About Makena Mezistrano

Growing up in my grandparents' home, both of whom were Holocaust survivors from Salonica, I heard Ladino, Greek, and French interspersed throughout conversations that were meant to shield my ears from adult topics. These sounds and my grandparents' vivid memories shaped my imagination of Salonica: the place my ancestors had called home since the fifteenth century. Inspired by this cosmopolitan Jewish city, I pursued a career at the University of Washington Sephardic Studies Program after graduate school. In my work I strive to create public programs and digital content that draws students and the general public into the world of Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jews -- both past and present. With a combination of scholarly research, multidisciplinary programs, and the latest digital tools, I hope my work adds texture to the current portrait of Jewish history and contemporary Jewish life by including the experiences of Sepharadim. Beyond Sephardic studies, I am passionate about advancing opportunities for higher learning in Jewish law, specifically Talmud, for Orthodox Jewish women. This was my impetus for obtaining a master's in Bible and Talmud at one of the only institutions to offer such advanced learning for Orthodox Jewish women in the United States. Outside of my professional responsibilities, my current personal projects include learning the Book of Jonah with the commentary of Don Isaac Abravanel, a medieval Spanish Jewish commentator, and building a digital database of Ladino proverbs and sayings preserved by my grandmother.

NBN Episodes hosted by Makena: