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Papers of Joseph A. D. Sutton

Identifier: ASF AR-37

Scope and Content Note

The papers of Joseph Sutton (1907—1997) are arranged in five series and include brochures, booklets, clippings, correspondence, notes, photographs, printed matter, reports, speeches, writings, memoirs, and materials used in the compilation of Sutton’s two books: Magic Carpet: Aleppo in Flatbush and Aleppo Chronicles.

The collection documents the efforts of Joseph Sutton to describe the Syrian Jewish community which came to settle in Brooklyn, NY beginning in the 1920’s and continuing through the post-World War II immigration. There is an abundance of correspondence and material involving the Sutton family and various individuals from the Syrian and Sephardic communities, especially as they appeared in their homes in Brooklyn, NY.

The central topic of this collection is Joseph Sutton’s research and discoveries in the field of Syrian Jews dwelling in the New York borough of Brooklyn. Sutton’s contribution to this field is well represented by the abundance of his writings, correspondence, oral histories, and images dealing with various aspects of Syrian and Sephardic culture. Materials dealing with Syrian and Sephardic subjects cover such areas as culture, literature, history, and community.

With the exception of oral histories of people from that country, there are very few materials that deal specifically with the history of Jews in Syria, from which Sutton emigrated early in his life. This make this collection particularly valuable for researchers interested in the Syrian Jewish community.


  • 1756, 1850-1999 (bulk 1979-1993)


Language of Materials

The collection is in English, French, Hebrew, and Arabic.

Access Restrictions

This collection is 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

Joseph A.D. Sutton was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1907. With only six years of formal education, Sutton came to New York in 1916. He lived in a variety of locations in the New York metropolitan area, until he finally came to settle in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn. There he founded a lace-importing business, which he continued to expand until he retired at the age of 60 in 1967.

Upon retirement, Sutton enrolled at Brooklyn College, where he earned first a Bachelors and then a Masters degree in Sociology. He spent more than 20 years studying the Syrian Sephardim who, like himself, had left Aleppo at the beginning of the 20th Century and settled in New York. He was particularly interested in the Syrian Jews who came to reside in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn. As a result of his studies, Sutton won a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He used these funds to produce two books: Magic Carpet: Aleppo in Flatbush (which is a sociological study of the Aleppan community in Brooklyn) and Aleppo Chronicles (which is a collection of oral histories of people in the Syrian Flatbush community).

Sutton was working on his memoirs when he suffered a stroke. Finding himself unable to do the concentrated work that was required to develop another book, Sutton redirected his efforts to promoting the publication Flame, which dealt with Israel and Arab relations. Finally, at the age of 90 years old, Sutton died on November 20, 1997.


8 Linear Feet


The collection documents the work and correspondence of Joseph A. D. Sutton and reflects various aspects of his life, personal research and writings in the field of Syrian Jewish culture and society, mainly as the Syrian Jews made their way in the United States. The collection also documents the Syrian Jewish experience of the immigrants who came to America and settled, as they are described in his two books: Magic Carpet: Aleppo-in-Flatbush and Aleppo Chronicles. An extensive portion of the collection examines the Syrian community which settled in Brooklyn, including articles by colleagues as well as correspondence.


The collection is divided into five series. The records are arranged alphabetically by topic within each series. In some cases topics of different series overlap.

  1. Series I: Joseph Sutton and Family, 1942-1999
  2. Series II: Individuals, 1956-1997
  3. Series III: Syrians, Sephardim and Related Groups, 1756, 1850-1945, 1968-1998
  4. Series IV: Joseph Sutton Writings, 1970-1998
  5. Series V: Miscellaneous Non-Jewish Materials, 1926, 1982-1997

Acquisition Information

Collection was loaned to the American Sephardi Federation in March, 2007 by Joseph Sutton’s son Mr. Ralph Sutton, Esq.

Related Material

The American Sephardi Federation has the Papers of Victor Sanua, AR-30, which contain some information about the Syrian Jewish community, and the papers of Walter P. Zenner, AR-4. The ASF Library has several books about the Jews of Syria and the Syrian Jewish community in the United States, including copies of Joseph Sutton's two books.

Processing information

Materials have been organized into five series. Materials within each series were grouped together by subject and arranged in alphabetical order. The description of each folder includes folder title and date. Processing the collection involved encapsulating photos in Mylar sleeves, photocopying of the most fragile newsprint and thermofaxes, re-boxing and re-foldering using acid-free archival supplies, removing rubber bands, staples, and paperclips (and other metal fasteners) where appropriate.

Guide to the Papers of Joseph A. D. Sutton (1907-1997) 1756, 1850-1999 (bulk 1979-1993) ASF AR-37
Processed by Randall C. Belinfante.
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