Born and raised in the Sephardic community of Seattle, Washington, he went to New York for his higher education at Yeshiva University where he earned his B.A., M.S., Ph.D. and Rabbinic Ordination. He also earned an M.A. in English Literature from the City College of New York.
Author and editor of 38 books, he has written and lectured extensively on various aspects of Jewish law, history and culture. Among his books are Foundations of Sephardic Spirituality: The Inner Life of Jews of the Ottoman Empire (Jewish Lights, 2006); La America: The Sephardic Experience in the United States (Skokie: Varda Books, 2001); The Jews of Rhodes: The History of a Sephardic Community (New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1978); Voices in Exile: A Study in Sephardic Intellectual History (Ktav Publishing House, 2019); and A New World: An American Sephardic Memoir (Albion-Andalus, 2019).