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Vanessa Paloma Elbaz

Judeo-Spanish Music

Sorbonne Paris Cité University



Vanessa Paloma Elbaz is a researcher, writer, and performer described as “a kind of one-woman roving museum of her own” by the New York Times. Her research and publications focus on Sephardic women, music, popular culture, identity, transmission, and language. She is currently a PhD candidate at the Sorbonne’s CERMOM research group of the INALCO (Center for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Studies of the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilization), a 2014-2016 Posen Fellow, and a 2015-2018 Research Fellow of the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies.

She has received grants from (amongst others) the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, the Maurice Amado Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Sephardic Education Center, the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the OKIE (Oklahoma Israel Exchange), and the California Council for the Humanities.

Her dissertation’s title is “Sung Women’s Voices from Northern Morocco: Core Role and Function of a Forgotten Repertoire.” She is an alumna of the Oklahoma Baptist University, USA, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Universidad de los Andes, Colombia (BM, magna cum laude) and the Early Music Institute at Indiana University’s School of Music (MM in Early Music Voice-Medieval and Renaissance Spain). Vanessa was a Senior Fulbright Research Scholar to Morocco in 2007-2008 and Research Associate of the Hadassah Brandeis Institute of Brandeis University, USA, from 2009 to 2016.

In 2014, she founded KHOYA: Jewish Morocco Sound Archive to collect, digitize, classify, and analyze contemporary and historical sound recordings of Moroccan Jews, with a particular emphasis on those who speak Haketia (Moroccan Judeo-Spanish). She has published with Cambridge University Press, Lexington Books, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Rowman and Littlefield, Jewish Lights, and Gaon Books, among others.

Vanessa’s groundbreaking performances and lectures on five continents—including Los Angeles’ World Festival for Sacred Music, Paris’ Institute du Monde Arabe, Bogotá’s National Museum, Santa Fe’s Crypto-Judaic Studies Conference, and Ifrane’s Hillary Clinton Center for Women's Empowerment at Al Akhawayn University—have been featured on stations including PBS, NPR, PRI, I24, France24, and Al Jazeera International.