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Papers of Victor D. Sanua

Identifier: ASF AR-30

Scope and Content Note

The Papers of Victor D. Sanua consist of correspondence, writings by Sanua and others, patient files, student coursework, newspaper clippings, questionnaires, memorial books for Israeli soldiers, bank statements, genealogical records, offprints, mailing lists and labels, newsletters, publications, and photographs and photographic negatives relating to Sanua’s career as a psychologist and his work with psychological and Jewish organizations. There is also a great deal of material that Sanua used in his research on mental health and on various Jewish topics, mainly the Jewish community of Egypt, the Middle East and Israel and various Sephardic communities and concerns. A majority of the collection is organized into subject files, some of which may have been used for research purposes. In addition, there are articles and academic papers written by David and Marianne Sanua, Victor Sanua’s children. Some of the correspondence is neither to nor from Sanua but instead belongs to family members or colleagues, such as his wife, his cousin Moise Sanua and Louis Levy, the founder and president of the American Association of Jewish Friends of Turkey, among others.

Among Sanua’s writings are several articles about psychology and Arabs, Jews and the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as articles about how social and cultural differences can contribute to mental illness. Much of his professional correspondence concerns his activities with the International Association of Jews from Egypt, including the 1997 conference at Columbia University and the IAJE newsletters. Sanua corresponded with many important figures in the Jewish academic and communal world, particularly those in the Sephardic community, including Rabbi Marc Angel, Bernard Lewis, and Louis Levy, and with members of the Egyptian-Jewish community, both those who remain in Egypt and exiles in France, Australia, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere.

Much of the collection is made up of newspaper clippings and printed emails and articles that reflect Sanua’s main areas of interest, namely psychology, psychopathology, psychopharmacology, Egyptian Jewry, Sephardim, and the Middle East. The materials in this collection date from 1938-2009 with the bulk dating from 1960-2005. The majority of the collection is in English and French, although various documents are in Ladino, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, German, and Portuguese. The collection consists of 60 manuscript boxes comprising 30 linear feet.


  • Creation: 1938-2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960-2005


Language of Materials

The collection is in English and French with some Ladino, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, German, and Portuguese.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Use Restrictions

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


Biographical Note

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.


30 Linear Feet


This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Victor D. Sanua, including published and unpublished articles, materials used in researching these articles, correspondence, and documentation of the various organizations with which Professor Sanua was involved. These materials reflect his work as a psychologist and his active involvement with the history of Jews from Egypt. In addition, there are various materials relating to various Sephardic communities, Israel and the Middle East and cultural factors in mental illness, particularly among Arabs and Jews.


The collection is arranged alphabetically and, within this order, chronologically by earliest dated document. When the materials came in, they were arranged in general subject categories and, within these categories, in labeled folders. These categories have been maintained as the series and subseries. Materials have been put into new folders but otherwise left as they were, including the folder titles, which are often quite general. There are multiple copies of the same document in several different folders in different series. For example, an article that Sanua wrote about his childhood in Egypt might be found in folders containing his writings, correspondence, materials for his book, family genealogy, Jews from Egypt, International Association of Jews from Egypt, and possibly others. Also, since the materials were kept in their original order, the dates of the folders overlap so that materials from a certain year might be in several folders in several different series or subseries. For example, a researcher interested in the psychological implications of the Arab-Israeli conflict should look at multiple folders containing Sanua’s writings and research material and subject files folders about Arabs, Jews, psychology, the Jews from Egypt, Israel, and Jews from the Arab world in the Sephardic topics subject files. Sanua’s original folder titles have been maintained and loose materials have been placed into folders and given the same labels as existing folders. The collection has been divided into four series and, within these, into several subseries.

  1. Series I: Professional Materials 1947-2004
  2. Subseries 1: Writings 1957-2004
  3. Subseries 2: Research Materials 1947-1993
  4. Series II: Correspondence and Personal Materials 1938-2008
  5. Subseries 1: Professional Correspondence 1950-2008
  6. Subseries 2: Friends and Family Correspondence 1950-2006
  7. Subseries 3: Personal Materials 1938-2008
  8. Series III: Subject Files 1938-2009
  9. Subseries 1: General 1954-2006
  10. Subseries 2: Jews from Egypt 1938-2009
  11. Subsubseries 1: General 1938-2009
  12. Subsubseries 2: Correspondence 1985-2008
  13. Subsubseries 3: Professional Organizations 1994-2008
  14. Subseries 3: Israel 1948-2008
  15. Subseries 4: Sephardic Topics 1946-2008
  16. Subsubseries 1: General 1946-2008
  17. Subsubseries 2: Turkey 1980-2008
  18. Series IV: Photographs and Photographic Negatives 1941-1950, 1998

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the American Sephardi Federation by Victor Sanua in August 2007–July 2008 and by his son David Sanua in August-December 2009.

Related Material

The American Sephardi Federation has a copy of Sanua’s book Egyptian Jewry: A Guide to Egyptian Jewry in the Mid-Twentieth Century, the book about Raphael Patai that Victor Sanua edited and War, Stress and Bereavement: A Report on Psychological and Social Services in Israel During the Yom Kippur War. The YIVO library has copies of several of Sanua’s works about Jews and Social Science, including Preliminary Research Findings in Jewish Community Centers, A Survey of the Needs of Jewish Social Science Research and Sanua’s PhD dissertation, Differences in Personality Adjustment among Different Generations of American Jews and Non-Jews. The American Jewish Historical Society has Mental Illness and Other Forms of Psychiatric Deviance among Contemporary Jewry, Overview. In addition, ASF has works by many of the scholars and members of the International Association of Jews from Egypt with whom Sanua was in contact, including Ada Aharoni, Bat Ye’or, Jacques Hassoun, Joel Beinin, and Andre Aciman as well as copies of many of the IAJE newsletters. The YIVO library and AJHS also have copies of works by Marianne Sanua, including Going Greek: Jewish College Fraternities in the United States, 1895-1945 and Let Us Prove Strong: the American Jewish Committee, 1945-2006. The American Sephardi Federation received several photo albums from Victor Sanua’s sister Odette Benjamin in November 2009.

Separated Material

There is no information about materials that are associated by provenance to the described materials that have been physically separated or removed.

Guide to the Papers of Victor D. Sanua 1938-2009 ASF AR-30
Processed by Rachel S. Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the American Sephardi Federation Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States