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Benardete, Mair José


BENARDETE, MAIR JOSÉ (1895–1983), philologist. Benardete was born in Turkey and emigrated to the United States in 1910. He was a long-time professor of Spanish and Sephardic Studies at Brooklyn College in New York City. Benardete and Federico de Onis, who founded Columbia University's Hispanic Institute in 1920, are well known for effecting a reconciliation between Hispanics and Sephardim in America. Benardete was director of the institute's Sephardic Studies Section in the late 1920s. Under his direction, the section sponsored lectures on Sephardi civilization, generated articles for the institute's Revista Hispanica Moderna, published a Ladino/Spanish commemorative volume on medieval Spanish-Jewish poet *Judah Halevi, and staged plays in Judeo-Spanish.

Benardete wrote a number of volumes in the field of Spanish literature and civilization. Several Loyalist ballads are presented in English translation in And Spain Sings (1937), which he prepared in collaboration with the poet Rolfe Humphries. His Hispanic Culture and Character of the Sephardic Jews (1952; Spanish, 1963) is an analysis of the Sephardi Jews.

Benardete retired from City University of New York / Brooklyn College in 1965. As a tribute to the renowned scholar, his colleagues Louis Levy and David Barocas formed the Committee for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture to publish the testimonial book Studies in Honor of M.J. Benardete. They then joined forces with other Sephardi leaders to continue publishing books on Sephardi history and Sephardi life in the U.S.

In the late 1970s Benardete, along with Rabbi Marc *Angel, Levy, and Barocas, initiated the idea of a cultural center that would fill the void in information and programming regarding Sephardi history and culture. To that end, Sephardic House was established in 1978 at Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City.


H.V. Besso, in: I.A. Langnas and B. Sholod (eds.), Studies in Honor of M.J. Benardete (1965), 459–86 (including bibliography).

[Victor A. Mirelman /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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