sephardic Treasures Initiative made its debut at the Purim Bazaar at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, on Sunday, March 4, 2012, community members have shared dozens of books and hundreds of family documents with us, many written in Ladino, as well as some in Hebrew and even Ottoman Turkish! Many have been loaned to the Seattle Sephardic Treasures Initiative for cataloging and digitization.
You can still help to bolster our effort to preserve and transmit the legacy of the Ladino language and Sephardic culture for future generations. If you have materials that you would like to be included in the Seattle Sephardic Treasures Initiative, or if you would like to help support the digitization and cataloging processes, Dr. Devin Naar at any time.


Do you have books or family letters and correspondence written in Ladino or Hebrew from the “Old World” or from the early years here in America?

If so, please share them with us!

The Seattle Sephardic Treasures Initiative of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Washington, in conjunction with the Sephardic Community of Seattle, seeks to uncover, collect, preserve, digitize and make accessible the rich heritage of the Sephardic Jews. We need your help!

While we may not realize it, in addition to being home to one of the largest Sephardic communities in America, Seattle is also one of the largest repositories of books and letters and memorabilia connected to Sephardic history and culture in the country—and perhaps even the world. A lot of these sources, however, are buried in basements or closets and remain inaccessible—even incomprehensible—to us today in the 21st century.

The Seattle Sephardic Treasures Initiative seeks to bridge this gap. In addition to collecting and preserving source materials of great historic and cultural significance, we also aim to equip members of the Sephardic community of Seattle—especially the younger generations—with the information and tools necessary to reclaim their Sephardic heritage, and to render their own cultural legacy accessible and relevant to them once again.

We have an exciting opportunity before us. Some of the last members of the immigrant generation, the last native speakers of the Ladino language, and the last Sephardic survivors of Auschwitz are still here with us—and they can share their books and letters, and their stories and help further transmit and preserve the Sephardic legacy in the present and into the future. As Reuven Eliyahu Israel, the last Chief Rabbi of Rhodes, proclaimed:

Tenemos un dover sakro de estudiar profundamente nuestra istoria para saver ken somos nozotros.

“We have a sacred obligation to study profoundly our history in order to know who we are.”

Komplas de Purim, Istanbul, 1923 (Courtesy of Isaac Azose)

The Seattle Sephardic Treasures Initiative seeks to help fulfill this obligation, for the sake of the Sephardic past, the Sephardic present, and the Sephardic future.

The Seattle Sephardic Treasures Initiative is spearheaded by Dr. Devin E. Naar, the Marsha and Jay Glazer Assistant Professor of  Jewish Studies and History. One of the few scholars specializing in Sephardic history and culture, as well as the Ladino language, Dr. Naar continues to work together with members of the Sephardic community to promote and preserve the Sephardic heritage of Seattle. Click here to contact Prof. Naar about the treasures initiative. 

Prof. Naar’s ongoing series of blog posts, “Revealing Sephardic Treasures,” will shed light on some of the fascinating artifacts being unearthed and studied as part of this groundbreaking project. The inaugural post in the series, Guidebook for Sephardic Immigrants (August 2012), examines a rare guidebook for Sephardic immigrants to America, published in 1916. Future blog posts will share more of these rare findings with our readers, utilizing digital technology and scholarly interpretation to bring the Ladino treasures of Seattle to a broader audience.