Taamrat Emmanuel: An Ethiopian Jewish Intellectual, Between Colonized and Colonizers
Translated by Jill Goldsmith
Emanuela Trevisan Semi’s book is an insightful biographical study of a key figure among Ethiopian Jews of the early 20th Century.
Taamrat Emmanuel was profoundly fascinated by European Jewish culture, by Western thought, and by Italy’s language and customs. …His free spirit, his independence and critical thinking, his suspicion of power, his sarcasm, and his irony flowered and were nurtured during his years in Italy as a young man.
“… I was against the occupation. Because I was against the dictatorship. ‘Against the dictatorship?’ Yes and yes! And it’s your fault—or your merit. I was young when I went to Italy where they taught me about democracy and made me detest Caesar and Napoleon. I am a reader and admirer of your Mazzini . . .”
About the Author
Emanuela Trevisan Semi is professor of Modern Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. She has published many books and articles about Jewish contemporary movements, Judaizing movements, Jewish diaspora in the Mediterranean, Jews in Ethiopia and Morocco, Modern Hebrew Literature and Mizrahi Literature. Her publications include: Les Caraites: un autre Judaisme, Paris, Albin Michel 1992, L’epistolario di Taamrat Emmanuel: un intellettuale ebreo d’Etiopia nella prima metà del XX secolo (Torino, 2000 ), Judaising movements, London, Curzon, 2002 (with Tudor Parfitt), Leggere Yehoshua (Torino, Einaudi 2006), Le migrazioni nel Mediterraneo (Bologna, Il Ponte, 2006), Jacques Faitlovitch and the Jews of Ethiopia (London, Vallentine Mitchell, 2007) (with Hanane Sekkat Hatimi), Beta Israel: The Jews of Ethiopia and Beyond (Venezia, Cafoscarina, 2011), (with Dario Miccoli, Tudor Parfitt) and Memory and Ethnicity, Ethnic Museums in Israel and the Diaspora, (Cambridge, Cambridge Scholars Publishers, 2013).
“He was esteemed and admired like a father by his students, old and young. And he truly treated them like a father [would], both in his teaching and care for their well being. But I must also say that his spirit was restless, and his eyes were drawn beyond the confines of the school . . . So he was gripped by a new commitment, of putting himself at the service of Ethiopia’s patriots (and of Negus, the former king). That desire, to a certain extent, supplanted what had been until then a wish only to serve his Falasha brothers according to plans laid out by Faitlovitch and Margulies. And I can’t shake the feeling that he had certain doubts about the program, that it didn’t take sufficiently into account the needs of Falasha traditions . . . That realization, something of a disappointment, came to me after I started to find my friend more distant and less involved in correspondence and work for pro-Falasha cultural activities, in ways I had hoped for, and increasingly dedicated to the reconstruction and progress of Ethiopia in the service of Negus. In particular, at their request, editing and writing mostly historical works, instead of studying Ethiopia’s cultural progress.” Carlo Alberto Viterbo