Joseph Coen, a barber from Kastoria, in present-day Greece, was a hero to New York's growing Sephardic population at the turn of the 20th century. He vouched for the Greek, Spanish, Turkish, and other Sephardic Jews who stepped off the boat at Ellis island, sometimes offering them temporary lodging. Isolated from their Ashkenazi neighbors by language and cultural barriers, these immigrants benefited enormously from Coen's efforts to help them find family and friends.
Want to learn more? Judaic and Near Eastern scholar Aviva Ben-Ur will be giving a Tenement Talk tomorrow night on the Sephardic immigrant experience, drawing on primary sources like oral histories and the Ladino press. RSVP here.