Sephardic Studies Program Chair, Isaac Alhadeff Professor of Sephardic Studies, Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies
Ph.D. Stanford University
Phone: (206) 616-6202
Office: Thompson 226
Office Hours: By Appointment Only
Jewish Salonica explores the impact of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of modern Greece during the 19th and 20th centuries on the Jews of Salonica (Thessaloniki), an Aegean port city that was once home to the largest Judeo-Spanish-speaking Jewish community in the world. The book traces 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 as well s Greek, Hebrew, and French, 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.
As a fellow in the Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington in 2013-2014, Dr. Naar began his 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 spearheaded a project to collect, preserve and disseminate the rich Sephardic and Ladino historical, literary and cultural heritage. Along with Sephardic Studies research coordinator, Ty Alhadeff, and in cooperation with the Digital Initiatives office of the UW Libraries, Dr. Naar has created the first major online Sephardic Studies Digital Library and Archive comprised of more than 1,500 artifacts, books and letters collected from residents of the Seattle area and across the country.
In addition to the archive and library initiative, the Sephardic Studies Program also hosts a wide range of public programs that draw hundreds of participants–students, scholars, and community members. The Sephardic Studies Program has received extensive local, national, and international media attention for its library and public programs.
In recognition of the contributions he has made to Sephardic studies, Dr. Naar serves on the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History in New York where he represents the American Sephardic Federation. Dr. Naar was also elected to the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society.
He conducts research in Judeo-Spanish, Greek, Hebrew and French.
In the News
- The Yiddish Book Center interview Devin Naar: “Collecting Ladino Books: A conversation with Devin Naar” (August 6, 2014)
- KUOW.org interview with Dr. Devin Naar: “How do you save a dying language?” (July 31, 2014)
- Tablet Magazine: Seattle’s Sephardi Jews Brought Us Starbucks: Now They’re Trying To Bring Back Ladino (July 23, 2014)
- 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)
- 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)
- JTA article on the Sephardic Treasures Initiative: Rushing to Preserve Ladino Legacies, by Charlotte Anthony (July 25, 2012) (also featured in Haaretz Online)
- 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)
- UW Daily highlights Dr. Naar as “the community professor” among his peers: Faces of UW: First-Year Faculty, by Sarah Radmer (April 19, 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)
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.