Center for Jewish History
Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16 Street, New York, NY 10011
Events at this location
The first session of the
The first session of the Rome Lab features Rav Alberto Funaro, teacher and cantor of the Spanish Temple in Rome. Join us to learn the most beautiful tunes of the Roman liturgy for the Selichot and the High Holidays.
Traditional liturgical melodies of the Italian and Spanish rite in Rome have been handed down orally, through generations, by practitioners and only seldom formally transcribed. With few exceptions, Roman cantors, did not have musical training. Those who did, applied it to learn the melodies composed by the various maestros of the Temple’s choir.
Rome is a central place of memory for the preservation of the Italian rite, which, through the centuries, was transformed by various influences. Some liturgical songs are no longer part of the ritual; of some only the initial and final passages are sung; and others have been introduced over the course of time by rabbis and cantors from elsewhere.
Liturgical songs have always been transmitted from teacher to pupil, in some cases, rare or difficult melodies have been lost or transformed as a liturgical text of which the original melody is no longer known is likely to become obsolete.
It is to be noted that since the first half of the 19th century Rome has not had a Roman Chief Rabbi. Each newcomer, brought with him the melodies from his city of origin that were dearest to him and implanted them onto the local rite. Moreover, the fact that the Tempio Maggiore and the Spanish Temple are located in the same building, caused a coalescing of tropes and a continuous exchange between the two rites.
The most striking example of this phenomenon is that the traditional Italian cantillation of Torah reading is no longer used in Rome. The Italian tradition is distinguished by its
simple and elegant reading style obtained through a reduction of the “Té amim” (flavors or accents, the musical notations in Jewish liturgical text).
Today, this tradition is heard only in Turin or Milan (with some difference from the ancient Roman use). In Rome for reasons that have not been fully explained, the Torah reading is no longer Roman but Sephardic Roman. I tried to explain this peculiarity, and with the approval of some of the experts I came to my personal conviction, that the alternation of chazanim at different times and different synagogues prompted a continuous exchange of melodies that coalesced into a mainstream style.
Another important consideration is the lack of ancient manuscripts that makes it impossible to assess when various melodies were composed. One last consideration should be made on the melodies of the psalms according to the Roman tradition (probably Spanish). These have been mostly lost, but some of them arrived to me through my Father z.l. and were collected for what was possible at the time in the transcriptions of liturgical songs by M ° Elio Piattelli z.l.
Rav Alberto Funaro is chazan of the Spanish Synagogue of Rome. Known for his melodic style, his knowledge of the Roman and Sephardic liturgy and his embracing communal spirit, he took his first professional steps under the late Chief Rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff of whom he remained close collaborator. His recordings have contributed to preserve the Roman Jewish cantorial tradition which was collected and handed down to his generation by cantors and rabbis who had survived fascist-nazi persecution. Rav Funaro received his degree as “Rabbino Maggiore” from the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano in 1979 where he has taught since 1977. He is the director of the Rome Talmud Torà and a judge of the Rabbinical tribunal of Rome and of the Rabbinical Office of the Jewish Community of Rome since 2002.
On September 14th, 2017, Centro
On September 14th, 2017, Centro Primo Levi and the Jewish Museum of Rome will open a learning space, the Rome Lab, dedicated to the history of the Roman Jews and of the twenty-two centuries relations between Rome and Jerusalem. The Rome Lab, located in the Selz Gallery at the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street will offer weekly presentations through January 14th 2018. The public, students and scholars are welcome to join and participate in the conversation. All programs are free.
The project initiated at the invitation of Yeshiva University Museum, is designed to respond to and converse with the exhibition The Arch of Titus – from Jerusalem to Rome, and Back, which explores the Arch of Titus as symbol of continuity and rupture in the history of the Jewish people and state sovereignty. In the year 70 C.E., when Roman troops raided Jerusalem destroying the Second Temple and taking its treasures
and the legendary golden menorah to Rome, a new era began. From then, the Jewish diaspora born with the Babylonian exile, was presented with a new gravitational center of Jewish life: Rome.
The Rome Lab, consisting of a semester long series of presentations, will be open daily offering a window onto the history, culture and traditions of Roman Jews through the virtual mapping of the collections of the Jewish Museum and the Historical Archive of the Rome Jewish Community. It will be a unique occasion to explore extraordinary documents and liturgical objects that testify to twenty-two centuries of uninterrupted history.
The art historians Alessandra Di Castro and Olga Melasecchi, respectively Director and Curator, of the Jewish Museum of Rome, will make special appearances illustrating the treasures from the collection. Beyond their physical beauty, these object often have an added point of interest in that they continue to be used in liturgical and communal functions, within the oldest Jewish community in the Western world. Their presentations will focus on the tradition of covering and uncovering the Torah scroll. In Rome, this ritual has given origin to an art form, practiced mostly by women. It was the women who specialized in sewing the “garments of the Torah”, embroidering them with text that point to fragments of community life, love and friendship, joy and loss, beginnings and ends. The Roman rite includes a special blessing for these women.
Among other prestigious guests from Rome will be the cantor of the Spanish Temple, Rav Alberto Funaro, and the scribe and Jewish manuscripts expert, Rav Amedeo Spagnoletto. Their knowledge and views on Judaism will add an influential and yet unheard voice to the diverse spectrum of Jewish life of New York City.
Delving into the history of a community that traces its roots to antiquity and to the formative centuries of European diasporic Judaism, this program invites the public to reflect upon the relation of a minority to empire and dominant religions, compliance and resistance, the transformation of Judaism into a Western culture.
The historic and symbolic relation of Judaism to Rome developed against the background of major revolutions: the partition of the Roman Empire, the rise of Christianity as state religion, the confrontation with Islam and the Crusades, the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain, the invention of the printing press and portable fire arms, and the formation of modern nation states. Throughout the centuries, the images of the Roman Forum and the Temple of Jerusalem, interconnected by narratives of war and peace, continued to be appropriated and transformed by Jews and non-Jews.
With the Rome Lab series Centro Primo Levi invites the public to explore periods of Jewish history and perspectives that, in spite of their formative role up to the early modern period, are today almost absent from prevailing Jewish narratives mostly informed by Ashkenasy heritage and the modern Jewish experience in Northern and Eastern Europe.
How did Mediterranean Jews of the 1st century see themselves, the empire, and their land of origin? What was their status as minority? What kind of interaction and negotiation on religious authority existed between the Jewish elite of Judea, the Roman community and their Babylonian counterpart? And how did relations within the Jewish
diaspora change after the Roman’s destruction of Jerusalem, or after the eclipse of the Sasanian Empire and the rise of Islam?
Hebrew University scholar Paula Fredriksen will open the roundtables series with a talk entitled A Tale of Two Cities: Rome and Jerusalem. The juridic status of the Jewish minority in the Roman Empire and its progressive modifications will be the topic of a conversation between Alessandro Saggioro of University of Rome La Sapienza, and Seth Schwartz of Columbia University. A session with Amram Tropper (Ben Gurion University), Ron Naiweld (French, National Centre for Scientific Research) and Shai Secunda (Bard College) will explore the rabbinical elite’s views of the Romans and the foundational story of Yavneh.
In late antiquity and early Middle Ages, the paradoxical image of Rome as a repository for “Jewish” artifacts and Jewish past is analyzed by Princeton University scholar Ra’anan Boustan to illuminate the strategies by which Roman Jews and Roman Christians rooted their quite distinctive claims on the ancient past in the terrain of the shared city.
A poetry reading of the work of Immanuel Romano, a personal friend of Dante Alighieri, by Ann Brener (Library of Congress) and Isabelle Levy (Columbia University) will offer further insight on the dynamics of cultural interaction within the Roman world.
Poetry will also be the focus of a lecture by Daniel Leisawitz (Muhlenberg College), who will take a retrospective look at the language of Roman Jews, Judeo-Roman, and its traditions.
By the time Spanish Jews were expelled from their country and Roman Jews segregated in the ghetto, the world had changed dramatically, Christianity was facing internal schism, Jerusalem, long contended by “Moors” and “Knights,” was ruled by the Ottomans and the Temple was inscribed in philosophical, scientific, and national narratives.
A presentation by Giuseppe Veltri of the University of Hamburg will focus on Abraham Portaleone (1542–1612) and his use of the Temple symbolism in response to Christian and secular interpretations.
Serena Di Nepi (University of Rome La Sapienza) will accompany the public through the early years of the ghetto, the conflicted arrival of Spanish Jews to Rome and the shaping of modern ideas on Jewish self-governance. A panel with Michela Andreatta (University of Rochester) will take on Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, the last grand epic of the premodern world, in the context of its Jewish readership and the definition of otherness. Back in Ottoman Jerusalem, presented by Asher Salah (Bezalel Academy), the adventures of two Roman Jewish travelers let us capture a glimpse of the social and spiritual turmoil that enveloped the modern world at the dawn of a new era.
Finally, closing the where the project began, with a reflection on the Arch of Titus, Marina Caffiero of the University of Rome La Sapienza, will discuss it in two historical contexts relevant to the Jews of Rome: the massive restoration of 1821 by Giuseppe Valadier, and its use in the ceremonies of the papal adventus which traditionally passed under the Arch.
Join acclaimed historian Paula Fredriksen
Join acclaimed historian Paula Fredriksen (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) on a fascinating journey into the formative era of Western Judaism.
Everyone knows that Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE. But most people do not appreciate how much, in the period before the War, Rome also built up Jerusalem, serving as a valuable ally and as a stabilizing force during the interminable Hasmonean family fights over who would be high priest. This evening together we will explore both the good and the bad in the the highly charged relationship between these two Eternal Cities.
“But here he [Josephus] was, in this room, in this chair, trying once more to explain – to explain the war, to explain his past, to explain his people. Explain to whom? Who still listened? His enemies, perhaps. Or that glittering circle that surrounded his imperial patrons – Vespasian at first, then Titus, later Domitian. Or perhaps he was speaking to his own people, those numberless wide-flung communities that flourished throughout the Mediterranean, from the rim of North Africa up through Alexandria to Caesarea to Antioch and Asia Minor and Greece and, indeed, who flourished even here, in Rome itself. Everywhere they flourish, he thought. Everywhere but Jerusalem.” (excerpt from Paula Fredriksen’s upcoming book Rome and Jerusalem: A Tale of Two Cities)
Paula Fredriksen is the Aurelio Professor of Scripture emerita at Boston University and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. A graduate of Wellesley College (1973), Oxford University (1974) and Princeton University (1979), she has published widely on the social and intellectual history of ancient Christianity, and on pagan-Jewish-Christian relations in the Graeco-Roman world. The author of Augustine on Romans (Scholars Press 1982) and the award-winning From Jesus to Christ (Yale Governors’ Award for Best Book, 1988; 2000), she has also published Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews (Knopf 1999), which won a 1999 National Jewish Book Award. In Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism (Doubleday 2008; Yale 2010), Fredriksen traced the development of Christian anti-Judaism and explored Augustine’s singular response to it. Her most recent work investigates the ways that ideas about God, humanity, and the world shift and grow during the charged period between Jesus and Augustine in Sin: The Early History of an Idea (Princeton 2012).
Minority, Religion and Roman Law,
Minority, Religion and Roman Law, Alessandro Saggioro, University of Rome La Sapienza and Seth Schwarz, Columbia University.
On February 15th, 438 the Emperor Theodosius published the so called Codex theodosianus which, by the following year, was applied in the Western and Eastern Roman Empire. With its collection of imperial constitutions from Constantine to the first half of the 5th century, the Codex mirrors a highly multifaceted epoch. Over this long time span, the concepts of religion and minority changed dramatically. Christian values came up against the institutional rules of the Roman Empire, passing from the end of the dramatic era of persecution to that of «religio licita», up to the affirmation of Christianity as the official religion of the «res publica». The imperial code provides evidence of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, with a number of laws that ended up limiting, for religious reasons, the statute of « religio licita » of the Jewish community within the Roman order.
Alessandro Saggioro is Associate Professor of History of Religions at the University of Rome La Sapienza from which he graduated and received his doctoral degree. He has been member of research projects including: «Defining Religious Pluralism” (Sapienza 2015-2017); “The Rise of Intolerance in the Mediterranean: In Search of the Origins of Religious Conflict (II-VI centuries AD)” (2016-2019); «Difining religious minorities» (IAHR – SMSR 2014-2016); «Dynamics of Religion: Past and Present» published in Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni; «Schamanic Wisdom. Critical review, interdisciplinary mapping and global perspectives of a religious concept» – Sapienza University of Rome – Interdisciplinary Research Projects (2008-2010). He is member of the scientific board of the Journal “Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni”, Morcelliana, Brescia; “‘Ilu. Revista de Ciencias de las Religiones”; and Historia Religionum, Turin-Pisa.
Seth Schwartz is Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Classical Jewish Civilization (BA, Classics, Yeshiva University, 1979; PhD, History, Columbia, 1985). He is a political, social and cultural historian of the Jews who specializes in the period between Alexander the Great and the rise of Islam, and has become especially interested in the anthropological and social theoretical aspects of his field. Before returning to Columbia in 2009 he taught for fourteen years at the Jewish Theological Seminary after having been a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and a senior research fellow at King’s College, Cambridge. In 1999/2000 he was a Guggenheim Fellow and in 2006/7 a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. He is co-author, with Roger Bagnall, Alan Cameron and Klaas Worp of “Consuls of the Later Roman Empire” (Atlanta, 1987), and author of “Josephus and Judaean Politics” (Leiden, 1990) and “Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 BCE to 640 CE” (Princeton, 2001)
“Io so’ jodìo romano”: The
“Io so’ jodìo romano”: The Jewish-Roman Dialect Out of the Ghetto
Daniel Leisawitz, Muhlenberg College
This presentation examines the life-long project of the Jewish-Roman poet and historian, Crescenzo Del Monte (1868-1935), and its changing socio-political implications as Italy transformed from a representational democracy to a Fascist dictatorship. Del Monte dedicated much of his life to writing poems in giudaico-romanesco, the particular dialect of the Roman Jews, which is distinct from the romanesco spoken by the general Roman population. This idiosyncratic dialect was already falling out of use by the time Del Monte began writing, as a result of the abolition of the Roman ghetto (1870) and the assimilation of the Jewish population with the broader Roman society. This socio-linguistic shift transformed Del Monte’s poetic project – which consisted of documenting a vanishing world and its indigenous vernacular in poetic form – from an amateur exercise of nostalgic sentimentalism into one of resistance against time, against history, and against social change.
Toward the end of his life Del Monte’s project took on another, more charged, form of resistance: this time political. The fascist regime had launched a campaign against plurilinguismo in the early 1920s, targeting the use of foreign languages in Italy; however, starting in 1929 the government expanded the program to achieve the eradication of Italian dialects in an effort to create a linguistically unified and homogenous nation. Del Monte, then, initially a fascist sympathizer, found his life’s work at odds with the directives of the totalitarian regime.
This presentation will examine Del Monte’s work by placing it within the context of the socio-political developments over the course of the first 35 years of the twentieth century, which radically transformed the Roman-Jewish community and the Italian nation as a whole, and within the broader scope of the rich history and politics of Roman dialect poetry.
Daniel Leisawitz is Assistant Professor of Italian and Director of the Italian Studies Program at Muhlenberg College (Allentown, PA). He received his Ph.D. from Yale University with a dissertation on the representation of Renaissance texts in Italian cinema. His research interests include early modern Italian literature and cartography, the intersection of literature and technology, and Jewish-Italian history and culture. His latest publication in the field of Jewish-Italian Studies is a reconsideration of the work of the sixteenth-century dramaturge and theater theorist, Leone de’ Sommi (Italica 92.2).
The Temple in Modern Imagination.
The Temple in Modern Imagination. Abraham ben David Portaleone (1542–1612). Giuseppe Veltri, University of Hamburg.
“Cognitive, or mental, maps arise from the storage and memory of spatial information that is necessary to survive (Mary Downs, 1996). In his main work. Shilte ha-Gibborim, the physician Abraham ben David Portaleone attempted to demonstrate that there is no opposition between science and faith. If science is the search for truth by inquiring into reality, its origin is in God. For He is truth par excellence, the Being in which all things have their origin and purpose. Truth is contained in His word, as revealed to man in Scripture. The various sciences that human intelligence has produced are nothing but a development of that which is contained, in origin, in the biblical text, and it is there that they find their raison d’être. Thus, all branches of science are already present in the Bible. The Temple of Solomon, whose plan was of divine origin, represents the plastic, visual realization of the concordance between science and the divine Word, the architectural transposition of the harmonic cohesion of creation’s variety. It deserve as spatial entity to memorize every knowledge and science for the human life.
The lecture will present some of these Solomon’s ‘chambers of wisdom/sciences’ of the architectural mnemonic like the Ancient (Cicero) and Early Modern period art of memory (Giulio Camillo).
Giuseppe Veltri is professor of Jewish Philosophy and Religion at University of Hamburg (Germany). He is chief-editor of European Journal of Jewish Studies (Brill) and of the series Studies in Jewish History and Culture (Brill: Leiden, Boston), Jewish Philosophy, Though and Religion (Berlin(New York), De Gruyter). Since 2009 he is president of German Association of Jewish Studies and since November 2010 he is also Professor (h.c.) of Comparative Religious studies at the University of Leipzig. Since 2015 is also director of the “Maimonides Centre for Advanced studies” in Hamburg. His field of research are Jewish culture history, Jewish Philosophy in the Renaissance and early Modern Period, Magic, biblical tradition and translations. Among his recent publications are: Sapienza Alienata. La Filosofia ebraica tra mito, scienza e scetticismo (Aracne: Roma 2017); Oltre le Mura del Ghetto: Accademie, Scetticismo e Tolleranza nella Venezia Barocca (New Digital Frontiers: Palermo 2016 (authored together with Evelien Chajes); A Mirror of Rabbinic Hermeneutics. Studies in Religion, Magic and Language Theory in Ancient Judaism (Berlin: W. De Gruyter, 2015); Scritti politici e filosofici di Simone Luzzatto, Rabbino e Filosofo nella Venezia del Seicento (Milan: Bompiani, 2013); Renaissance Philosophy in Jewish Garb: Foundations and Challenges in Jewish Thought on the Eve of Modernity (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2009).