Portrait of Makena Maezistrano smiling, wearing a colorful headband and sweaterThe Sephardic Studies Program and Stroum Center for Jewish Studies are thrilled to welcome Makena Mezistrano as the new Assistant Director of the Sephardic Studies Program. She will be working closely with Professor Devin Naar (Program Chair) and Ty Alhadeff (Research Coordinator) to advance the mission of the Sephardic Studies Program: to make Ladino language and culture accessible to audiences around the world. Makena will be managing local programs in Seattle, such as International Ladino Day, and supporting the continued development of the Sephardic Studies Digital Collection to advance the global reach of the Sephardic Studies Program.

Makena received a B.A. in English literature and an M.A. in Jewish Studies from Yeshiva University in New York City. She comes to the Sephardic Studies Program with a background in journalism, Jewish education, and graphic design. Her passion for Sephardic studies stems from spending most of her childhood in her grandparents’ home, both of whom were native Ladino speakers and Holocaust survivors from Salonica, Greece. Makena first learned about the Sephardic Studies Program when her grandmother, Lela Abravanel, shared refranes (Ladino sayings) at two Ladino Day celebrations.

Makena has been involved with the Sephardic Studies Program since 2014 when she was an undergraduate student. That summer she completed a research project comparing two Ladino siddurim (prayer books) with Dr. Naar that won an award for the best research paper in Jewish history at Yeshiva University. As a graduate student Makena was a panelist at the 4th Ladino Day celebration, representing the younger generation of Seattleites who are descendants of Ladino speakers.

“We are thrilled to have Makena join the Sephardic Studies team and broader Stroum Center for Jewish Studies,” said Dr. Naar. “She brings her subject expertise in Jewish studies, her background in journalism, her accounting minor, her dynamic skills in graphic design, and her organizational precision together with her personal and professional dedication to this new role. I am confident she will make an invaluable contribution to our endeavors and help shape a vision for Sephardic Studies moving forward.”

The Sephardic Studies Program is excited for another successful year with our new team! Adelantre!

Articles by Makena Mezistrano

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