Devin Naar

Associate Professor, Program Chair Sephardic Studies Isaac Alhadeff Professor of Sephardic Studies
Devin Naar



Dr. Devin E. Naar is the Isaac Alhadeff Professor in Sephardic Studies, Associate Professor of History, and faculty at the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Naar graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis and received his Ph.D. in History at Stanford University. He has also served as a Fulbright fellow to Greece. His first book, Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece, was published by Stanford University Press in 2016. The book won the 2016 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Research Based on Archival Material and was named a finalist in Sephardic Culture.

Jewish Salonica explores the impact of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of modern Greece during the 19th and 20th centuries on the Jews of Salonica (Thessaloniki), an Aegean port city that was once home to the largest Judeo-Spanish-speaking Jewish community in the world. The book traces the multiple ways in which Jews in Salonica grappled with the end of the Ottoman Empire and their new-found position within the context of the Greek state during the early twentieth century. Drawing on a wide range of previously unstudied primary sources, such as archives and newspapers primarily written in Judeo-Spanish as well s Greek, Hebrew, and French, Jewish Salonica is the first book to tell the story of the tumultuous transition from empire to nation-state through the voices and perspectives of Salonican Jews themselves.

The book traces key questions that Jews in Salonica asked during this period of readjustment: What will  happen to our Community? Who will serve as our leader? Who will tell our story? What will become of our dead? Ultimately, the answers Salonican Jews gave to these questions demonstrate that they hoped to bridge the chasm between empire and nation-state by reaffirming their connection to their city and by claiming the city as their own–even on the eve of the Holocaust.

As a fellow in the Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington in 2013-2014, Dr. Naar began his second book project, Reimagining the Sephardic DiasporaThis book explores the dispersal of Sephardic Jews from the dissolving Ottoman Empire during the early twentieth century and the creation of new Sephardic communal hubs in Europe and the Americas—including Seattle. By focusing on the multiple directions of transnational migration, the links Sephardic Jews retained with their native communities, and the relationships they developed with other Jews and migrants from the Mediterranean, this project compels us to reconceptualize the geographic and theoretical lines between the “old world” and the “new.”

At the UW, Dr. Naar teaches courses linked to his areas of research, including modern Jewish history; Jewish culture from antiquity until today; Sephardic history and culture; the history and memory of the Holocaust; relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims in lands of the former Ottoman Empire; migrations from the Mediterranean world to the Americas in the twentieth century; and a graduate seminar on Jews, Cities, and Empires. He also supervises MA and PhD students in fields such as modern Jewish history and culture, Sephardic Studies, and transnational studies.

As the chair of the new Sephardic Studies Program of the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies housed within the Jackson School of International Studies, Dr. Naar has spearheaded a project to collect, preserve and disseminate the rich Sephardic and Ladino historical, literary and cultural heritage. Along with Sephardic Studies research coordinator, Ty Alhadeff, and in cooperation with the Digital Initiatives office of the UW Libraries, Dr. Naar has created the first major online Sephardic Studies Digital Library and Archive comprised of more than 1,500 artifacts, books and letters collected from residents of the Seattle area and across the country.

In addition to the archive and library initiative, the Sephardic Studies Program also hosts a wide range of public programs that draw hundreds of participants–students, scholars, and community members. The Sephardic Studies Program has  received extensive local, national, and international media attention for its library and public programs.

In recognition of the contributions he has made to Sephardic studies, Dr. Naar serves on the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History in New York where he represents the American Sephardic Federation. Dr. Naar was also elected to the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society.

He conducts research in Judeo-Spanish, Greek, Hebrew and French.


  • Stanford University, Ph.D., 2011


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