Born in Istanbul in 1950. Doctorat d’État, Université Paris III, 1987 ; Ph. D., Université Paris VIII, 1978 ; M.A., Université Paris VIII, 1973; B.A., Tel-Aviv University, 1972. Postdoctoral fellow of the Lady Davies Fellowship Trust and of the Yad Hanadiv / Barecha Foundation at the Department of the History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1988-1989. Research Professor, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), 1989-2000. Professor of Modern Jewish History, École pratique des hautes études, Sorbonne, since 2000.
In 2002, Esther Benbassa founded the Alberto Benveniste Center, devoted to the study of Sephardi culture and history and to the comparative history of minorities, and she has been its director since then. She is currently running, with Sébastien Ledoux, a research group on history, memory and oblivion.
Recent invitations abroad : Fellow, Collegium Budapest, 2002; Fellow, Nertherlands Institute for Advanced Study, 2004-2005; Guest Professor, New York University, sept.-oct. 2008. E. Benbassa is regularly invited to lecture in North-American and European universities.
- Modern and contemporary history of the Jews in Islamic lands, especially in the Ottoman Empire.
- History of the Jews in France.
- History of Zionism.
- History of representations and memory.
- Comparative history of minorities in the contemporary era.
- Esther Benbassa is currently working on Jewish intellectuals in XXth century France.
Esther Benbassa published or edited about twenty books, that were translated into a dozen of languages. Among her publications in English : Haim Nahum. A Sephardic Rabbi in Politics, 1892-1923, Tuscaloosa, The University of Alabama Press, 1995; A Sephardi Life in Southeastern Europe. The Autobiography and Journal of Gabriel Arié, 1863-1939, Seattle & London, University of Washington Press, 1998 (with Aron Rodrigue); History of Sephardic Jewry, XIVth-XXth Centuries, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2000 (with A. Rodrigue); The Jews of France. A History from Antiquity to the Present, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1999, 2nd ed. (softcover), 2001 ; Israël, the Impossible Land, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2003 (with Jean-Christophe Attias); The Jews and their Future. A Conversation on Jewish Identities, London, Zed Books, 2004 (with J.-C. Attias) ; The Jew and the Other, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2004 (with J.-C. Attias); Suffering as Identity, London – New-York, Verso, 2010.
Courses taught at the Ecole pratique des hautes études
Europeans, Jews and Intellectuels : Exiles of Modern Times (2005-2006) ; Issues of Modern and Contemporary Jewish History (2006-2007) ; Being a Jew in Islamic Lands (2007-2008) ; New Minority Solidarities : Lobbies and Community Politics (XIXth-XXth centuries) (2008-2009); Jews and Minorities in Europe in an Age of Modernization and Secularization (XVIIIth-XXth Centuries) (2009-2010); Jews and the War (2010-2011); History and Sociology of Modern Identities (2011-2012).
As an intellectual, Esther Benbassa takes an active part in the French public debate and regularly publishes articles in French newspapers and on the Internet. Especially involved in the fight against racism and discriminations, she cofounded the « Pari(s) du Vivre-Ensemble », an annual culture festival.
On October 25, 2011, Esther Benbassa was elected to the French Senate.
Awards and distinctions
- Chevalier dans l’Ordre national du mérite (2005).
- Seligmann Award against Racism, Injustice and Intolérance (2006).
- Guizot Award (bronze medal) of the Académie française for La Souffrance comme identité (2008).
- Chevalier dans l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur (2011).