The moon is older than scientists thought, UCLA-led research team reports

A UCLA-led research team reports that the moon is at least 4.51 billion years old, or 40 million to 140 million years older than scientists previously thought.

Become a citizen scientist and help preserve California’s biodiversity

Would you like to become a volunteer citizen scientist helping to document and analyze California’s rich biodiversity? If so, you can be among 1,000 volunteers who will collect 18,000 samples of soil and aquatic sediment from across the state through a new University of California program called CALeDNA that intends to revolutionize conservation in California by the end of this year.

UCLA acquires major collection of Sephardic Jewish past

Symbolic key from the 1932 dedication of L.A.’s Temple Tifereth Israel (courtesy of STTI Archive)

The UCLA Sephardic Archive has acquired one of the most significant collections ever assembled chronicling Los Angeles Sephardic Jewish history. The materials tell of the migration of Sephardic Jews to California from the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa at the turn of the 20th century; the shaping of Sephardic culture in Los Angeles; and Sephardic Jews’ contributions to the Jewish and urban fabric of L.A.

Marking its first major acquisition, the archive partnered with UCLA Library-Special Collections to acquire the Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel (STTI) archive, which includes a rich trove of photographs, papers, audio-visual materials and rare books dating to the mid-19th century. Many are written in the endangered language of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), the language of Mediterranean Jews descended from the medieval exiles from Iberia.

Launched in 2015, UCLA’s Sephardic Archive is the first of its kind in the U.S. and aims to be one of the world’s largest collections—as yet unseen—of Sephardi Jewish life. An early focus will be on the local Ladino-speaking community, whose immigrant pioneers came to L.A. from modern-day Turkey and the Balkans in the early 20th century. The archive will then be expanded to include L.A.’s North African, Persian and other Middle Eastern Jewish communities.

“UCLA is the ideal institution to safeguard and steward a collection of such enormous significance,” said Sarah Abrevaya Stein, director of the archive, professor of history and holder of the Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies. “We are in L.A., which is home to one of the oldest and largest Sephardic communities in the country, and we have the world-class resources to pioneer a comprehensive and invaluable archive of Sephardic culture.”

Jerusalem rabbinate’s 1912 recognition of the L.A. Sephardic Jewish community (courtesy of STTI archive)

Most archives and libraries dedicated to preserving documents and objects of the Jewish past have focused on European Jewish histories. In contrast, UCLA’s archive will span the southern Mediterranean and Middle East. Made possible by a lead gift from the Sady Kahn Foundation with additional support from the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies Community Advisory Board and the Maurice Amado Foundation, the archive complements UCLA’s unparalleled academic expertise and course offerings related to the study of Sephardic Jewish history.

Chris Silver, UCLA doctoral student in Jewish history and the archive’s project manager, said that the recent acquisition of the STTI archive would launch UCLA’s efforts in the most meaningful way, given its connection to the local community (the Temple is located on Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood). The STTI archive was created in 1981 and stewarded by Maurice I. “Bob” Hattem, a descendant one of the earliest founders of the Sephardi communidad in L.A. The diverse collection includes institutional records, research papers, newsletters, pamphlets, scrapbooks and newspaper clippings. The archive also possesses an impressive audio-visual collection of reel-to-reel, cassette and VHS tapes.

According to Stein, time is of the essence. “Materials held in these collections can be acutely vulnerable and at risk of being lost forever—often languishing in garages and other facilities ill-equipped for preservation,” she said. “It is imperative to collect, preserve and make them available for scholars and members of the community.”

The UCLA Sephardic Archive hopes to reverse the historic neglect of these primary source materials.

19th-century Ottoman birth certificate of a Sephardic Temple congregant (courtesy of STTI Archive)

Michael Hattem, son of Bob Hattem and member of STTI and the archive’s community advisory board, said, “The partnership between STTI and UCLA will keep the rich heritage of Sephardim alive for generations to come.”

After gathering and cataloguing the materials, Stein and her researchers plan to create a visually rich and historically informative interactive exhibit available online to users all over the world. The digital exhibit will be accompanied by a temporary physical exhibit at the Sephardic Temple featuring items drawn from the STTI archive and marking the community’s centenary anniversary. Finally, the archive will serve as a research resource for UCLA graduate students writing their dissertations on related topics and for community members interested in learning more about their past.

To learn more, please go to the archive’s webpage.

UCLA mathematicians bring ocean to life for Disney’s ‘Moana’

UCLA mathematics professor Joseph Teran, a Walt Disney consultant on animated movies since 2007, is under no illusion that artists want lengthy mathematics lessons, but many of them realize that the success of animated movies often depends on advanced mathematics.

Uri McMillan honored for his book on black feminist art and performance

The Modern Language Association of America recently announced it is awarding its 15th annual William Sanders Scarborough Prize to Uri McMillan, associate professor of English at UCLA, for his book “Embodied Avatars: Genealogies of Black Feminist Art and Performance,” published by New York University Press.

Chilling climate revelations from the last ice age

About 14,000 years ago, the southwest United States was lush and green, home to saber-toothed cats and mammoths. Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest was mostly grassland.

Infants show apparent awareness of ethnic differences, UCLA psychologists report

Infants less than a year old, who have yet to learn language, appear to notice differences when looking at adult women of different ethnicities, a new study by UCLA psychologists shows.

UCLA astronomers watch star clusters spewing out dust

Galaxies are often thought of as sparkling with stars, but they also contain gas and dust. Now, a team led by UCLA astronomers has used new data to show that stars are responsible for producing dust on galactic scales, a finding consistent with long-standing theory.

UCLA professors reflect on how Trump defied the polls

Going into Election Day, all the major polls and news organizations like FiveThirtyEight, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times predicted that Donald Trump would lose the presidential race by several percentage points to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, and also, more importantly, lose the Electoral College.

New exhibition at UCLA celebrates history of Boyle Heights

In line with its mission to uncover and preserve the rich history of Jewish Los Angeles, the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies will open a new multimedia exhibition next week that highlights the historic experiences of Jews in Boyle Heights.