Tuesday 19 November 2019, 6.30-8PM

CO.AS.IT., 199 Faraday Street, Carlton, VIC 3053

Free event - RSVP essential @coasit.com.au

The Italian Jewish narrative defies classification within the framework of the wider context of the Jewish historical experience. It does not fit neatly into the conventional divisions of the Jewish Diaspora – Mizrahi (Middle Eastern/North African), Sephardi (Spanish) and Ashkenazi (Franco-German). Indeed, there are maps of the Jewish world in which Italy is depicted as a distinctive sub-culture. The Roman Jewish community is one of the oldest surviving diasporas, its antiquity even reflected in a distinctive Roman liturgical rite still in use today. At the same time, Italy was also home to an Ashkenazi community since the late Middle Ages, and then, in the wake of the Spanish expulsion in 1492, a Sephardi community. Next to the Jewish community of medieval Spain, Italian Jews were able to straddle two worlds. Rabbis and scholars lived within the boundaries of thoroughly traditional Jewish communities, whilst simultaneously taking from and contributing to the cultural and intellectual traditions of the wider society of which they were a part, especially during the Renaissance. Italy can therefore stake a claim to being amongst the first early-modern Jewish communities. This lecture will provide a survey of the very rich and variegated history of the Jews of Italy: from their earliest presence in Roman times, to the highs and lows of the medieval Jewish experience, through to Italian Jewry’s encounter with modern world.


Paul Forgasz’ career has spanned both the secondary and tertiary sectors of education. For more than a decade he was the Headmaster of the secondary school campus of Mount Scopus College, a large K-12 Jewish day school in Melbourne. He was a lecturer in Jewish history and comparative religion at Monash University’s Australian Centre for Jewish Education and taught about Jewish education, as well as school leadership, in the university’s Faculty of Education.

Paul has maintained an active involvement for many years in Jewish adult education, particularly through the Jewish Museum of Australia's community education program. Since 2010, under the auspices of the Jewish Museum of Australia, he has also led a number of sell-out Jewish study tours to various European destinations including Spain, Italy, Germany, Vienna, Poland and Lithuania. In 2020, Paul will conduct a first-time tour of Jewish Greece.


Image: Spoils from the Jerusalem Temple, including the Menorah, carried to Rome by Jewish slaves. Bas-relief from the Arch of Titus in Rome. (Photograph courtesy Paul Forgasz).


This talk is part of the initiative "Primo Levi: Writer, Witness, Scientist. Italian and Jewish Organisations Unite to Celebrate LifeItalian and Jewish Organisations Unite to Celebrate Life", presented by the Jewish Museum of Australia, the Jewish Holocaust Centre, the Italian Cultural Institute Melbourne, and CO.AS.IT Museo Italiano on the occasion of the centenary of Primo Levi’s birth.


Program partner:

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