Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century” by Sarah Abrevaya Cohen— Ties 

Stein, Abrevaya Sarah. “Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century”,  Farrar, Straus and Giroux ,November 19, 2019.


Amos Lassen

In “Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century”, Sarah Abrevaya Stein tells the true story of a frayed and diasporic Sephardic Jewish family preserved in thousands of letters.

For hundreds of years, the bustling port city of Salonica was home to the Levy family. They were leading publishers and editors who helped chronicle modernity as it was experienced by Sephardic Jews across the Ottoman Empire. However, the wars of the twentieth century, however, changed the borders around them and, in doing so, transformed the Levys from Ottomans to Greeks. Family members soon changed boundaries and hemispheres and the family became located in Greece, Western Europe, Israel, Brazil, and India. The Holocaust nearly ended them as it destroyed many members of the family. 

Sarah Abrevaya Stein uses the family’s correspondence to tell the story of their journey across the arc century and the globe. The letters share grief and reveal secrets, propose marriage and plan for divorce. They wrote letters to maintain connection; because they were family. Stein discovers that it was the letters that held them together. Through the Levys’ letters she shares the history of the Sephardic Jewish community

Stein “has produced a superb and touching book about the frailty of ties that hold together places and people.” Stein follows the Levy family over five generations through their. Letters, memoirs, and interviews and we read of love and hate, success and secrets. Sarah Abrevaya Stein is a historian and a master storyteller as we see in this intimate portrait of Sephardic Jews.

Leave a Reply