The Sephardic Studies Program of the University of Washington &
The Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood Foundation present:
Muestras Konsejas ‘Our Tales’
The National Sephardic Essay Competition 2023-2024
A writing contest rooted in Sephardic reflection and identity
In 1987, literary scholar Diane Matza went in search of memoirs written by people of Sephardic heritage from the lands of the former Ottoman Empire. She identified only one main title (Leon Sciaky’s evocative Farewell to Salonica ).
In the decades since Matza’s research, the descendants of Sephardic immigrants have taken up the task of reflecting on their families' generational trajectories and what it means to be “Sephardic.” Some have written privately for their families, whereas others have written for the public, sharing memoirs or fictionalized accounts inspired by family tales. Two writers of Sephardic heritage have won Nobel Prizes for work that draws on family memoir (Elias Canetti  and Patrick Modiano ), but a wealth of stories are still waiting to be told and widely shared.
Organizations such as the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research have encouraged Jews–especially youth and those of Yiddish-speaking heritage–to write about the multifaceted intricacies, aspirations, histories and anxieties among Ashkenazi Jews. No comparable enterprise has emerged to cultivate storytelling for Sephardic Jews.
Thus, the Sephardic Studies Program of the University of Washington in Seattle and the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood Foundation are thrilled to partner in presenting the inaugural National Sephardic Essay Competition to open a new space for the telling of Sephardic stories.
2023 National Sephardic Essay Competition - Entry, Guidelines, & Prize
Share an original, previously unpublished work of prose (fictional or memoiristic) that gives voice to the experiences of the Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jewish communities (whether from family lore, lived experience, community heritage, life stories, etc.).
Work submitted must not exceed the maximum of 2,000 words and must be written in English* prose. Genre may be memoir, (auto)biography or fiction.*
*Submissions may include expressions or terms drawn from Ladino or other relevant languages.
The competition will feature two categories: ‘Student’ (18+) and ‘Adult’.
There is no entry fee required for either category. Writers can submit as many entries as they wish. Each submission will require a separate entry form. To ensure a fair process, judges will read submissions with the authors’ names removed.
For further instructions for how to submit, click below for the submission portal.
One Winner in each category will receive $1,000.
One Runner Up in each category will receive $500.
In addition to the cash prize, winners and runners up will be featured in:
El Ermanado Sefaradi - the Sephardic Brother, the quarterly magazine published by the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America
Online on the website of the Sephardic Studies Program at the University of Washington
A renowned panel of Sephardic American writers and thinkers
Rabbi Marc D. Angel
Founding Director of the
Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals
Professor Ruth Behar
Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and award-winning author
Award-winning author of the acclaimed 2023 novel, Kantika
Managing Director of the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America
Dr Jane Mushabac
Professor emerita of English at
the City University of New York
Professor Devin E. Naar
Chair of the Sephardic Studies Program at the University of Washington
FAQs - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who Qualifies as a Student? - Any individual age 18+ who is currently enrolled in a undergraduate or graduate studies program from an accredited University or Academic institution
Do I need to have Sephardic Heritage/Identify as Sephardic to apply? - No, you do not need to be Sephardic to apply.
Do I need to be a US Citizen to apply to the competition? - No, you do not need to be a US Citizen to apply for the competition