Events | 11 February 2021

Annual Jewish Studies Diller Lecture to feature award-winning author Sarah Stein

By for UCSC News


Sarah Abrevaya Stein

This year’s Helen Diller Distinguished Lecture in Jewish Studies will feature guest author and scholar Sarah Abrevaya Stein—in conversation with UCSC’s Neufeld-Levin Chair of Holocaust Studies Alma Heckman—on Wednesday, February 17, at 5 p.m.

In a virtual event presented by the Center for Jewish Studies, they will discuss Stein’s recent award-winning book, Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century. 

Admission is free and open to the public.

Family Papers explores the history of the Levy family—Sephardic Jews with roots in the Ottoman city of Salonika (now Thessaloniki, Greece), drawing from their correspondence and records to trace four generations of family history across five continents. 

Alma Heckman (Photo by Crystal Birns)

In the process, Stein offers a glimpse into the global history of Sephardic Jews, marked by the end of empire, the Holocaust, and diaspora.

Named one of the best books of 2019 by The Economist and Mosaic magazine, and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, Family Papers was also a National Jewish Book Award finalist.

As the New York Times noted, “The account of this one Mediterranean clan, like the best micro-histories, contains much more than a family story, illuminating the forces that shaped the world we live in now…a superb and touching book about the frailty of ties that hold together places and people.” 

Stein is a professor of history and the Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies at UCLA, as well as the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. She is the author or editor of nine books, including Extraterritorial Dreams: European Citizenship, Sephardi Jews, and the Ottoman Twentieth Century, and Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce. 

Stein is also the recipient of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, three National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and two National Jewish Book Awards.

Alma Heckman is the Neufeld-Levin Chair of Holocaust Studies and assistant professor of history and Jewish studies at UC Santa Cruz. She specializes in the modern Jewish history of North Africa and the Middle East, with an interest in citizenship, political transformations, transnationalism, and empire. 

Heckman is the author of The Sultan’s Communists: Moroccan Jews and the Politics of Belonging (Stanford University Press, 2021).

This event is presented by the Center for Jewish Studies and made possible by the Helen and Sanford Diller Family Endowment for Jewish Studies.

It is also part of The Humanities Institute’s yearlong exploration of the theme of Memory, focusing on questions such as: “What can a family’s letters, photographs, and fragments tell us about the history of nations that don’t exist and families that have migrated to many continents?”  And “What is the relationship between individual memory, collective memory, and history?”

The idea is to explore what can memory tell us about our past, present, and future, and how memory is passed down through generations in order to build a better future.

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