Jewish Publishing in Italy: A Conversation with Shulim Vogelmann
A conversation with Shulim Vogelman (La Giuntina, Florence) Born in Florence in 1978, Shulim Vogelmann received a degree in History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and went on to become
A conversation with Shulim Vogelman (La Giuntina, Florence)
Born in Florence in 1978, Shulim Vogelmann received a degree in History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and went on to become director of the Giuntina Publishing house which his father founded. Vogelmann initiated a new series of Israeli literature called “Israeliana” for which he translated 15 novels. For ten years he curated the International Festival of Jewish Literature in Rome. In 2004 he published the novel Mentre la città bruciava.
Italy is renowned as the cradle of the printed Hebrew book. Shortly after the invention of the printing press, the first two volumes in Hebrew were printed in Rome and Reggio Calabria approximately between 1472 and 1487. For the following two centuries or more, the Hebrew book flourished in the peninsula’s city-states. By the 17th century, Hebrew printing began migrating to other lands in the Ottoman Empire, Northern Europe and eventually the Americas.
The printed book had profound effects on the Jewish world, on one side opening networks of communication and exchange, on the other introducing new forms of internal normativity and authority.
With small numbers of remarkable exceptions, Hebrew printing suffered an increasing decline in the peninsula that reflected the progressive loss of resources of a society forced to live in segregation.
Emancipation, which began in the Napoleonic era, brought about profound changes in Jewish life: equality and access to a fully integrated social life as well as dilemmas concerning the preservation of tradition and the status as religious minority in the newly formed nations state.
In the wake of the new reality, publishing became a familiar area where Jews contributed and negotiated ideas concerning the country and the society that were being formed. School books, youth literature, atlases, science and technology manuals for vocational schools, translations of foreign classics, guides to the Italian regions, from Pinocchio and Salgari’s adventure stories to H.D. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly are just examples of the many fields embraced by this an emerging group of Jewish publishers.
Treves, Bemporad, Formiggini, Lattes, Belforte, Olschki are some of the family-run publishers that flourished up to the first decades of the 20th century participating in the shaping of public life, education as well as the debate and aspirations of the new country.
Early fascist purges, censorship and, eventually, the race laws of 1938 put an end to this story. Jewish-run publishing houses were either closed down or confiscated and passed into the hands of non-Jewish owners.
After the end of World War II, Jewish publishing resumed in various forms, newsprints and zines, the national journal La Rassegna Mensile di Israel, community bulletins, as well as Yiddish and Hebrew press produced in DP camps.
A new generations of Jewish publishers emerged now focusing on Jewish topics, history, traditions, liturgy, and the Shoah.
Italian Jews partecipate in great numbers to the post-war flourishing of Italian publishing in general, reaching position of influence and prestige in almost all the major italian publishing houses Einaudi, Mondadori, Rizzoli, Bompiani, Zanichelli, Le Monier, Marzocco, Feltrinelli.
Between the 1970s and the 1980s several new small publishers began to focus on Judaism, its history, philosophical debates, and religious currents. Among the most significant were Beniamino Carucci and Daniel Vogelmann. Shortly after, the Livornese imprint Belforte also reconnected to its roots with a series of works of Jewish topics. Silvio Zamorani included in his otherwise eclectic publishing enterprise a Jewish history series.
Much has changed in the past 30 years and Jewish publishing has taken new and different forms. Shulim Vogelmann, a representative of a new generation of Italian publishers committed to nourish Jewish life and make it known to the larger society, will discuss history and current perspectives.