Devin E. Naar is the Marsha and Jay Glazer Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies, Assistant Professor of History, and Chair of the Sephardic Studies Program at the University of Washington. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Naar graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis, where he wrote an award-winning senior thesis. Following a year in Greece as a Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Naar began his PhD in History at Stanford University, where he won an award for excellence in teaching. Dr. Naar’s dissertation, “Jewish Salonica and the ‘Making of the Jerusalem of the Balkans,’ 1890-1943,” received the Elizabeth Spillman Rosenfeld Prize for best written dissertation in Stanford’s Department of History in 2011.
Since joining the UW faculty in 2011, Dr. Naar has been working on a book manuscript, based on his dissertation, entitled, Jewish Salonica, which explores the multiple ways in which Jews in Salonica grappled with the end of the Ottoman Empire and their new-found position within the context of the Greek state during the early twentieth century. Drawing on a wide range of previously unstudied primary sources, such as archives and newspapers primarily written in Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), Jewish Salonica is the first book to tell the story of the tumultuous transition from empire to nation-state through the voices and perspectives of Salonican Jews themselves. The book traces key questions that Jews in Salonica asked during this period of readjustment: What will happen to our Community? Who will serve as our leader? Who will tell our story? What will become of our dead? Ultimately, the answers Salonican Jews gave to these questions demonstrate that they hoped to bridge the chasm between empire and nation-state by reaffirming their connection to their city and by claiming the city as their own–even on the eve of the Holocaust.
Currently a fellow in the Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington, Dr. Naar has also begun a second book project, Reimagining the Sephardic Diaspora. This book explores the dispersal of Sephardic Jews from the dissolving Ottoman Empire during the early twentieth century and the creation of new Sephardic communal hubs in Europe and the Americas—including Seattle. By focusing on the multiple directions of transnational migration, the links Sephardic Jews retained with their native communities, and the relationships they developed with other Jews and migrants from the Mediterranean, this project compels us to reconceptualize the geographic and theoretical lines between the “old world” and the “new.”
At the UW, Dr. Naar teaches courses linked to his areas of research, including modern Jewish history; Jewish culture from antiquity until today; Sephardic history and culture; the history and memory of the Holocaust; relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims in lands of the former Ottoman Empire; migrations from the Mediterranean world to the Americas in the twentieth century; and a graduate seminar on Jews, Cities and Empires. He also supervises MA and PhD students in fields such as modern Jewish history and culture, Sephardic Studies, and transnational studies.
As the chair of the new Sephardic Studies Program of the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies housed within the Jackson School of International Studies, Dr. Naar has begun a pilot project entitled, “Seattle Sephardic Treasures,” which seeks to collect, preserve and disseminate the rich Sephardic and Ladino historical, literary and cultural heritage. The first major Sephardic Studies Digital Library and Archive–an online Sephardic Museum–is in the works based on the more than 700 artifacts, books and letters collected so far from residents of the Seattle area. In addition to the digital initiative, the Sephardic Studies Program also hosts a wide range of student, scholarly and public programs that each draw hundreds of participants. The Sephardic Studies Program has already received extensive local, national and international media attention.
In recognition of the contributions he has already made to the study of Sephardic history, Dr. Naar was recently elected to the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History in New York. He is the only assistant professor to receive this prestigious post, where he will represent the American Sephardic Federation. Dr. Naar was also elected to the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society.
He conducts research in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish/Judezmo), Greek, Hebrew and French.
In the News
- The Daily at UW interviews Dr. Naar at the “Turkey’s Jews Revisited” exhibit: Photography Exhibit Opens at Hillel UW (October 15, 2013)
- Sephardic Studies Initiative mentioned in the Forward’s article on Meet America’s Internet Champion of Ladino (January 27, 2013)
- Profile by Peter Kelley in UWToday: A Family’s Lost Story Found, and the Sephardic Studies Initiative (January 16, 2013)
- Meet Professor Devin Naar: A short video from JewDubTV
- Dr. Naar’s Welcome Lecture at UW Hillel: “Between the Ottoman Empire and the Greek Nation State–The Jews of Salonica” (October 2012)
- JTNews feature on Dr. Naar’s arrival to UW: Mystery, Intrigue and the ‘Seattle of the Balkans’, by Emily K. Alhadeff (July 20, 2011)
- UW Daily highlights Dr. Naar as “the community professor” among his peers: Faces of UW: First-Year Faculty, by Sarah Radmer (April 19, 2012)
- Prof. Naar earns spot on JTNews’ “10 under 40” list of young Jewish leaders in Seattle: It’s all Greek to him. Really, by Diana Brement (June 20, 2012)
- JTA article on the Sephardic Treasures Initiative: Rushing to Preserve Ladino Legacies, by Charlotte Anthony (July 25, 2012) (also featured in Haaretz Online)
- Interview on KIRO 97.3 FM: UW Professor seeks to save a dying language, by Brandi Kruse (August 7, 2012)
- Profile in The Daily at the University of Washington: UW Professor Preserves Endangered Ladino Language, by Joe Veyera (August 7, 2012)
To download Dr. Naar’s articles, please visit his page on academia.edu.
“Sephardic Jews,” in Jeffrey Cole, ed., Ethnic Groups of Europe: An Encyclopedia (Oxford: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 329-333.
“Reformuler l’identité, réinventer la patrie. Juifs judéo-hispanophones en Amérique, entre Salonique etSefarad,” in Esther Benbassa, ed., Itinéraires sépharades. Complexité et diversité des identités (Paris: l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2010), 63-78.
“Between ‘New Greece’ and the ‘New World’: Salonican Jews en route to New York,” Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora 35, no. 2 (Fall 2009): 45-89.
“From the ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’ to the ‘Goldene Medina’: Jewish Immigration from Salonika to the United States,” American Jewish History 93, no. 4 (Dec. 2007): 435-473.
With Their Own Words: Glimpses of Jewish Life in Thessaloniki Before the Holocaust (Thessaloniki: The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, 2006). (48-page exhibition catalog in English and Greek).
“A Twentieth Century Diaspora: the Great Fire of 1917 and Jewish Emigration from Salonika,”Slideshow: Journal of the Center for Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis, no. 2 (Spring 2005): 1-12.