Across Europe, Jews were often confronted with the notion that their religious and cultural distinctiveness was somehow incompatible with the modern age. Yet the view from Ottoman Izmir invites a different approach: what happens when Jewish difference is totally unremarkable?
Drawing on previously untapped Ladino material that gives voice to both beggars on the street and mercantile elites, shoe-shiners and newspaper editors, rabbis and housewives, The Jews of Ottoman Izmir: A Modern History (Stanford University Press, 2020) argues that it was new attitudes to poverty and class, not Judaism, that most significantly framed this Sephardi community's encounter with the modern age.
Dina Danon is an associate professor in the department of Judaic Studies at Binghamton University. Her research focuses on the eastern Sephardi diaspora during modern times. Danon is particularly interested in social history and how its tools help revise prevailing scholarship not only on the Sephardi world, but on Jewish modernity as a whole.
Makena Mezistrano is the Assistant Director of the Sephardic Studies Program in the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington. She holds an MA in Biblical and Talmudic studies from Yeshiva University.