Sanua, Victor D.

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Victor D. Sanua, research professor in psychology and scholar of the Jewish community of Egypt, was born in Cairo on July 22, 1920 to a prominent family. Among his cousins were James Sanua, a writer and Egyptian nationalist, and Moise Sanua, who was the secretary to the Chief Rabbi of Egypt, Rabbi Nahum Effendi. Sanua’s mother was born in Turkey and his father, while born in Egypt, was of Turkish origin. However, the family held Italian citizenship and spoke mainly French, the language of commerce in Egypt, and Ladino. The family moved to Belgium when Victor was around seven, where they lived for several years until returning to Cairo in 1933. Sanua learned English in order to attend the Lincoln School, the preparatory school for the American University in Cairo, from which he graduated in 1939. After spending several years working at a number of jobs, including the Indian Red Cross, the British Army and the Office of War Information of the United States, he returned to the American University in Cairo and received his undergraduate degree in 1945 and an additional undergraduate degree in 1949.

Sanua immigrated to the United States in 1950 and obtained a degree in psychology from Bowling Green University and then his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Michigan State University in 1956, where he wrote his dissertation on differences of personality adjustment among different generations of American Jews and non-Jews. After interning at New York University’s Bellevue Medical Center, he became a Russell Sage Foundation Research Fellow at the Payne Whitney Clinic of the Cornell University Medical College and participated in the epidemiological mental health research of the MidTown Manhattan Study. Sanua then became a Research Fellow in Social Science and Medicine at the Harvard University Department of Social Relations and Psychiatry, where he began a cross-cultural research study in schizophrenia.

Sanua obtained his first faculty appointment in 1960 at Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Also in 1960, Sanua began his position as the director of research at the Associated YM-YWHA of Greater New York, a position he held until 1965. He also taught social psychology at City College of New York, Adelphi University and St. John’s University in Queens from 1980 until his retirement from active teaching in 1990. He was a research professor at St. John’s University from his retirement until his death and continued to publish articles on psychology, particularly on social and cultural factors in mental illness. He took sabbaticals at the Sorbonne in 1965-1967, where he was awarded a Fulbright Lectureship, at Tel Aviv University and Tel Hashomer Hospital in 1973-1974, where he treated initial psychiatric casualties during and after the Yom Kippur War, and produced studies on war, bereavement, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and at Hospital Sainte-Anne in Paris in 1987-1988.

After retiring from St. John’s University, Sanua maintained his active involvement with many professional organizations for psychology as well as participating in several organizations for Sephardic Jewry, particularly the study of Jews from Egypt. He was president of the International Council of Psychologists and a founder and Vice President of the Interamerican Society of Psychology. He was also the president of the Academic Division of the New York State Psychological Association and a fellow in seven divisions of the American Psychological Association. He received the Wilhelm Wundt Award for his outstanding contributions to psychology.

He was instrumental in the founding of the Historical Society of Jews from Egypt in 1995 and, after some internal disagreements within that organization, the International Association of Jews from Egypt in 1997. Under the auspices of the IAJE, Sanua helped to organize an international conference about the history of the Jewish community in Egypt, published a series of newsletters about this community and established contacts around the world with Jews from Egypt, many of whom contributed to the newsletter. The Jewish community of Egypt had reached close to 80,000 in the 1920s but was almost completely dispersed in the wake of the founding of Israel and the Suez Crisis in 1956. It is estimated that fewer than 100 Jews remain in Egypt today. This dramatic exodus is similar to those from other Arab and Islamic countries. It is estimated that between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Jews were either expelled or left the Arab countries between 1948 and the early 1970s. In 2005, Sanua published Egyptian Jewry: A Guide to Egyptian Jewry in the Mid-Twentieth Century, a collection of the IAJE newsletters as well as other articles he had written on the history of Egyptian Jewry, including his own experiences.

Sanua married Stella Sardell, who was of Syrian Jewish heritage, in 1956 and they had two children together, David and Marianne. Victor Sanua died July 12, 2009, 10 days before his 89th birthday.

From the guide to the Papers of Victor D. Sanua, 1938-2009, bulk 1960-2005, (American Sephardi Federation)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Allen, Doris Twitchell, 1901-. Doris Twitchell Allen papers, 1941-1984. University of Akron, Bierce Library
creatorOf Papers of Victor D. Sanua, 1938-2009, bulk 1960-2005 American Sephardi Federation
referencedIn Papers of Joy Zacharia Appelbaum, undated, 1888-2012, (bulk 1974-2004) American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Aharoni, Ada person
associatedWith Allen, Doris Twitchell, 1901- person
associatedWith American Association of Jewish Friends of Turkey corporateBody
associatedWith American Sephardi Federation corporateBody
associatedWith Appelbaum, Joy Zacharia person
associatedWith Historical Society of Jews from Egypt corporateBody
associatedWith International Association of Jews from Egypt corporateBody
associatedWith Patai, Raphael, 1910-1996 person
associatedWith Zohar, Tsevi person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (N.Y.)
Egypt History
Jewish Community of New York City


Birth 1900




Ark ID: w6668bqb

SNAC ID: 19943971