Bar-Jlan University’s Faculty of Jewish Studies is the largest of its kind in the academic world. The Faculty publishes ten periodicals, including an electronic journal.
Shmuel Refael (Vivante) is a professor in the field of Judea-Spanish (Ladino) literature and culture, a playwright, poet, and translator. His research focuses on the study of Ladino and of Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jews during the Holocaust. He teaches in the Berman Department of Literature of the Jewish People and leads the development of Ladino research at the university's Salti Institute for Ladino Studies.
In his role as dean, Prof. Refael strives to "transform the Faculty of Jewish Studies into a cohesive, supportive, and passionate community of scholars of all academic ranks. I am working to achieve a respectable representation of faculty members in all leading forums with the aim of presenting the multifaceted nature of Jewish studies and bringing about its recognition as an incubator for the emergence of new ideas. It's important for me to connect the Faculty of Jewish Studies with academic bodies and forums in Israel and worldwide, thus creating incubators of knowledge and research between the Faculty of Jewish Studies and other university faculties."
Prof. Refael also seeks to expand the field of Ladino literature and integrate it into the field of Hebrew and Jewish literature. To this end, he developed several major areas of research. His many publications include two books devoted to the study of Romancero and Coplas, two major genres in Ladino literature.
In recent years, he has also been active in writing plays and publishing and distributing Ladino books to the Israeli public. In addition, he is involved in the methodical development of tools for teaching the Holocaust in the context of Sephardic Jewry. He also initiated a first-of-its-kind synchronous training program where students at the Salti Institute for Ladino Studies visit Greek and Polish Jewish communities in the footsteps of Ladino speakers in the Holocaust.
Prof. Refael is one of the founders of the Israeli National Academy of Ladino and serves as its Scientific Secretary. He also serves as an academic consultant to the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE). In addition, he is a board member of Israel's National Authority for Ladino Culture and serves as a Ladino consultant for organizations in Israel and throughout the world.
He is the initiator, founder, and editor of the journal "Ladinar – Studies on Literature, Music and History of Ladino-speaking Spanish-Jews." He is also on the editorial board of several leading journals (in Israel and worldwide) in the field of Ladino research, Hebrew literature, Spanish literature, and folklore research.
Prof. Refael holds a BA in Hebrew Literature and Philosophy from Tel-Aviv University, and an MA and PhD in Philosophy from Bar-Ilan University. He has been teaching in the university's Berman Department of Literature of the Jewish People since 1985. Prior to his role as dean, he served as the head of the Multidisciplinary Department of Jewish Studies (1999-2003) and as the head of the Berman Department of Literature of the Jewish People (2002-2005).