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Sephardi Mizrahi Studies Caucus Discussion List - May 25, 2008

Association for Jewish Studies Sephardi/Mizrahi Studies Caucus Discussion List

Editor/Moderator: Aviva Ben-Ur <aben-ur(at)judnea(dot)umass(dot)edu>

Week of Sunday, May 25, 2008 (20 Iyar 5768)


For archived issues please visit:



1. New Publication: _Jewish Questions: Responsa on Sephardic Life in the Early Modern Period_ (Goldish)

2. New Publication and Book Reading: Angel, _The Search Committee_ (ASF)

3. New and Previous Publications: English Translations of Torah Commentaries by Sephardi/Mizrahi Rabbis (Mass)

4. Novels by Victor Sasson and Call for Reviewers (Sasson)

5. One-Day Seminar on Jewish Genealogy (Tagger)

6. Call for Papers: Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies Eighteenth Annual Conference, Phoenix (Kunin)


1. New Publication: _Jewish Questions: Responsa on Sephardic Life in the Early Modern Period_ (Goldish)

From:            Matt Goldish <goldish(dot)1(at)osu(dot)edu>

Date: Thu, 15 May 2008 11:27:30 -0400

I would like to announce that my new book, Jewish Questions: Responsa on Sephardic Life in the Early Modern Period has been published by Princeton University Press. More information can be found at: and

[Note from Editor/Moderator Aviva Ben-Ur: Professor Goldish informs me that the inspiration for this book was the AJS 2003 session 6.5 “Integrating the Sephardi/ Mizrahi Experience: a Roundtable,” sponsored by the Sephardi/Mizrahi Caucus, presented through the generosity of the Maurice Amado Foundation , and chaired by the late Elka B. Klein Professor Goldish writes: “You know that this is a project that sort of started in the caucus. I began thinking about it as a result of our round-table discussion on incorporating Sephardic history in Jewish history curricula that was organized by Elka Klein and Marina Rustow at AJS a number of years ago. The texts are really selected for teaching and they are amazingly interesting.” A description of the book is below.]


_Jewish Questions: Responsa on Sephardic Life in the Early Modern Period_

Matt Goldish

Paper | September 2008 | $22.95 / £13.50

Cloth | September 2008 | $60.00 / £35.00

248 pp. | 6 x 9

In Jewish Questions, Matt Goldish introduces English readers to the history and culture of the Sephardic dispersion through an exploration of forty-three responsa--questions about Jewish law that Jews asked leading rabbis, and the rabbis' responses. The questions along with their rabbinical decisions examine all aspects of Jewish life, including business, family, religious issues, and relations between Jews and non-Jews. Taken together, the responsa constitute an extremely rich source of information about the everyday lives of Sephardic Jews.

The book looks at questions asked between 1492--when the Jews were expelled from Spain--and 1750. Originating from all over the Sephardic world, the responsa discuss such diverse topics as the rules of conduct for Ottoman Jewish sea traders, the trials of an ex-husband accused of a robbery, and the rights of a sexually abused wife. Goldish provides a sizeable introduction to the history of the Sephardic diaspora and the nature of responsa literature, as well as a bibliography, historical background for each question, and short biographies of the rabbis involved. Including cases from well-known communities such as Venice, Istanbul, and Saloniki, and lesser-known Jewish enclaves such as Kastoria, Ragusa, and Nablus, Jewish Questions provides a sense of how Sephardic communities were organized, how Jews related to their neighbors, what problems threatened them and their families, and how they understood their relationship to God and the Jewish people.

Matt Goldish is the Samuel M. and Esther Melton Professor of Jewish History and director of the Melton Center for Jewish Studies at Ohio State University.


"This is a wonderful book. The introduction is excellent and well-written, and the texts are absolutely fascinating--in some cases even delightful and funny to read. Goldish has really hit the mark with this book."--Mark Cohen, Princeton University

"Jewish Questions contains a wealth of interesting material not available in English anywhere, and not previously anthologized elsewhere."--Elisheva Carlebach, Queens College, City University of New York

Matt Goldish


2. New Publication and Book Reading: Angel, _The Search Committee_ (ASF)

From: ASF

Date: Mary 20, 2008

American Sephardi Federation/Sephardic House Books & Authors Series in cooperation with the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals presents a new novel by Rabbi Marc D. Angel. _The Search Committee_ published by Urim Publications.

A powerful story about two rabbinical scholars who seek to become head of a leading Lithuanian-type Yeshiva. The novel unfolds as a series of presentations to the Search Committee—by the candidates, their wives, colleagues, students, and philanthropic supporters. The struggle is not just between two men, but between two very different views of Judaism, Torah education, modernity, the role of women, and freedom of thought and expression.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 7pm.

Join us for a reading, book signing and reception at the Center for Jewish History 15 West 16th Street, NYC.

“A fascinating novel by the Rabbi Emeritus of America’s most distinguished Sephardic congregation. Through the story of two very different men, both vying to lead a prestigious Talmudic academy, the author leas us with breathtaking insight through the maze of religion and politics that is at the heart of the Orthodox Jewish world—a true contribution to Jewish-American literature.”
--Naomi Ragen, author of _Jephte’s Daughter_ and _The Saturday Wife_

Free for members of ASF & the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals; General Admision: $5 at the door. For information call: 212.294.8350.

Books available for purchase


3. New and Previous Publications: English Translations of Torah Commentaries by Sephardi/Mizrahi Rabbis (Mass)

From: Oren Mass <rmass(at)barak(dot)net(dot)il>

Date: Thu, 22 May 2008 14:09:09 +0300

New Munk's Translation of Torah Commentaries in English

Rubin Mass Publishers & Booksellers

Dear Book friends,

We are happy to offer you a new volume of Munk&#39;s translations of Torah commentaries in English - TZROR HAMOR!

We are also offering all of the previous Munk&#39;s translations  in the series, for those who would like to complete the whole series.

TZROR HAMOR - Torah Commentary by Rabbi Avraham Sabba, 5 Vols.

Rabbi Avraham Sabba was born in Castile in 1440 and spent the first 50 years of his life in parts of Spain where Jews lived in prosperity and security. He wrote many books, among them the Torah commentary Tzror hamor. His genius is evident from the manner in which he selects hundreds of quotations from the Zohar, the most famous mystical text, in which he demonstrates that the author of the Zohar can be understood by the average Jew, (as opposed to scholars) and that the Zohar is helpful in understanding many difficult passages in the Torah.

He was forced into exile to Portugal in 1492, and to North Africa in 1497 after being persecuted and seeing many members of his family die for kiddush hashem, He had to rewrite this commentary completely from memory, because in Fez, Morocco he had no library at his disposal. He died on board a ship on the way to Italy and was buried in Verona in 1510

5 Vols., Hardcover, Boxed Set

ISBN: 978-965-524-013-9

Publication: 2008

Retail Price: $200                                                 

Sale Price: $169        

Previously published volumes of Munk’s Translations of Torah Commentaries :

OR HACHAYIM - Commentary on the Torah, 5 vols. 

Rabbi Chaim ben Attar (1696-1742) was born in Morocco, moved to Lovorno, Italy, where he briefly served as Rabbi before making Aliyah to the Holy Land, first settling in Acre, thence moving to Jerusalem. Or Hachayim is considered a classic commentary. The original text of this commentary is found in most editions of Mikraot Gedolot. Nonetheless, this translator is convinced that many portions of this commentary present difficulties for English speaking readers who do not experience similiar difficulties when perusing the Hebrew commentaries of Rashbam, Seforno, etc. It is this translator’s fond hope that he made a contribution to the study of the Or Hachayim commentary by a wider public as a result of having translated it into English.

Hardcover,5 Vols. Boxed Set

ISBN: 965-7107-12-8

Publication: 1998 cat. No. 76223  

Retail Price:


Sale Price:



Rabbi Bachya was born in Saragossa in approx 1255, developed into a Bible exegete and Kabbalist under the tutelage of the famous Rabbi Shlomoh ben Adret (Rashba). He was the first to build his commentary on the four principles denoted by the letters pardes, "Peshat, Remez, Drush, Sod," 1) the plain text, 2) a deeper, more philosophical approach to the text; 3 homiletical approach to the text; and 4) a mystical kabbalistic interpretation of the text. He died in 1340 after seeing his work achieve great popularity.

Hardcover, 7 vols. Boxed Set

ISBN: 965-7108-45-4

Publication: 1998 cat. No. 101591   

Retail Price: $220

Sale Price: $199


Rabbi Moshe ben Chayim Alshich (hakadosh), was born in Adrianople in 1508 and died in Damascus about the year 1600. He was Rabbi in Safed and Damascus, ordained by Rabbi Joseph Karo. Although he wrote no fewer than 1400 responsa, his fame spread due to his eloquence as a preacher. He was probably the most popular preacher of his century. His Torah commentary is based on sermons delivered throughout his long career. He also wrote commentaries on almost the entire Bible. His allegorical method of interpretation coupled with meticulous attention to every detail in the written text, represents a happy medium between the rational and mystical approach. He emphasises first and foremost the Mussar, the moral ethical lessons to be derived from the Torah.

Hardcover, 3 vols.,  Boxed Set

ISBN: 965-7108-136

Publication: 2000 cat. No. 110360  

Retail Price: $120

Sale Price: $99

HACHUT HAMESHULASH - Commentaries on the Torah by Rabbeinu Chananel,

Rashbam, Radak & Seforno-4 vols 

The selection of these four authors: Rabbeinu Chananel, Rashbam, Radak, and Seforno, was prompted by the desire to acquaint the reader with exegetes who concentrate in the main on the peshat, the meaning of the text as it strikes the reader at the first cursory perusal of the text.

Rabbeinu Chananel (born approximately 975) was the head of the Yeshiva in Kairuan, which became internationally recognized as a great center of learning.

Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir (Rashbam) (approximately 1085 - 1174) was one of the gransons of Rashi, and is well known for his concentration on the literal meaning of the text.

Rabbi David Kimchi (R&#39;dak) (1160 - 1235) was born in Narbonne, wrote commentary on the Tanach, and is well known for his major work dealing with grammar of the Holy Tongue, Sefer Hashorashim.

Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno (born 1470) served as the Rabbi of Rome for over 30 years and was a physician.

On the meaning of the title Hachut Hameshulash:

In Kohelet 4, 9-12 we read the following statement by King Solomon, the author: "Two are better off than one, in that they have greater benefit from their joint endeavours. For should they fall, one can raise the other; but woe betide to him who is alone and falls with no companion to raise him! Further, when two lie together they are warm; but how can he who is alone get warm? Also, if one attacks, two can stand up to him. A threefold cord is not readily broken!"

There are many interpretations offered for the final sentence in this paragraph. The one I prefer is that it does not refer to the obvious, i.e. that there is strength in numbers. Who needs Solomon to tell us this?

I therefore like the interpretation that Solomon refers to the three patriarchs, assuring his readers that when one is fortunate to have three role models such as Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov in one’s genetic fabric one can be confident that with a little effort by oneself one can face this world which is beset by so many problems.

Applied to Torah study, I am convinced that if one studies Torah with 3 or more commentators one will be assured of success in one&#39;s endeavours to gain greater insights into God’s message to us. By presenting the reader with even four classic commentaries in these volumes, I trust that I have made a contribution to his or her deepening their understanding of the written text of the Torah. 

Hardcover, 4 vols., Boxed Set

ISBN: 965-7108-34-9

Publication: 2003 cat. No. 105376    

Retail Price: $160

Sale Price: $139

AKEYDAT YITZCHAK - Commentary of Rabbi Yitzchak Arama on the Torah, 2 vols 

Rabbi Isaac ben Moses Arama lived in Spain from 1420-1494. He was a Rabbi, philosopher and preacher. As a young man, he taught at Zamoar, then served as rabbi in Taragona and Fraga in the province of Aragon . Later, he was appointed Rabbi of Calatayud where he wrote most of his works. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, he settled in Naples , Italy. There he died in 1494. He is best known for his Akeydat Yitzchak, which was published in Salonika in 1522, and is written in the form of philosophical homilies and allegorical commentaries on Pentateuch. The work contains one hundred and five chapters; each forms a complete sermon, divided into two parts, Drishah, investigation, and Prishah, exposition.

Hardcover, 2 vols. boxed set.

ISBN 965-7108-30-6

published: 2001 cat. No. 88776    

Retail Price: $80

Sale Price: $69


To: Rubin Mass Ltd., P.O.B 990, Jerusalem 91009 , Israel . 

Fax: 972-2-6277864, Phone: 972-2-6277863,   E-mail: rmass(at)barak(dot)net(dot)il


4. Novels by Victor Sasson and Call for Reviewers (Sasson)

From: Victor Sasson <victorsasson(at)juno(dot)com>

Date: Thu, 15 May 2008 23:45:30 -0400

My second novel _Confessions Of A Sheep For Slaughter_ may be of particular interest to you and to your literature classes. This was written in 1992-93 but published only two years ago. It is a novel of ideas, literary allusions, and linguistic associations (themes from the Hebrew Bible, Shakespeare, Kafka, Beethoven, etc.). The chapters are connected by major themes such as men and women, marriage and divorce, Feminism (from the point of view of males), etc. Some of the episodes are autobiographical to some degree, but even those are very much exaggerated for artistic purposes. Readers of Iraqi origins may recognize the name of the mythical Hakham Rabbee Latmah.

In the Jehoash mystery, I have also created a Baghdadi Hakham. In this novel I have used words and phrases from Japanese, Russian, spoken Hebrew, a lot of spoken Arabic, and of course there is the discussion of Biblical and Epigraphic Hebrew words and phrases.

Readers interested in reviewing the books should let me know. I have been writing for many years (in addition to the scholarly publications) and I am not daunted by negative reviews. The main thing is: to be heard.

If you are into English Literature too, you may wish to look for my poem “Caliban on Language” which was published in The Shakespeare Newsletter (Iona College), a publications which many university libraries subscribe to.

With all good wishes,


[ed: very slight edit]


5. One-Day Seminar on Jewish Genealogy (Tagger)

From: tagger(at)actcom(dot)co(dot)il

Date: Sun May 18 06:45:12 2008

We are extremely pleased to announce a very special event, the first of its kind in the Jewish genealogical world:  a One-Day Seminar on Sephardic Genealogy dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Mazal Linenberg-Navon z"l, sponsored by the Israel Genealogical Society.

Date: June 19, 2008

Time: 13.00

Place: Beit Frankforter, 80 Derekh Beit Lehem, Bak'a, Jerusalem

For more details (program a, registration form etc) go to:

 Or email to: tagger(at)actcom(dot)co(dot)il


 Mathilde Tagger



6. Call for Papers: Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies Eighteenth Annual Conference, Phoenix (Kunin)

From: "Seth Kunin" <s.d.kunin(at)durham(dot)ac(dot)uk>

via: Adam Mendelsohn <amend(at)BRANDEIS(dot)EDU>

Date: Mon, 19 May 2008 07:45:53 -0400

The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies will hold its Eighteenth Annual Conference August 3 -5, in Phoenix. Please join us. Interesting presentations will be made by major scholars Crypto Jews will tell of their own journeys of self-discovery. Artists will show their works.  Most importantly: meet and enjoy the company of old and new friends. For Conference Registration information and form, please click: Registration: The Embassy Suites - Phoenix has reserved a block of rooms for this conference.

A special room rate will be available until July 3rd or until the group block is sold-out.

Booking a reservation is simple. The hotel has created a website just for SCJS. 


We invite papers on crypto-Judaism from any discipline (e.g., anthropology, history, sociology, philosophy, literature, music, etc.) and from any geographic location or time period. We also welcome papers on other aspects of the Sephardic experience and other communities whose historical or sociological experience is similar to that of the crypto-Jewish community.   All interested scholars and professionals, including advanced graduate students, are invited to submit proposals for papers, presentations or workshops.

Proposals are also welcome from individuals with personal stories and genealogical or other research relating to crypto-Judaism. Proposals may be for individual papers/presentations or for complete sessions on specific topics. Proposals must include a 200-word abstract and a brief bio. 


In order to encourage graduate student participation in the SCJS conference in Phoenix, this year the SCJS Program Committee will offer two $200 conference scholarships. These scholarships are reserved for academic paper presentations. SCJS will award these scholarships based on the merits and strengths of the proposals they receive.  If your academic paper proposal is selected for inclusion in the conference, SCJS will notify you if you will also be receiving a scholarship.

Please send proposals or inquiries to Seth Kunin: s.d.kunin(at)

Proposal Deadline: June 5, 2008



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