Two 18th Century Roman Jews
Two 18th Century Roman Jews in Eretz Israel: Amadio Abbina and Sabato Isacco Ambron.
Asher Salah, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design
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July 9, 1746. In the middle of the night, two Jews of the Roman ghetto, Amadio Abbina and Sabato Isacco Ambron, leave the city on a gig, as if they were going for a short visit in the countryside. They will be reunited with their families only a year later. For four months they travelled by sea, exposed to terrible storms and many dangers, while during nine month they traveled on foot or on horseback. The description of their adventures and of the places they visited during their long pilgrimage to the Holy Land have reached us in two manuscripts versions, published for the first time in 2012 by Paola Abbina and Asher Salah. By providing a biographical sketch of these two intrepid Jewish friends, this lecture aims at understanding the reasons why they undertook such a perilous journey besides the desire to visit the land of the fathers and pray at the patriarchs’ tombs and other religious sites. Their pilgrimage occurs in the context of a renewed cabalistic fervor in the thirties and forties of the 18th century, that culminated with the alya of hundreds of Italian Jews following the Moroccan rabbi Hayim Ibn Attar (1696-1743). A few months before Abbina’s and Ambron’s arrival in Akko, Mosheh Hayim Luzzatto (1707-1746) with his family died tragically in that city.
This travelogue belongs to a hybrid genre, between the devotional literature and the travel guide for pilgrims, that Italian Jewish writers, including the Florentine jewelers Moisé Vita Cafsuto, an acquaintance of Abbina and Ambron, enriched of a new literary sensibility, adding curious digressions and flavorful descriptions of everyday life.
Asher Salah is Senior Lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has been a fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies in 2011-2012 and in 2014-2015 and is currently research fellow at the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies – Jewish Scepticism, University of Hamburg. His scholarship deals mainly with Jewish literature of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Italy. His publications include a translation into Italian and an analysis of Samuele Romanelli’s travelogue to Morocco Masa‘ Be‘arav (2006), La République des Lettres: Rabbins, médecins et écrivains juifs en Italie au XVIIIè (2007) and L’epistolario di Marco Mortara: un rabbino italiano tra riforma e ortodossia (2012). His last book Diari risorgimentali: due ragazzi ebrei si raccontano (2017) contains the edition of the diaries written by two Jewish youngsters during the wars of Italian independence.