Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Heather Ferguson


This thesis investigates how Sephardi identity underwent both processes of continuity and change during the first half of the twentieth century. In particular, this thesis examines the communal identity of Sephardi Jews from two specific geographies: Palestine, which had around thirty thousand Sephardis by the turn of the century, and Salonika, a dynamic Sephardi center with a majority Jewish population. Despite their shared history as descendants of Iberian refugees, Palestinian Sephardis, who mostly spoke Arabic and identified as Arabs, shared few cultural bonds with Salonikan Sephardis, who spoke Judeo-Spanish and possessed a localized Judeo-Salonikan identity. Their political and socio-economic fates also took decidedly separate paths as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated. Resultantly, the historiographies of Salonikan and Palestinian Sephardim remain siloed and have few linkages. The goal of this study is to create a dialogue between two distinct historiographies in an effort to understand how Jews sought to secure their place for themselves in this historical period marked by transition and upheaval. In order to achieve this goal, the study analyzes Salonikan and Palestinian Sephardi identity through their conceptions of race, nationalism, and citizenship. It argues that Salonikan and Palestinian Sephardi identity evolved in parallel during the first half of the twentieth century in the following domains: as ethno-cultural Jews with distinct, localized identities; as participants in Ottoman civic frameworks and later as active citizens of emerging nation-states; and as Jewish nationalists with divergent agendas. In this way, both Salonikan and Palestinian Sephardim defined the contours of their identity even as powerful external forces sought to strip them of their agential qualities.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.