Julia Cohen at UCLA: “A Model Minority? Sephardi Jews in the Late Ottoman Empire”
Jewish Studies professor Julia Cohen gave a guest lecture at UCLA on November 8, 2017 for the Averroës Lecture Series on Muslim-Jewish relations.
A Model Minority? Sephardi Jews in the Late Ottoman Empire
This lecture examines the shifting place of Jews in Ottoman society during the empire’s modern reform era. At the start of this era, Jews were largely absent from government positions and major debates in the empire. Within a matter of decades, Ottoman Muslims and Jews alike regularly referred to Jews as a model community, or millet—as a group whose leaders and members knew how to serve their state and were deeply engaged in Ottoman politics. Charting the dramatic reversal, this talk explores what the process of becoming a model community in the multi-lingual, multi-religious Ottoman Empire entailed during its final half century of existence. What kind of work, alliances, comprises, and sacrifices did the process involve? How did Ottoman Jews find themselves in a position to claim “model minority” status? And what did this mean for their evolving relationship both with the Ottoman authorities and with their neighbors of different faiths?