07 March 2008

USHMM: Sephardi resource materials

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) recently received a unique collection of research resource materials concerning Sephardi victims of the Holocaust.

The gift of Professor Haim-Vidal Sephiha and amassed over six decades, it includes scholarly, sacred, and secular texts; published works, doctoral theses and other unpublished manuscripts; music, songs, art and recordings. Sephiha, a Holocaust survivor, is a renowned scholar of Judéo-Espagnol language and culture.

Professor emeritus in Judéo-Espagnol (Université Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle), associate professor (Free University of Brussels' Martin Buber Institute), and president of the Vidas Largas Association. The material reflects his dedication to preserving and teaching about the language and culture and to ensure the memory of destroyed Judéo-Espagnol communities.

A survivor of Auschwitz, Malines, Fürstengrube, Gleiwitz, Dora and Bergen Belsen, Sephiha led a successful recent effort - through the organization Judéo-Espagnol à Auschwitz - to dedicate a memorial plaque at Auschwitz in memory of Sephardi victims from many countries who perished there.

The Haim-Vidal Sephiha Judeo-Espagnol Collection includes rare, antique books from the 15th century; periodicals of the Sephardic communities of Israel, Europe, and South America; recordings of courses taught by Sephiha; interviews with other scholars; songs in Judéo-Espagnol, Hebrew, Berber, Russian, Judeo-Arabic, and Yiddish; and sacred texts including Bibles, prayer books, and biblical commentaries. Contemporary works range across multiple disciplines, from historical studies to serial novels and folk tales to studies of minority languages and cultures. The collection is currently being catalogued.

Scholars of history, Jewish studies, literature, philosophy, religion, comparative genocide studies and others are encouraged to use these new resources to explore Sephardic history and culture, document the experience of Sephardi communities before and during the Holocaust, and ensure future generations an accurate understanding of the immensity of the loss of Sephardi communities during the Holocaust.

Cataloguing of The Haïm-Vidal Sephiha Judéo-Espagnol Collection is ongoing. Materials already catalogued are listed on the library website.

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