Famous Sephardim

Sephardic Jews have lived in many countries and lands. They have always brought with them a zest for life and a beautiful culture that is reflected in their creative work. The list below, is but a few of the many famous Sephardic Jews who have positively contributed to the world we live in. From rabbis to doctors and actors to poets, these Sephardic Jews have changed the direction and intensity of both the Jewish and Western World.

Claude Cohen-Tannoudji

Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Nobel Laureate Chemistry. (Autobiography) I was born on April 1, 1933 in Constantine, Algeria, which was then part of France. My family, originally from Tangiers, settled in Tunisia and then in Algeria in the 16th century after having fled Spain during the Inquisition. In fact, our name, Cohen-Tannoudji, means simply the Cohen family […]

David Amram

The Boston Globe has described David Amram as “the Renaissance man of American music”. He has composed over 100 orchestral and chamber works, written two operas, and early in his career, wrote many scores for theatre and films, including Splendor in the Grass and the Manchurian Candidate. He plays French horn, piano, guitar, numerous flutes […]

Isaac Mizrahi

Isaac Mizrahi (born October 14, 1961) is an American fashion designer, TV presenter, and creative director of Xcel Brands. He is best known for his eponymous fashion lines. Mizrahi presented his first collection in 1987 at a trunk show held by famed New York department store Bergdorf Goodman. The line immediately earned praise from fashion editors, prompting several top retailers to place orders. In […]

Danny Nucci

During the 1990s, Nucci played characters who are unceremoniously killed off in three blockbuster films — Eraser, The Rock and Titanic (as Fabrizio De Rossi, Jack Dawson’s Italian friend) — which were released within 20 months of each another between 1996 and 1997. His character in Alive: The Miracle of the Andes (1993) survives. Elsewhere in film, he starred as Spider Bomboni in Book of […]

Yehoram Gaon

Popular Israeli singer and actor and the son of Sephardic immigrants. Yehoram Gaon grew up in Jerusalem and aspired to be an actor. During his army service he performed in the Nahal entertainment troupe, but he did not formally begin his singing career until his release from the army. He performed with several singing groups, […]

Salvador Luria

Salvador Edward Luria, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine, was born in Torino, Italy to a Sephardic family.In 1929 he started his studies in Medicine at the University of Torino, where he obtained his M. D. summa cum laude in 1935. From 1938 to 1940 he was Research Fellow at the Institute of Radium […]

Eydie Gorme

Eydie Gorme, Grammy winning singer and artist of Sephardic ancestry. Usually paired vocally with her husband, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme cashed in on a Latin-flavored dance craze in 1963 with her bubbly “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” for Columbia Records. The Bronx, NY, product signed on as a regular on Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show” […]

Elias Canetti

Elias Canetti, Nobel prize winner in Literature was born in Ruse, a small port in Bulgaria on the Danube river, into Sephardic Jewish family. The family were well-to-do merchants, who spoke old Spanish. German was the fourth language Canetti acquired – after Ladino, also known as Judaeo-Spanish, Bulgarian, and English. He eventually chose to write […]

David Ricardo

David Ricardo, Father of Classical Economics (1772-1823). The brilliant British economist David Ricardo was one the most important figures in the development of economic theory. He articulated and rigorously formulated the “Classical” system of political economy. The legacy of Ricardo dominated economic thinking throughout the 19th Century. David Ricardo’s family was descended from Iberian Jews […]

Neil Sedaka

Neil Sedaka, Sephardic Jew, composer, and rock and roll singer. Those who have followed the career of Neil Sedaka are overwhelmed by a great sense of awe. This 60 year old youthful, international superstar is a complete musician, because there has always been a duality between his classical roots and that of the rock n’ […]

Hank Azaria

Hank Azaria, Emmy winning screen and television actor. Born the youngest of three in Forest Hills, Queens New York. His grandparents on both sides came from Salonka in northern Greece. Salonika was famed for it’s Sephardic Jewry until the community was totally destroyed by the Nazis. Hank recently starred in the television series Uprising, which […]

Lainie Kazan

Kazan made her Broadway debut in The Happiest Girl in the World in 1961 followed by Bravo Giovanni (1962). She served as understudy to Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, finally getting to go on 18 months into the run when the star was ill with a serious throat problem. Both had attended the same high school, Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York. Kazan’s mother alerted […]

Moshe Katzav

Moshe Katzav is Israel’s new president. He was elected in the first round by the majority of the Israeli Knesset. He election was a great surprise. Katzav, an experienced politician and a popular one, decided to take the chance against an internationally acclaimed Israeli politician and statesman: Shimon Peres. Many objected to Peres because of […]

Daniel Mendoza

Before Mendoza, boxers generally stood still and merely swapped punches. Mendoza’s style consisted of more than simply battering opponents into submission; his “scientific style” included much defensive movement. He developed an entirely new style of boxing, incorporating defensive strategies, such as what he called “side-stepping”, moving around, ducking, blocking, and, all in all, avoiding punches. […]

Judah Touro

Judah Touro, a Sephadic Jew and philanthropist, is most known as the founder of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. He was born on June 16, 1775 and raised by his uncle in Boston. In 1801, Judah sought his fortune in New Orleans, where he prospered as a merchant. He served as a volunteer […]

Ramban

Moshes ben Nachman was born in Girona, Catalonia, Spain in 1194 / 4934, and was the crown of that country’s golden age of Jewish sholarship. He was a great Talmudic scholar. He was also called “Nachmanides” meaning “Son of Nachman” in Greek. He was the relative of Rabbi Yonah of Girona. The Ramban studied under […]

Emma Lazarus

LAZARUS, EMMA (1849-1887), U.S. poet, best remembered for her sonnet engraved on the Statue of Liberty. Born into a New York Sephardi family, she began writing verse in her teens. These conventional and melancholy poems appeared in 1866 and attracted the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson, to whom she dedicated her second volume, Admetus and […]

Uriah Levy

Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy, USN (1792-1862), US Naval Pioneer and owner of Monticello. Born into a large, Sephardic family from Philadelphia, Uriah Levy ran away at age ten to serve as a cabin boy on a trading ship. As promised, Levy returned to Philadelphia for his Bar Mitzvah. However, by age fourteen, Levy had returned […]

Hyam Salomon

Hyam Salomon, Financier of the American Revolution (1740-1785). Hyam Salomon was a hero and a fervent patriot whose love of liberty and business acumen combined made him a vital force for the War of Independence. Born in Poland, to a Sephardic family in 1740, he was forced to flee for his life due to his […]

Benjamin Cardozo

CARDOZO, BENJAMIN NATHAN (1870-1938), U.S. lawyer and justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Cardozo was born in New York City, where his ancestors had settled prior to the American Revolution. After graduating from Columbia College, he studied at Columbia Law School and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1891. […]

Baruj Benacerraf

Baruj Benacerraf, Nobel Laureate Life Science. (Autobiography) I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, on October 29, 1920 of Spanish-Jewish ancestry. My father, a self-made business man, was a textile merchant and importer. He was born in Spanish Morocco, whereas my mother was born and raised in French Algeria and brought up in the French culture. […]