American Sephardi Federation

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Christopher Columbus (c. 1451 - 1506, May 20) is the Genoese navigator, later colonizer and trader, whose discoveries in 1492 brought the New World into the awareness of the Old World. Until the uncovering of recent reinterpretation of history and discoveries of pre-Columbian Viking settlements he has been credited with the European discovery of the New World. Columbus’ legacy has made him a controversial figure for many. This legacy however is not the only controversy surrounding him. Despite the consensus that he was from Genoa there are numerous theories that place his birth and family in other locations. There are even theories that suggest that what he is a conflation of two or more individuals. In addition to these theories there is debate over Columbus’ faith, with some believing that he was a Roman Catholic Christian and others believing that he was Jewish. This collection contains material on the origins and faith of Christopher Columbus.

From the guide to the Papers Dealing with the Ancestry of Christopher Columbus, 1950-1992, bulk 1982-1992, (American Sephardi Federation)

In 1992, the World Sephardi Federation created Sepharad ’92 an international Jewish committee to commemorate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Jewish expulsion from Spain as part of the Spanish Inquisition. The committee, headquartered in New York City, developed programs that sought to educate the public through a variety of approaches about the expulsion and the relocation of Spain’s Jewish population throughout the world. Such programs included educational curriculum, exhibitions, interfaith gatherings, concerts, and conferences. The committee with assistance from Tel Aviv University began the reconstruction of the medieval Jewish quarters in Barcelona, Gerona, and Seville in addition to the school of translators in Toledo. In celebrating the return of many Jews to Spain, the committee sought to honor the contributions of Jews to Spanish culture and to commemorate their expulsion.

From the guide to the Guide to the Records of Sepharad 1992, 1990-1992, (American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History)

The American Sephardi Federation (ASF) was established in 1973 in accordance with the ideals and goals of the World Sephardi Federation (WSF). It originally developed, in fact, as a branch of the World Sephardi Federation in North America. The branch was founded in 1951, but it lost much of its momentum in the 1960s, especially following the death of one of its founders, Simon Nessim, in 1968. Interest in such a Sephardi Federation persisted however, and was renewed during deliberations of the Sephardic caucus at the Second Annual Convention of the American Zionist Federation at Palmer House in Chicago, October 21-23, 1972. There the organizational and ideological principles of the American Sephardi Federation were discussed, and plans were made to inaugurate the new organization. Then, amidst a convention attended by some 250 delegates gathered at Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City, the new American Sephardi Federation was launched on February 25, 1973. The Certificate of Incorporation was filed with the Secretary of State of New York on November 27, 1973 and the Jewish Agency provided space for the new Federation. The first President of ASF was Dr. Daniel J. Elazar, a Professor of Political Science at Temple University. Elazar established goals that focused on the strengthening of Jewish unity among the Sephardim; the promotion of religious, social, and cultural activities among the Sephardim; and the rendering of assistance to Sephardim seeking to immigrate to Israel. Particular emphasis was placed on promoting youth programs among Sephardic youth. Elazar continued in the position as President until 1975. He was then succeeded by Liliane Winn Shalom, who in turn, served as president until 1982.

Over the next few years, the ASF started to systematically develop relationships with Sephardic congregations and communities throughout the United States and the world. The leadership sought to represent the interests of Sephardim in various national and international Jewish associations. When the World Jewish Congress convened in 1978, the ASF was acknowledged as a representative of the Sephardic communities in the USA.

In 1982, Leon Levy became the acting president of the American Sephardi Federation, a role he shouldered until 2001, after which he became Honorary Lifetime President until he passed away in 2006. With the start of his tenure as President the organization underwent a number of dramatic changes. Under his guidance, the ASF was transformed into a more focused organization with a narrower scope that enabled the ASF to better serve the Sephardic Community. Levy guided the organization, directing it to place greater emphasis on the themes of Zionism and restitution for Jews driven from Arab countries. He brought with him not only his own personal determination and commitment, but also an enhanced level of financial security and management that were to contribute greatly to the efficient operation of the organization.

The year 1992 was a particularly significant and busy one for the American Sephardi Federation. The year marked the quincentennary not only of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas, but also of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and their subsequent arrival in various parts of the Ottoman Empire. These anniversaries were celebrated in a variety of commemorative events and conferences on a national, state, and local level, and ASF worked vigorously to insure Sephardic participation in many of them. Sepharad '92 was an initiative on the part of the Spanish government that was intended to commemorate the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. The commemoration was joined not only by ASF, but also by the American Association of Jewish Friends of Turkey (AAJFT) and the World Sephardi Federation. The events surrounding Sepharad '92 stretched from 1988 through 1992. In 1989, the International Jewish Committee for Sepharad 1992 was formed by Yitzhak Navon, former Israeli president and minister of education. The Committee was chaired by Hal M. Lewis, then Executive Vice-President of ASF. An additional contribution made by the American Sephardi Federation was a cruise organized in 1992, called the Sephardi Odyssey, which took participants to various destinations in the Sephardi world, including Morocco, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Israel.

Among the most notable activities carried out by the American Sephardi Federation from 1987 through 1995 were a series of National Conventions. These were held each year during this period, with the exception of 1992 and 1994. They provided members with the opportunity to meet and discuss issues affecting Sephardim, as well as to expand their knowledge in a variety of areas. The conventions thereafter were more sporadic, one held in 1998 and another in 2003.

Salomon Vaz Dias became Executive Director of the ASF from 1997 to 1998. He sought to make the American Sephardi Federation more active in Zionist Affairs. During his administration, ASF held one additional National Convention in 1998. Jayne Rosengarten served as the Executive Director from 1998 to 1999. Under her guidance, ASF began to direct more attention toward the issue of collecting claims of the losses of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, a mission which would also continue beyond her time with the ASF. The ASF launched its first website in 1998.

In 1997, Bruce Slovin, spearheading the effort to establish the Center for Jewish History, which at that point consisted of four partner insitutions (YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum and the American Jewish Historical Society), approached President Leon Levy proposing that there be a Sephardic component to the Center. The ASF officially became a founding partner in 1999, entering as the smallest among the partner institutions. The ASF floor in the Center opened in 2000, and their gallery opened the next year.

The American Sephardic Federation joined the Center in order to grow in its capacity to represent and unify American Sephardic organizations, congregations and communities, and to secure itself a more permanent home. The ASF envisioned a Sephardic floor of affiliate organizations; they gave office space to representatives from the Yemenite Jewish Federation, Centro Culturale Primo Levi, Gomez Mill House and the Sephardic Educational Center. The Sephardic House, founded in 1978 by Rabbi Marc Angel of Congregation Shearith Israel, moved its entire operation to the floor, and in June 2002, the Sephardic House merged with ASF as its programming and publication division. This merger, first proposed ten years prior, was intended to streamline the efficiency and broaden the reach of the two organizations.

One of ASF’s new directions as a partner within the Center was its turn towards historical documentation and research. The appointment of two historical researchers to the Executive Director position between 1999 and 2003 underscored ASF’s new mission – first with the directorship of Elizabeth Mizrahi, a history doctoral student, and then with Judaica librarian and researcher of Libyan Jewish history, Vivienne Roumani-Denn, who joined ASF as the first Director of Library and Archives, becoming Executive Director from 2000 to 2003.

In 2003, Esme Berg stepped in as Executive Director, and long time board member, David Dangoor, became President.

From the guide to the Records of the American Sephardi Federation, 1972-2008, bulk 1987-2004, (American Sephardi Federation)

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Menachem Joseph and Rachel (Matza) Joseph, Evelyn Klapholtz was an educator and editor in the New York Metropolitan Area specializing in business education. Her credentials include a BA from Hunter College, and an MA from New York University, both in Business Education. Additionally she earned Permanent Teacher Certification in the State of New York. Since her retirement she has remained active in the community and worked on her family genealogy.

What is known of her parents is that her father Menachem (Max) Joseph graduated from the Alliance School in Greece between the ages of 16 and 17. He was fluent in Greek, French, and Hebrew and understood Spanish. Her mother Rachel (Matza) Joseph was educated mostly in Greece, however upon entering the United States attended school for a short time before discontinuing her education in order to work.

From the guide to the Guide to the Papers of Evelyn Klapholtz, undated, 1911-2001, 1923-1950, (American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History)

David Fintz Altabé (1929-2008), was an internationally known scholar and poet specializing in Judeo-Spanish literature and Sephardic culture. He served twice as President of the American Society of Sephardic Studies as well as Vice-President of the American Association of Jewish Friends of Turkey. He also was on the Sephardic Council of Overseers and taught Spanish at the City University of New York were he was honored as Professor Emeritus. He was born in New York to Sephardic parents of Turkish origin and passed away in November 2008. Some of his works include:

As an author:

Altabé, David Fintz. Temas y Dialogos . New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston McDougal, 1970.

Altabé, David Fintz. “The significance of 1492 to the Jews and Muslims of Spain.” Hispania (September 1992), 728-31.

Altabé, David Fintz. Spanish and Portuguese Jewry Before and After 1492 Spanish and Portuguese Jewry Before and After 1492. Brooklyn, NY: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1993.

Altabé, David Fintz. Una Kozecha de Rimas i Konsejas: A Harvest of Rhymes and Folk-Tales . Miami: D.F. Altabe, 2000.

As an editor:

Altabé, David Fintz, Erhan Atay, and Israel J. Katz, eds. Studies on Turkish Jewish History: political and social relations, literature, and linguistics: the quincentennial papers . Brooklyn, NY: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1996.

As a translator:

Sadacca, Haim Vitali. Un Ramo de Poemas: A Bouquet of Poems . Translated by David Fintz Altabé. New York: Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture, 2009.

Bécquer, Gustavo Adolfo. Symphony of Love: Las Rimas . Translated by David Fintz Altabé and Joan Altabé. Long Beach, NY: Regina, 1974.

From the guide to the Guide to the Papers of David Fintz Altabé, n.d., 1978-2000, bulk 1985-1998, (American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Papers of Victor D. Sanua, 1938-2009, bulk 1960-2005 American Sephardi Federation
creatorOf Guide to the Records of Sepharad 1992, 1990-1992 American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History
creatorOf Amigos Sepharadis. Los Amigos Sepharadis records, 1986-1995. Judah L. Magnes Memorial Museum, Rabbi Morris Goldstein Library
referencedIn Papers of Joy Zacharia Appelbaum, undated, 1888-2012, (bulk 1974-2004) American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History
referencedIn Papers of Morris Tarragano, 1932-1936, 1954-2005 American Sephardi Federation
creatorOf Records of the American Sephardi Federation, 1972-2008, bulk 1987-2004 American Sephardi Federation
creatorOf Papers Dealing with the Ancestry of Christopher Columbus, 1950-1992, bulk 1982-1992 American Sephardi Federation
referencedIn Papers of Henry Toledano, 1973-2006 American Sephardi Federation
referencedIn Papers of Esther Fleishman, 1984-2000 American Sephardi Federation
referencedIn The Papers of Sam Camhi, 1930-2008, bulk 1960-2008 American Sephardi Federation
referencedIn Papers of Aviva Ben-Ur, 1923-2009 American Sephardi Federation
referencedIn Papers of Dina Dahbany-Miraglia, 1975-2001 American Sephardi Federation
creatorOf Guide to the Papers of Evelyn Klapholtz, undated, 1911-2001, 1923-1950 American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History
creatorOf Guide to the Papers of David Fintz Altabé, n.d., 1978-2000, bulk 1985-1998 American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History
referencedIn Records of the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America, 1939, 1961-2009 American Sephardi Federation
referencedIn Guide to the Records of Sephardic House, undated, 1930-2010, (bulk 1979-2003) American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History
referencedIn Papers of David Ribacoff, 1925-2010 American Sephardi Federation
referencedIn Papers of Abraham and Irma Lopes Cardozo, 1910-2008, Bulk 1950-1994 American Sephardi Federation
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Altabé, David Fintz person
associatedWith Altabé, Joan B. person
associatedWith Amigos Sepharadis. corporateBody
associatedWith Angel, Marc person
associatedWith Appelbaum, Joy Zacharia person
associatedWith Ben-Ami, Shlomo person
associatedWith Ben-Ur, Aviva person
associatedWith Cardozo, Abraham Lopes person
associatedWith Cipolla, Gaetano, 1937- person
associatedWith Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education corporateBody
associatedWith Columbus, Christopher person
associatedWith Comisión Nacional del Quinto Centenario del Descubrimiento de América (Spain) corporateBody
associatedWith Dahbany-Miraglia, Dina person
associatedWith Fleishman, Esther person
associatedWith Goodman, Jerry person
associatedWith Güleryüz, Naim person
associatedWith Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America corporateBody
associatedWith Hessel, Carolyn Starman person
associatedWith Hevraïko Mouseio Hellados corporateBody
associatedWith House, Sephardic person
associatedWith Idel, Moshe, 1947- person
associatedWith Israel, Steve person
associatedWith Jakobovits, Immanuel, Sir, 1921- person
associatedWith Joseph, Menachem person
associatedWith Joseph, Rachel person
associatedWith Klapholtz, Evelyn person
associatedWith Kordova, Lea-Nora person
associatedWith Labovitz, Annette person
associatedWith Labovitz, Eugene person
associatedWith Maimonedes, Moses person
associatedWith Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture corporateBody
associatedWith National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Pisar, Samuel person
associatedWith Quincentennial Foundation of Istanbul corporateBody
associatedWith Ribacoff, David person
associatedWith Sam Camhi person
associatedWith Sanua, Victor D. person
associatedWith Sassoon, Anne, 1943- person
associatedWith Schweid, Eliezer person
associatedWith Sepharad '92 corporateBody
associatedWith Sugar, Robert person
associatedWith Tarragano, Morris person
associatedWith Toledano, Henry person
associatedWith Tudela, Benjamin de person
associatedWith World Sephardi Federation corporateBody
associatedWith Yemenite Jewish Federation of America corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Istanbul (Turkey)
Bayonne (France)
Córdoba (Spain)
Genoa (Italy)
New York (N.Y.)
Gerona (Spain)
Western Hemisphere
Exploration & encounters, 1450-1550
Jews, Spanish
Ladino books
Photographs in genealogy
Sephardic authors
Sephardic rite
Zionism and Judaism

Corporate Body

Active 1986

Active 1995



Ark ID: w6wq6gkt

SNAC ID: 39625083