Guide to the Papers of Walter P. Zenner (1933-2003),
1958-2002 (bulk 1960-1988)


Processed by Stanislav Pejša

American Sephardi Federation

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 548-4486



© 2002 American Sephardi Federation. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Stanislav Pejša as a MS Word document. June, 2002 Electronic finding aid converted to EAD 1.0 by Randall C. Belinfante and Stanislav Pejša. September 24, 2002 Description is in English.
September 2004. Converted to ead 2002 and revised by Dianne Ritchey Oummia. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, etc. January 2006. Entities removed from EAD finding aid.

Descriptive Summary

Creator:Zenner, Walter P., 1933-2003
Title:Walter P. Zenner Papers
Dates:bulk 1960-1988
Abstract: The papers of Walter P. Zenner contain various materials reflecting the customs and habits of Sephardic Jews, particularly those with their roots in Syria. The collection contains transcripts of interviews from anthropological research carried out in Israel, USA, and Britain. It also holds a number of off-prints, photocopies, and newspaper clippings.
Languages:This collection is in English and Hebrew.
Quantity:3.6 linear feet; 3 manuscript boxes, 1 legal-sized manuscript box and two cubic boxes
Identification:ASF AR-4
Repository: American Sephardi Federation
Repository: ASF Archives
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Biographical Note

Walter P. Zenner was born on 18 October, 1933 in Nuremberg, Germany. He graduated in 1955 with B.A. in Anthropology from Northwestern University. In 1958 he received an M.A. in Anthropology from Columbia University, and in 1960, he earned an M.H.L in Judaica from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In 1965 Walter P. Zenner received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University. In 1965 he was awarded a Doctor of Hebrew Letters honoris causa from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Walter P. Zenner has taught Anthropology since 1966 at the State University of New York at Albany. He publishes extensively, is the author of two books, and has edited or co-edited eight others. Professor Zenner has published many contributions and chapters in various publications. His articles have appeared in many academic journals, including: Jewish Journal of Sociology, Anthropological Quarterly, American Anthropologist, Archives de Sociologie des Religiones, and Journal of American Folklore.

Walter Zenner’s academic work deals with a number of aspects of Jewish life. Some of his scholarly interests gravitate toward the customs and habits of Sephardic Jews, particularly those who had or have their roots in Syria. He studied the life, conditions, and traditions of the Syrian Jews not only in Israel during research for his dissertation in 1961-1962, but also later when he returned to this subject in the late 1980s and studied the Sephardic community in Manchester, Britain and Chicago, Illinois, as well as in New York.

Walter P. Zenner passed away in his home in Albany on March 18, 2003.

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Scope and Content Note

The archival collection of Walter P. Zenner relates primarily to Zenner’s interest in the life and customs of Sephardic Jewry from the Middle East. His material examines the Sephardim living both in the Middle East, as well as those who resettled in Europe or in the United States. This collection is composed of articles and papers on Sephardic Jewry written both by Zenner himself as well as a number of other experts. It includes Zenner’s observations, hand-written notes, and transcripts of interviews with Sephardic Jews collected on several occasions, including during research in Israel between 1961-1963; in Manchester, Britain during Walter Zenner’s visit in 1987; and in Chicago, Ill. in 1988. Furthermore, Walter Zenner added to these already mentioned a number of studies of the Sephardic populations in New York in 1988 and in Israel after Zenner visited the community that he studied thirty years earlier in 1993. The collection contains a number of newspaper clippings and correspondence as well.

The collection is mostly in English, although some materials are in Hebrew, and some are in French.

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The collection is arranged in four thematically distinctive series. Series II is further organized into five subseries.

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Access and Use

Access restrictions

Open to researchers.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

American Sephardi Federation, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street New York, NY 10011

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Related Material

Walter P. Zenner papers are also to be found in National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution Museum Support Center, 4210 Silver Hill Road, Suitland, MD 20746

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Separated Material

No materials associated by provenance to the described materials have been physically separated or removed from the collection.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Guide to the Papers of Walter P. Zenner; box number; folder title; Archives of the American Sephardi Federation, New York.

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Container List


Series I: Writings of Walter P. Zenner, 1955-2001

0.8 linear foot

Alphabetically by the title of the work.

Scope and Content:

The Series 1 contains various texts written by Walter P. Zenner on the subject of Sephardic Jews, especially the Jews of Syria. The series documents Walter Zenner’s interest in this subject throughout his academic career. It includes finished and published articles, conference papers, various memoranda, drafts and manuscripts, Walter Zenner’s dissertation, a portion of his M.A. thesis, and some of his papers from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Several documents are undated, and the purpose of some of the papers is not always clearly stated. The researcher may be interested in the documents in the folder Syrian Jews of Brooklyn: A Preliminary Report that also contains Walter Zenner's field notes and some transcripts of interviews he carried out in the years 1968-1970. This latter is complementary to the Subseries 5 of the Series II - Antropological Research.

11Aleppo and the Kibbutz in the Fiction of Amnon Shamosh.Shofar1988, Vol. 6, No. 5., pp. 25-35.1988
12Alternative Political Ideals in the Fertile Crescent. Paper prepared for Central States Anthropological Society Meeting St. Louis, Mo. April 28, 1966, 11 p.1966
13Arabic Speaking Immigrants in North America as Middlemen Minorities. Paper prepared for the panel on Middle Eastern Immigrants, Annual Meeting of American Anthropological Association Cincinnati, Oh. December 1, 1979, 23 p.1979
14The Arabs of the Galilee: Intergroup Relations and Stereotypes.Journal of Druze Studies2001, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 131-178.2001
15Being Sephardi in an Amercan [sic!] Ashkenazi World. Prepared for an American Sephardi Federation workshop, s.l., s.d., 2 p.undated
16A Bibliographical Sampler of Jewish Ethnology and Sociology. s.l., 3 p.undated
17Chicago’s Sephardim: A Historical Exploration.American Jewish History1989-1990, Vol. 79, No. 2, pp. 221-241.1990
18Common Ethnicity and Separate Identities: Interaction between Jewish Immigrant Groups. In: International and Intercultural Communication, Annual Cross Cultural Adaptations. Y.Y. Kim and W.B. Gudykunst (eds.). Newbury Park, CA 1988: Sage, p. 267-285.1988
19Courtiers, Consuls, and Crown Rabbis. Types of Jewish Mediators. Unpublished paper presented at Conference on Sephardi and Oriental Jews. Herzliya (Israel) January 13-15, 1991. [25 p.]1991
110The Cross-National Web of Syrian-Jewish Relations. In: Urban Life: Readings in Urban Anthropology. G. Gmelchand, W. Zenner (eds.) Prospect Heights, IL. 1988: Waveland Press, 2nd edition, pp. 381-3901988
111A Definition of Ethnicity. A Contribution to Jewish Self-identity. s.l., s.d., 1 p. (unfinished)undated
112Ethnic Stereotyping in Arabic Proverbs.Journal of American Folklore1970, Vol. 83, No. 330, pp. 417-429.1970
113The Ethnohistorical Study of Syrian Jews. s.l., s.d., 5 p.undated
114Exploratory Article on Oriental Jews, hand-written, s.d., 1 p.undated
115The Israel Sephardim and Religion. The Alliance Review 1965, pp. 26-29.1965
116Jewish Communities as Cultural Units. In: Perspectives on Ethnicity. R. Holloman and S. Arutiunov (eds.). The Hagues 1978: Mouton, pp. 327-338.1978
117The Jewish Family in Late Ottoman Syria: Peril or Refuge? Paper prepared for conversation in the disciplines: Jewish marriage and the family, SUNY-Binghamton April 22 and 23, 1979, 21 p.1979
118Jewish Retainers as Power Brokers.The Jewish Quarterly Review1990, Vol.81, Nos. 1-2, pp. 127-149.1990
119Jewish Retainers as Power Brokers. Paper prepared for the 74th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, Cal., December 4, 1975 37 p.1975
120Jewish Societies in the Middle East. (co-editor with Shlomo Deshen), copy of manuscript - incomplete, published Lanham, MD 1982: University Press of America, 321 p. pp. iii-153.1982
121Jewish Societies in the Middle East. (co-editor with Shlomo Deshen), copy of manuscript - incomplete, published Lanham, MD 1982: University Press of America, 321 p. pp. 211-321.1982
122Living traditions of Syrian Jews in Israel and America. Paper presented at the Conference on Jewish Living Traditions and Folk Creativity. New York City May 15, 1984, 18 p.1984
123Manchester, Cotton and the Syrian Sephardim: a Trading Diaspora at the Core. (preliminary draft), s.l., s.d., 17 p.after 1987
124The Marital Problems of Damascus Jewry Reflected in the Teshuvot of Isaac Abulafia. s.l., s.d., 20 p.1959?
125Married Woman and her Natal Family in a Patrilineal society. s.l., s.d., 22 p.1965?
126Memo on Inter-group Relations from April 26, 19591959
127Memorandum to Jean d’Este on Bilingualism. February 20, 1955.1955
128Memorialism: Some Jewish Examples.American Anthropologist1965, Vol. 67, No. 2, pp. 481-83.1965
129The Middle Eastern Family Type among Jews in Urban Syria. A paper. s.l., s.d., 7 p.1963?
130The Middle Eastern Family Type among Jews in Urban Syria. Paper to be delivered at the Conference of the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco November 21-24, 1963, 4 p.1963
131Middle Eastern Jews. A six-Part Lecture Series. Temple Israel, Albany, NY 1969, 9 p. (unpublished)1969
132The Non-Muslim Minorities in Iran. Paper for Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, 37 p.1961
133A Note on “Eastern Ambience” in Israeli Media in the 1960’s.Israel Studies Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 9-11.1998
21The Origins of Modern Syrian Jewry 1400-1800. Paper for a class of Dr. Abraham S. Halkin, s.l., April 16, 1959, 18 p.1959
22The Other Arab New Yorkers: The Syrian Jews of Brooklyn. Paper prepared for the Symposium A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City February 5 and 6, 2000, 11 p.2000
23Power in Minority Communities: Diaspora Jewish Polities. Prepared for the panel on the Powerful and the Powerless: Group relations among Jews and Others, American Anthropological Association, Denver, CO. November 15-18, 1984, 12 p.1984
24A Preliminary Study of Jews in Contemporary Syria: A Restricted Remnant Community.” Prepared for the panel Jews: Endangered People or Assimilating Elite, American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC. December 1985, 22 p.1985
25The Problem [History of Peyotism], s.l., s.d., 1 p.1958?
26Proposal for Research on Sephardic Communities in the Diaspora. s.l., 19671967
27Raful Leaves School.Reconstructionist1962 (November 30), Vol. 28, No. 15, pp. 21-24.1962
28Reinterpretation of a Tradition by a Transnational Elite: The Rabbis of the Aleppan Diaspora. Paper prepared for the Annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, CA. November, 2000, 11 p.2000
29Religious Attitudes and Participation among Syrian Jews in Jerusalem, s.l., s.d., 8 p.196-
210Remembering the Sages of Aram Soba (Aleppo). In: Critical Essays on Israeli Society, Religion, and Government. Kevin Avruch and Walter P. Zenner (eds.). Albany 1997: New York State university Press, pp. 137-151.1997
211Review of Saul S. Friedman: Without Future : The Plight of Syrian Jewry. New York: Praeger, 146 p.1989
212Rituals and acculturation - draft of a chapter, s.l., s.d., 14 p.1965?
213Sephardic Communal Organizations in Israel. s.l., s.d., 21 p.
214Sephardic Jewry and the Middle Eastern Emigration. s.l., 1981, 4 p.1981
215Sklare Memorial Lecture, 1997: The Ethnography of Diaspora; Studying Syrian Jewry.Contemporary Jewry1988, Vol. 19, pp. 151-174.1998
216Streams of Immigration: Sephardic Immigration to Britain and the United States. In: From Iberia to Diaspora: Studies in Sephardic History and Culture. Yedida and Norman Stillman (eds.). Leiden - Boston 1999: Brill. pp. 139-150.1999
217Studying Sephardic Jewry. s.l., 1989, 1 p.1989
218Syrian Jewish Identification in Israel. Thesis (Ph.D.) - Columbia University, New York, 1964. Introduction through Chapter II., pp. 1-98.1965
219Syrian Jewish Identification in Israel. Thesis (Ph.D.) - Columbia University, New York, 1964. Chapter II – VI., pp. 99-246.1965
220Syrian Jewish Identification in Israel. Thesis (Ph.D.) - Columbia University, New York, 1964. Chapter VII – Bibliography, pp. 247-400.1965
221Syrian Jewry in Late-Ottoman Syria. Entry in competition for Abraham Berliner Prize in Jewish History, Jewish Theological Seminary of America (manuscript), 106, [9] p.1961
222Syrian Jews of Brooklyn. In: A Community of Many Worlds. Arab Americans in New York City. Kathleen Benson and Philip M. Kayal (eds.). New York 2002: Museum of the City of New York. pp. 156-169.2002
223The Syrian Jews of Brooklyn: A Preliminary Report and Field Notes on Syrian Jews in Brooklyn and Other Locations, s.l., s.d., 18, [110] p.1958-1960
224Syrian Jews of Metropolitan New York. A Bibliographic Guide. s.l., s.d., 5 p.1981?
225Tastes as Social Symbols among Syrian Jews in Israel. original draft, s.l., 1963?, 24 p.1963?
226Traditional Inter Ethnic Relations in Palestine. s.l., s.d., 13 p.196-
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Series II: Anthropological Projects, 1958-1988

0.8 linear foot

Chronologically by project date.

Scope and Content:

These series cover Zenner’s research projects on customs and life conditions of the Sephardim in Israel, Britain, and the United States. Except for Subseries 1 – The Sephardic Jews in America outside of the USA, all series contain hand-written records of Walter Zenner’s observations and interviews with members of the Sephardic Jewish communities that were transcribed later. A smaller portion of the transcripts is in Hebrew. Walter Zenner particularly focused on the everyday practices of the Syrian Jews: describing how their customs and habits differed from the dominant practices of their surroundings, as well what was specific for their life style, whether in Israel, Britain or Greater New York. They are mostly the immediate products of Walter Zenner's research, such as transcripts of interviews, correspondence related to the research or field notes that are located in this series. Other documents which provide background information, such as announcements, notes from secondary literature constitute the Series III - Notes and background materials on Sephardic Jews. Some of the series contain photos.

Subseries 1: Syrian Jews in America outside of the USA, 1958-1959

three folders
Scope and Content:

These folders contain letters from representatives of Canadian Jewish organizations answering Walter Zenner’s inquiry about the situation of the Sephardic Jews in Canada. They also contain two sheets of Zenner’s travel journal to Mexico in 1958. This makes up the entirety of the series on Syrian Jewry in America outside of the USA

41Syrian Jews in Canada1958
42Syrian Jews in Mexico1959
43Syrian Jews in Mexico: Photos1959

Subseries 2: Israel, 1961-1963

0.4 linear foot
Scope and Content:

The Israel files are divided into three major groups: handwritten notes, transcripts in English and transcripts in Hebrew. The letters written and received by Zenner are included with the observation transcripts, partly because they were part of the original arrangement and partly because they provide contextual information; i.e., explaining and illuminating the situations in which Zenner appeared and the people were interviewed. Originally, the notes were divided into categories Synagogues, Family, Economical life, History, Family relations, Leisure time, Statistics, Customs on holidays, Community, Household and women, Ideology, Outlines etc., and Scientific literature. This arrangement, however, was not maintained until the time of processing and the documents tended to be rather loosely arranged. Therefore, to aid and assist the user, the collection was divided into the three above-mention sections: including English transcripts, Hebrew transcripts, and hand-written notes. The sequence of cards and letters nevertheless is maintained throughout.

31English Transcripts1961-1962
32English Transcripts1961-1962
33English Transcripts1961-1962
34English Transcripts1961-1962
35English Transcripts1961-1962
36Hebrew Transcripts1961-1963
37Hebrew Transcripts1961-1962
38Hebrew Transcripts1961-1963
39Hebrew Transcripts1961-1962
310Hand Written Notes1961-1962
311Hand Written Notes1961-1962
312Hand Written Notes1961-1962
313Hand Written Notes1961-1962

Subseries 3: Syrian Jews in Manchester, England, 1987-1988

three folders
Scope and Content:

In 1987 Walter Zenner spent several weeks in Manchester, Britain. He used the time exploring the history of the Syrian Jews in the English port. Besides transcripts of interviews and correspondence the series contains some photos.

45Transcripts of Interviews1987

Subseries 4: Sephardic Community in Chicago, 1988

four folders
Scope and Content:

During the second half of 1988 Walter Zenner investigated Chicago’s Sephardic community. Ironically, according to his own testimony, Zenner had hardly noticed the Sephardic community when he was growing up in Chicago. Besides the transcripts of interviews the series contains Zenner’s correspondence with various members of the Sephardic community in Chicago. This correspondence sheds some light on the life of the community and its history. Zenner received a small grant from Kohl Foundation for this research.

48Draft of an Article (An exploratory study of Chicago's Sephardim1988?
49Transcripts of Interviews1988
410Copies of Account Books of the Portuguese Israelite Fraternity of Chicago (Sephardic congregation)1934

Subseries 5: Syrian Jews in New York City, NY State and NJ, 1958-1988

five folders
Scope and Content:

In 1958 Walter Zenner received a small amount of funding for research into the Syrian Community in Greater New York. He carried out several interviews with various members of these communities. The interviewees included not merely Sephardic Jews, but also a number of representatives of the Syrian Orthodox Church on the East Coast of the United States. Thirty years later he interviewed descendents of Sephardic Jews coming from the area of Middle East, living in the area of Greater New York. In a letter to Dr. Glock filed in a Correspondence folder, Zenner explained in some depth the methods he used in the research as well as impressions he had derived from his encounter with Brooklyn's Syrian community.

412Draft of a Text (Syrian Jews in New York)1958-1959
413Transcripts of Interviews1958-1962
414Transcripts of Interview - the Second Generation1988
415New York: Photos1958
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Series III: Notes and Background Materials on Sephardic Jews, 1958-2000

1 linear foot

Alphabetically by topic.

Scope and Content:

This series contains texts that served as background material for Walter Zenner's research. It includes photocopied articles, archival documents, and correspondence not directly related to his research. Drafts and early versions of Zenner's publications can also be found here together with hand-written notes. Many of the topics parallel Zenner's academic activities, while others relate to more contemporary issues, i.e. political situation in Syria. In the 1970's several actions on behalf of Syrian Jews were organized by the American Jewish Committee and other organizations. Walter Zenner understandably took part in some of the events and followed up on the developments in Syria. This can be seen from the collections of newspaper clippings and press releases of various Jewish organizations that show support and solidarity for Syrian Jewry.

51Aleppo Jews1982-1994
52American Jewish Committee - Correspondence1964-1967
53Dissertation and Syrian Jews in New York - Correspondence1964-1980
54General Correspondence1989-2001
55Immigrants from Syria in the USA - Notes1979
56Inner Life of Jews in Late Ottoman Syria - Drafts, Notes1979
57Israel - Correspondence1992
58Israel - Field Notes1993
59Jewish Communities - Course Material1983
510Jewish Society in the Middle East - Articles, Correspondence1971-1981
511Jews in Syria - Excerpts, Notes1958-1961
512Jews in Syria - Political Situation - American Jewish Committee 1972-1988
513Jews in Syria - Political Situation - Excerpts, Notes1970's
514Jews in Syria - Political Situation - Newspaper Clippings 1972-1991
515 Jews in Syria - Political Situation - Press Releases1972-1991
516Kibbutz Communities and Ethnicity - Articles1986
517Kibbutz Communities and Ethnicity - Correspondence1986
518Living traditions of Syrian Jews in Israel and America - Conference Proposal, Correspondence, Drafts1984
519Manchester - Articles on History of Sephardic Jews in Britain1987
5 20Manchester - Research Notes 1987?
521Manchester - Slater's Trades Directory - Photocopies1886-1954
522The Marital Problem of Damascus Jewry - Excerpts, Draft, Notes1959?
523Newsletters of Sephardic Organizations in Chicago1973-1995
524New York - Sephardic House for the Aged Newsletter1964
525Power in Minority Communities - Draft, Notes 1984?
526Press Releases of other Organizations on behalf of the Syrian Jews1972-1991
527Reinterpretation of Tradition - Proposal for Conference Paper2000
528Syria - History- Research Notes1958-1963
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Series IV: Various materials on Sephardic Jews, 1929-2000

1 linear foot


Scope and Content:

Walter Zenner gathered during his academic career a great number of articles, conference papers and off-prints that deal with the history and contemporary issues of the Sephardic Jewry and particularly the Jews from Syria. A part of this series are papers from the International Conference On Jewish Communities in Muslim Lands. Another important part of this series is a collection of off-prints, mostly in English, but also in Hebrew dealing with the same subject. Two of the graduate works also provide interesting information on the life of Sephardic Jews in the USA.

61Conference papers1976-1993
62Exhibit on Syrian Synagogues1991-1995
63Family Picciotto, 1787-1908undated
  In French   
64Graduate papers1929-1960
65International Association of Jews from Egypt - Newsletter1999, 2000
66International Conference On Jewish Communities in Muslim Lands – authors A-F197-
67International Conference On Jewish Communities in Muslim Lands – authors G-M197-
68International Conference On Jewish Communities in Muslim Lands – authors N-Z197-
69Islam and Judaism – Lectures by Shlomo D. Goitein1958
610Jewish MagazineThe Town1996
612Newspaper clippings - Variety of Sephardic topics1962-1999
613Off-prints in English – authors A-N1957--1998
614Off-prints in English – authors O-Z1852-1980
615Off-prints in Hebrewundated
616Photocopies of Articles by Authors A-F1975-1995
617Photocopies of Articles by Authors G-L1958-1988
618Photocopies of Articles by Authors M-P1962-2001
619Photocopies of Articles by Authors R-Z1856-1988
620Photocopies of Articles in Hebrewundated
621Photocopy of The Community Little Theatreundated
622Poster for a presentation of Hacham Ovadia Yossef's Sermonundated
623Publications on Sephardic Jews in NYCundated
624"Reaffirming our tradition" - Pledge1984
625Sephardic Community Center, Brooklyn1986
626Undergraduate paper1980
627World Centre for Aleppo Jews Traditional Culture1985
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