De Gulden Passer


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02 okt 2019


19:00 - 20:00

Miraeus lecture, Alessandro Grazi: “Minhag Italia”

In my lecture, I am going to delineate the main traits of my ongoing research project on Italian Jewish prayer books printed in the Nineteenth Century. The aim of this project is to carry out a digital and conceptual analysis of nineteenth-century Italian prayer books, with the purpose of utilizing them as objects of historical inquiry. The tools I will use to carry out this analysis consist of an inventory and digitization of these prayer books, in order to enable a digital analysis with OCR software (Optical Character Recognition). Prayer books encompass every aspect of Jewish life, from everyday prayers to the special occasions of the High Holidays. For this reason, they are the most frequently printed book in Judaism. In spite of their prominence in Jewish life, they have received very little academic attention, because they have been considered as stable factors, unworthy of analyses of its dynamics. Indeed, it is true that prayer books maintained a certain uniformity in space and time, but the small changes of the different editions can actually represent substantial changes in the political and cultural perception of a specific Jewry, in a specific place and time. The OCR is used to single out and address exactly these variations, with the purpose of answering the following questions: How do materiality and spirituality relate to each other? Can we establish changing patterns relating to siddurim and mahzorim as religious/sacred objects over time? How do prayer books attest to the construction of their owners’ Jewish identities?