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Rare Cache of Ladino Documents Tells History of Los Angeles Sephardic Jews

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Last year UCLA launched a Jewish history with an ambitious goal — to be “one of the world’s largest collections of  Sephardi Jewish life.”

Now, the UCLA Sephardic Archive has made its first major acquisition, obtaining what it says is “one of the most significants collections ever assembled” telling the history of Sephardi Jews in Los Angeles, according to a Tuesday statement.

The materials acquired from the archive of a local synagogue, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, tell the stories of Jews from the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa who immigrated to California at the turn of the 20th century. They also show the shaping of Sephardi culture in Los Angeles and how Sephardi Jews contributed to the Jewish and urban fabric of the city.

Among the new additions to the collection are photographs, papers, audio-visual materials and rare books dating to the mid-19th century. Many of the materials are written in Ladino, the almost-extinct language spoken by Sephardi Jews.

“It is imperative to collect, preserve and make them available for scholars and members of the community,” archive director Sarah Abrevaya Stein said.