Guide to the Zeva Oelbaum Photographs


Processed by Leanora Lange

American Sephardi Federation

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 548-4486



© 2016  American Sephardi Federation. New York, NY
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Leanora Lange in May 2016. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Oelbaum, Zeva
Title: Zeva Oelbaum Photographs
Abstract: This collection contains photographs of Jewish communities in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, and Morocco taken in 1976 by photographer Zeva Oelbaum. The entire collection was digitized and returned to the donor; the items are therefore accessible online only.
Languages: The collection is in English.
Quantity: 205 digital files
Identification: ASF AR 76
Repository: American Sephardi Federation
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Biographical Note

Zeva Oelbaum is a photographer and a producer and director of films. Oelbaum grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, studied at Brandeis University, and settled in New York City. Oelbaum’s photographs are held in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas; the Bibliotheque nationale in Paris, France; the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, New York; and the Museum of the City of New York in New York City. Her photographs have been displayed in a number of solo and group exhibitions. She is the author of Flowers in Shadow: A Photographer Rediscovers a Victorian Botanical Journal and Blue prints: The Natural Cyanotype Photographs. She has also done commercial photography for magazines and served as the photographer for many cookbooks. Oelbaum produced the documentary films Ahead of Time: The Extraordinary Journey of Ruth Gruber and Rene and I. She directed and produced Letters from Baghdad. She teaches at the International Center of Photography and is a member of the Producer's Guild of America.

In 1976, Oelbaum traveled to Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt and Morocco. Her photography from this time forms part of her early work.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection contains photographs taken by photographer Zeva Oelbaum in 1976 in Afghanistan (Herat and Kabul), Egypt (Alexandria and Cairo), Iran (Tehran and Isfahan), and Morocco. Included are 72 unique photographs and 42 contact sheets. Oelbaum's notes can be found on many of the contact sheets and some of the versos. Since many of the versos were digitized, the collection as a whole measures 205 digital images.

The entire collection was digitized and returned to the donor; the items are therefore accessible online only.

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The collection is arranged into eight folders, ordered alphabetically by country and then city.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to researchers.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact: American Sephardi Federation, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011 email:

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Related Material

The American Sephardi Federation has many library holdings related to Jewish communities in Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, and Morocco, which can be discovered at

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Zeva Oelbaum Photographs; ASF AR 76; box number; folder number; American Sephardi Federation, New York, NY.

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Acquisition Information

The photographs were donated by Zeva Oelbaum in 2016 for arrangement, description, and digitization. The photographs were returned to Oelbaum and the digital surrogates preserved.

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Processing Information

The photographs were arranged in spring 2016, largely using notes on the contact sheets and versos to determine location. The collection is preserved and made accessible only in digital form; after digitization, the photographs were returned to the donor.

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Access Points

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Container List

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Zeva Oelbaum Photographs, 1976


Alphabetical by country then city.

11Afghanistan — Herat 1976

21 contact sheets, 39 photographs. Items depict the old school complex, old synagogue, historic synagogues, Jewish community members at synagogue, the Jewish cemetery, the head of the Jewish community with his family, and street scenes.

  View the folder 
12Afghanistan — Kabul 1976

9 contact sheets, 18 photographs. Items depict the Jewish community synagogue and families in their homes. A caption on one photograph reads "Young woman getting ready to emigrate to New York to find an eligible bachelor," and another note reads "Jewish grandma and child."

  View the folder 
13Afghanistan — Herat and Kabul1976

2 contact sheets with images from both Herat and Kabul

  View the folder 
14Egypt — Alexandria 1976

2 contact sheets, 3 photographs. Items depict the synagogue. Notes read “Synagogue Alexandria, formerly a huge congregation, now about 10 elderly people. They almost never have a minyan,” “Synagogue Alexandria, notice Jewish leader,” and “Synagogue European style as compared to Cairo synagogue.”

  View the folder 
15Egypt — Cairo 1976

1 photograph. Item depicts Torah scrolls.

  View the folder 
16Iran — Tehran 1976

4 contact sheets, 5 photographs. Items depict the synagogue and lessons in progress at the Tehran Hebrew School. Notes read “Tehran Hebrew School tutor and Bar mitzvah boy, notice on blackboard Hebrew with Pharsee [sic] translation. Notice synagogue with rugs and area heaters.”

  View the folder 
17Iran — Isfahan 1976

4 contact sheets, 4 photographs. Items depict Jewish community members and the synagogue. Note reads "Notice Persian rugs."

  View the folder 
18Morocco — Fez1976

2 photographs. Items depict the cemetery with cityscape in the background.

  View the folder 
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