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Moshe Lazar papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 5282

Scope and Content

The 52 boxes of Moshe Lazar's papers cover approximately forty years of Lazar's research studies and academic career. Most of the material in the collection is topic-related rather than function-related; i.e. there are numerous articles and notes on literature, religion, etc., but very little correspondence or other personal papers. Almost all of the material was generated after Lazar's immigration to the United States from Israel in the 1970s.


  • Creation: 1967 - 2015


Language of Materials

Most of the materials in this collection are in English. However, many articles, notes, and publications are in Spanish, German, Ladino, Hebrew, and other languages. Assistance with the Hebrew language materials was provided by Dr. Yaffa Weisman of Hebrew Union College.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection stored off-site. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical Note

One of the world’s most eminent authorities on Sephardic studies, Moshe Lazar began his life in Rumania in 1928, though his family moved to Antwerp, Belgium when he was still an infant. In 1940, the Lazar family was forced to flee to France when Nazi planes bombed Antwerp. The family was placed in a transit camp for three years as they awaited deportation to Auschwitz, but was finally able to escape with the help of the French Underground. Young Lazar was placed in a Catholic school where he memorized English and mathematics textbooks.

A few years later, Lazar was studying comparative literature at the Sorbonne and, while in Paris, shared an apartment with Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. Another notable acquaintance of Lazar was Marcel Marceau, from whom he took pantomime lessons.

From Paris, Lazar’s travels took him to Israel in 1948 where he fought in the War of Independence as well as two subsequent Israeli wars in Sinai. In 1951, Lazar received his M.A. in French literature, romance philology, and history from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Later while at the University of Salamanca in Spain, he became interested in Ladino, the language of Spanish Jews, and became a world authority in the subject as he saved and translated hundreds of manuscripts including a Jewish prayer book for women from the late 1400s.

A doctoral thesis on the literature of courtly love earned Lazar his Ph.D. from the Sorbonne in Paris. He then went on to become the first Dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Tel Aviv. Another achievement around the same time was becoming one of the founders of Israeli television in the 1960s.

By the late 1970s, Dr. Lazar had arrived in the United States, founding the comparative literature program at the University of Southern California. In addition to comparative literature, Lazar taught French, Italian, Spanish, Medieval drama, Medieval Jewish culture in Spain, and subjects pertaining to the post-expulsion Sephardic diaspora.

One of Lazar’s most noteworthy achievements began in the early 1980s when he learned that the ancient Jewish quarter in the city of Girona (near Barcelona) was in danger of being replaced by a shopping center. The area--referred to as The Call--was considered the birthplace of the Jewish Kabala and had been buried since the Spanish Inquisition and only recently become uncovered. Moshe Lazar rallied support to rescue the area and formed a corporation called American Friends of Girona’s Call. For his efforts, he was awarded the Orden del Mérito Civil by the consul general of Spain in 1993.

For his years of teaching, research, and service to USC, Lazar received the Raubenheimer Outstanding Senior Faculty Award in 2003. An exhibit at USC in 2005 was founded on much of Lazar’s Sephardim research: "The First Renaissance of Europe: Sefared, Al-Andalus, España. Three Cultures in Contact."

Moshe Lazar’s last big project was a major study of 1800 years of anti-Semitic propaganda imagery, writings, sermons, and films called "Satan’s Synagogue." He retired from USC in 2011 and passed away in 2012 after battling Alzheimer’s for several years. He is survived by wife Sonia and daughter, Ilanit.


38.5 Linear Feet (66 boxes)


Moshe Lazar (1928-2012) was a professor in many subjects at the University of Southern California from the late 1970s until a year before his death. In addition to the many topics he taught at the University, he actively and avidly researched a variety of topics related to medieval literature, antisemitism, and Sephardic studies. The materials in this collection span the breadth of his scholarly interests and activities.


The collection is organized into nineteen series, either by topic or materials format.

Processing Information

This collection was processed with the assistance of Tiffany Chu and Ye Fu.

Finding aid for the Moshe Lazar papers
Jacqueline Morin
2015 June
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States