Records of the American Sephardi Federation
Scope and Content Note
The records of the ASF were produced by various ASF leaders and staff as part of the daily office workflow between 1972 and 2008. The collection documents first and foremost ASF’s organizational activities, but a spectrum of Sephardic issues are addressed in the proceedings of ASF conventions and the collection also serves as a cross-section of Sephardic performers, artists and authors of the time via ASF’s cultural programming files. Notable too is ASF’s outreach to 25- to 35-year-olds in its Young Leadership and New Leadership Divisions.
The materials consist largely of incoming and outgoing correspondence, but also include memoranda, reports, financial records, and other organizational documents, as well as newspaper clippings, publications, and photographic media. Though most concentrated in the Administrative Correspondence folders in Series III, correspondence runs throughout the different series.
Most of the papers in this collection derive from the time Leon Levy became President in 1982 and continuing up to 2004, by which time the ASF had joined the Center for Jewish History. There is little information from the early years of the American Sephardi Federation's history, and almost nothing from the time of Professor Daniel Elazar's administration. There is a small amount of material from the late 1970s through the early 1980s, during which time Liliane Winn Shalom served as the President of ASF.
This collection is organized into nine series. The first series describes the ASF Leadership in the years 1973-1978, 1983-1998, and 2001-2005. It is made up of minutes and records of meetings of the Board of Directors, the Executive Board, the Presidium, etc. The second series details the minutes and records of the various National Conventions held by the ASF in the years 1972-1975 and 1986-2003.
Series III: Administration contains Annual Reports for the years 1973-1975 and 1988-1995, General Agenda material (correspondence and subject files) for the years 1973-2006 and documents related to ASF’s role in the Center for Jewish History 1998-2005.
Series IV focuses mainly on the issue of Finances for the years 1976-2004. The series contains the Annual Financial Statements for the years 1976-1998; Tax Reports for the years 1976 and 1984 to 1998; and General Financial Documentation for the years 1976-2004.
The Young Leadership or New Leadership Division was one of the most active organizations in the American Sephardi Federation, and reports of their activities are reported regularly in the ASF newsletters. The details of their events and activities may also be found reported here in Series V.
One of the most important means for promoting Sephardic cultural awareness was through local programming and organized tours to countries that had once been home to significant Sephardic populations. ASF-sponsored events and tours are documented in Series VI. Events.
In addition to all this other material, a number of ASF staff members had collected ephemera dealing with Sephardim, but not directly connected with ASF. These files include information on countries around the world where Sephardim live, materials relating to Sephardic culture, and items from organizations not directly related to the ASF. These records are contained in Series VII: Reference Files.
Series VIII contains a number of mailing lists of members of the American Sephardi Federation from the years 1987 to 2004.
Series IX includes ASF newsletters from 1973 to 2006, plus documents used or created in the process of writing and publishing the newsletters.
The vast majority of the papers in this collection are in English. Other languages encountered here include Hebrew, French, Spanish, Turkish, Dutch, Greek, Polish and Russian.
- Creation: 1972-2008
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1987-2004
Language of Materials
The collection is primarily in English, but a few items are in Hebrew, French, Turkish, Spanish, Polish, Dutch, and Russian.
Open to researchers, excepting post-1998 meeting minutes in Series I: Leadership and materials in Series VIII: Mailing Lists.
There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:
American Sephardi Federation, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011
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.
31.5 Linear Feet
This collection contains the office records of the American Sephardi Federation. Documents focus on the daily functioning, annual conventions, finances, events, and activities of the ASF. The records consist mainly of correspondence, but also include memoranda, reports, financial records, and other organizational documents, as well as newspaper clippings, publications, and photographic media.
This collection is organized into eight series:
- Series I: ASF Leadership, 1973-1978, 1983-2005
- Series II: ASF National Conventions, 1972-1975, 1986-1998, 2003
- Series III: Administration, undated, 1973-2006
- Subseries 1: Annual Reports, 1973-1975, 1988-1995
- Subseries 2: General Agenda, 1973-2006
- Subseries 3: Sephardic Communities, 1987-1998
- Subseries 4: Affiliated Organizations, undated, 1986-2005
- Subseries 5: Center for Jewish History, 1998-2005
- Series IV: Finances, 1976-1998
- Subseries 1: Annual Financial Statements, 1976-1998
- Subseries 2: Tax Reports, 1976, 1984-1998
- Subseries 3: General Financial Documentation, 1976-2004
- Series V: Young Leadership Division, undated, 1973-1978, 1987-1998
- Series VI: Events, 1987-2008
- Subseries 1: Tours and Travel, 1987-1997
- Subseries 2: General Events, 1986-2008
- Series VII: Reference Files, undated, 1970-2000
- Subseries 1: Country Files, undated, 1970-1996
- Subseries 2: Culture Files, undated, 1980-1989
- Subseries 3: Organization Files, undated, 1975-2000
- Series VIII: Mailing Lists, undated, 1987-2004
- Series IX: Newsletters, undated, 1973-2006
- Subseries 1: ASF Newsletters, 1973-2006
- Subseries 2: General Newsletter Administration, 1994-2002
- Series X: Photographs 2000-2002
- Subseries 1: ASF Newsletters, 1973-2006
- Subseries 2: General Newsletter Administration, 1994-2002
These records have been transferred to the ASF archives from the ASF office.
The records of the American Sephardi Federation were assembled from a wide assortment of documents collected over the space of thirty-five years. The present collection has been processed in two parts by three archivists. The first accession included records created between 1972 and 2000, and these were processed and arranged in 2002. The second accession included records created primarily between 2000 and 2004. Negatives were sleeved, documents were refoldered in acid-free folders, and some fasteners were removed when appropriate. Folders are labelled with title and date range.
- Guide to the Records of the American Sephardi Federation, 1972-2008 (bulk 1987-2004) ASF AR-6
- Processed by Stanislav Pejša and Dianne Ritchey Oummia. Additional processing by Rachel Miller as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
- © January 2009.
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Edition statement
- This version was derived from ASF02-02.xml