Matthias Lehmann

picture of Matthias  Lehmann

Professor and Teller Family Chair in Jewish History, History
School of Humanities
Director, Center for Jewish Studies
School of Humanities

Ph.D., Freie Universität Berlin, 2002

Phone: History Department: (949) 824-6521
Fax: (949) 824-2865

University of California, Irvine
Department of History
200 Murray Krieger Hall
Mail Code: 3275
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Early modern and modern Jewish history, Sephardic studies
Research Abstract
I am a historian of early modern and modern Jewish history with a special interest in the history of the Spanish Jews and the Sephardi Diaspora in the Mediterranean world. My most recent book, Emissaries from the Holy Land (Stanford University Press, 2014) tells the story of a philanthropic network that was overseen by the Jewish community leadership in the Ottoman capital Istanbul between the 1720s and the 1820s, in support of the impoverished Jews of Palestine. The book explores how this eighteenth century philanthropic network was organized and how relations of trust and solidarity were built across vast geographic distances. It looks at how the emissaries and their supporters understood the relationship between the Jewish Diaspora and the Land of Israel, and it shows how cross-cultural encounters and competing claims for financial support involving Sephardic, Ashkenazi, and North African emissaries and communities contributed to the transformation of Jewish identities in the eighteenth century.

In my first book, Ladino Rabbinic Literature and Ottoman Sephardic Culture (Indiana University Press, 2005), I studied the transformation of Ottoman Jewry in the nineteenth century through the lens of popularized rabbinic literature written in the vernacular language of the Ottoman Sephardim, Ladino or Judeo-Spanish. This vernacular rabbinic literature, negotiating between perpetuating rabbinic tradition and addressing the challenges of modernity, provides a fresh perspective on the modernization of Ottoman Jewry and the complex role of the rabbis in this process. I am also the co-author, together with John Efron and Steven Weitzman, of The Jews: A History, a textbook on Jewish history that is soon coming out in its third edition with Routledge.

I am currently working on a biography of Baron Maurice de Hirsch, a banker and railroad entrepreneur who was one of the most prominent Jewish philanthropists of the nineteenth century. I have received support for research on this book from a Fulbright fellowship as a visiting research scholar at Tel Aviv University.

I studied at the universities of Freiburg, Berlin, and Jerusalem, and did my graduate work at Freie Universität Berlin and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Madrid. I am teaching courses on early modern and modern European and Mediterranean Jewish history, and I accept applications from prospective graduate students who wish to work in these fields.

Editor, with Jessica Marglin, Jews and the Mediterranean. Indiana University Press, forthcoming.

Emissaries from the Holy Land: The Sephardic Diaspora and the Practice of Pan-Judaism in the Eighteenth Century. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014.

Co-author, with John Efron, and Steven Weitzman, The Jews: A History. Abingdon, England; New York, second edition, 2016.

Ladino Rabbinic Literature and Ottoman Sephardic Culture, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

“‘A New Book in Jewish Affairs Begins’: Maurice de Hirsch and the Waning Power of Jewish Philanthropy at the Fin-de-Siècle,” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies (forthcoming).

“La Puerta de la Franquía: Livorno and Pan-Jewish Networks of Beneficence in the Eighteenth Century,” in: Italian Jewish Networks from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century, ed. Francesca Bregoli, Carlotta Ferrara degli Uberti and Guri Schwarz (New York: Palgrave, 2018), 39-57.

“Networks of Patronage and the Birth of Two Ladino Newspapers,” in: Sepharad as Imagined Community, ed. Mahir ?aul and José Ignacio Hualde (New York: Peter Lang, 2017), 133-146.

“Rabbinic Emissaries from Palestine and the Making of a Modern Jewish Diaspora: A Philanthropic Network in the Eighteenth Century,” in: Envisioning Judaism: Studies in Honor of Peter Schäfer on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, ed. Ra'anan Boustan, Klaus Hermann, Reimund Leicht, Annette Yoshiko Reed, and Giuseppe Veltri, with the collaboration of Alex Ramos (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013), vol. 2, 1228-1246.

“Jewish Nationalism in Ladino: Jacob Moshe Hay Altarats’ Zikhron yerushalayim,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 17:2 (2010), 146-159.

"Rethinking Sephardi Identity: Jews and Other Jews in Ottoman Palestine," Jewish Social Studies, 15, no. 1 (2008), 81-109.

"Levantinos and Other Jews: Reading H.Y.D. Azulai's Travel Diary," Jewish Social Studies, 13, no. 3 (2007), 1-34.

"A Livornese 'Port Jew' and the Sephardim of the Ottoman Empire." Jewish Social Studies 11, no. 2 (2005): 51-76.
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship, University of Munich (2010-2011)
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