The Navon Program for the Study of
Sephardic & Oriental Jewry
Professor Zion Zohar, Director and Chair
Undergraduate Certificate in Sephardic/Oriental Studies
THE PRESIDENT NAVON PROGRAM FOR THE STUDY OF SEPHARDIC AND ORIENTAL JEWRY
The Navon Program for the Study of Sephardic and Oriental Jewry provides academic training in Sephardic and Oriental Jewish Studies and offers lectures and seminars by FIU faculty and other locally, nationally, and internationally renowned scholars and artists. Outreach programs encourage close ties and cooperation between the academic and lay communities locally, nationally, and internationally.
The Navon Program for Sephardic and Oriental Jewry is based at the Biscayne Bay Campus. However, courses are offered at both of FIU’s Biscayne Bay and University Park Campuses.
The certificate in Sephardic and Oriental Studies is an interdisciplinary program within the College of Arts and Sciences, with an emphasis in the humanities and social sciences. The program is offered to students currently enrolled in Bachelor’s degree programs as well as to those who already have a Bachelor’s degree in any field of study.
The Sephardic Studies certificate requires a
total of 18 credits distributed among the following categories:
A. Courses in Sephardic & Oriental Studies
Students must take at least 3 of the following classes (9 credits):
The remaining credits should be taken from the courses listed in all the categories mentioned below.
B. General Courses in Jewish Culture and Society
Additional courses may appear from semester to semester. The Director or the Director's delegate in the Sephardic and Oriental Jewry program must approve all courses taken for the certificate. All courses credited to the certificate must be passed with a grade of C or better.
C. Independent Study and Internship
Students may earn up to 6 credits towards the certificate through one of the following methods:
Students wishing to take an independent study or internship course must have permission from the Director of the program or the Director’s delegate, and a clear plan of study before enrolling in the class. The Chair of the program may approve courses by faculty outside the program. The Chair can also provide additional information on the study abroad option.
Though it is not mandatory for this certificate, students are encouraged to take a class or demonstrate a competency (through examination) in the following languages.
Who are Sephardic/Oriental Jews?
What is the Significance of Sephardic/Oriental Studies?
Sefarad is a Hebrew word meaning Spain, and so “Sephardim” literally means “the Jews who came from the Iberian Peninsula.” Today however, the word Sephardim has taken a much broader meaning and often refers to Jewish communities in North Africa, Iraq (Babylon), Syria, Greece, Turkey and generally those Jews who are not of European (Ashkenazi) origin.
The Sephardic Jews made an enormous impact on the world at large as well as on Jewish life in particular. Throughout the ages, more Jews lived in Spain than in all the countries of Europe combined. In the 12th century C.E., Sephardim made up 90% of all the world's Jewry. From the 12th c. until the 17th century C.E., Sephardic Jews were the bulk of world Jewry and the main centers of Judaism were in the Sephardic world.
During the Golden Age of Spain, Sephardic Jews flourished and became some of Judaism's greatest poets, linguists, grammarians, statesmen, and mystics. They served as a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures. Jews adopted Moorish customs, studying Arabic and the Koran, while Arabs studied Hebrew and Jewish scriptures. Jewish and Arab scholars studied the original Greek philosophers' writings, and translated them into Arabic and Hebrew. From there, they were translated into Latin, setting the stage for the European Renaissance. Sephardic Jewish scholars had developed the theories that created trigonometry. Sephardic Jewish philosophers studied Plato and Aristotle and developed new philosophies, which incorporated these theories as well as Jewish theology and thinking. Prominent among these scholars was Maimonides, whose writings incorporated reason and logic rather than tradition and blind faith as the Ashekenazi tradition tended to do. Sephardim such as
Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Ibn Ezra and Judah ha Levi wrote exquisite poetry, and Moses Ibn Ezra and others wrote grammar and mathematical treatises. Another prominent Sephardic figure, Hasdai ibn Shaprut, was a famous Jewish physician who rose to become personal physician and chief advisor to the Umayyad Caliph at that time, and served as his chief tax collector. The impact of Sephardic Jews was very significant wherever they settled, culturally, intellectually, and economically.
Sephardic Jews participated actively in the world of exploration and travel, both Spanish and Portuguese, from Christopher Colombus, who may well have been a crypto Jew himself, to Francisco de Albuquerque , and many others. Their acknowledged preeminence in map making and navigating - made them the ship navigators on most ship travels of their time.
Oriental and Sephardic Jews were the outstanding authorities in Jewish jurisprudence for over a millennia, from the days of the Amoraim (3-5th c. CE) and Geonim (6-10th c. CE), creators and champions of the Babylonian Talmud, to the great legal codifiers such as Maimonides and Joseph Caro, (author of the Shulchan Aruch).
The Sephardi and Oriental Jews have, throughout history, exemplified certain cultural characteristics from which all people can learn:
Florida International University was chosen as an ideal site for the President Navon Program in Sephardic and Oriental Jewry because of the very fact that ethnicity and individual group culture is appreciated and celebrated here, while at the same time, each individual maintains their pride in being a Floridian and an American. Miami in particular, thus serves as a microcosm of our new America-- a multicultural center, a mosaic of peoples. It is our hope that the President Navon Program in Sephardic and Oriental Jewry will continue to contribute towards further cultural advancement of our great city, state, and nation.
Sephardic Studies Certificate Program
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