Printing, Praying, and Performing Jewish Identity in Early Modern Italy: Maḥzor kimḥa d’avishuna with Rabbi Dr. Joseph A. Skloot

A light catered Kosher lunch will be provided.

Date: Monday, November 13, 2023
Time: 12:30 pm EST
Location: Klau Library, Cincinnati and Online

Title page of mahzor of BolognaIn 1540, a group of silk weavers from the city of Bologna, who called themselves “the partners” (ha-shutafim), printed a two-volume compendium of the Jewish liturgy for the yearly worship cycle. This maḥzor (prayer book) included both a commentary on the liturgy by R. Yohanan b. Joseph Treves, entitled Kimha d’avishuna (Flour Milled from Roasted Grain), and a commentary on Tractate Avot of the Mishnah (an oft-quoted anthology of rabbinic wisdom) by R. Obadiah b. Jacob Sforno. This volume subsequently became the standard prayer book used by those Jews who traced their ancestry to Italy, and Rome in particular (in contrast to those in Italy, for example, who traced their lineage to Spain or Germany). The maḥzor was the last of nine titles produced by the painters and it differs from their earlier works in both the monumentality of its aspiration—to establish, once and for all, the proper text of the Italian-Jewish synagogue service—and its physical size. It is also the only title of the nine to list the partners by name. This paper uses the partners’ maḥzor as a basis for considering the way the printed liturgy was a locus of self-fashioning for Italian Jews in the early modern period.

A light catered Kosher lunch will be provided.

Rabbi Joseph A. Skloot, Ph.D., is the Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Intellectual History at HUC-JIR/New York and the Associate Director of the Tisch/Star Fellowship program. He received his Ph.D. in Jewish History from Columbia University, his rabbinical ordination from HUC-JIR, and his A.B. in History from Princeton University.

Skloot is a historian of Jewish culture and religious thought in the early modern and modern periods. His research explores the history of Hebrew books, Jewish-Christian relations, the development of Jewish law, and Reform Jewish theology. His book, First Impressions: Sefer Ḥasidim and Early Modern Hebrew Printing, will be published by Brandeis University Press. It describes how sixteenth century Hebrew printers (Jewish and Christian) transformed a heterogeneous corpus of manuscripts into canonical book, and by extension, how Jewish sacred texts, long thought to be eternal and unchanging, were in fact created by and for human beings, with specific agendas and interests.