Remembering Primo Levi

As part of the initiative Primo Levi: Writer, Witness, Scientist which commemorates the centenary of Levi’s birth, Paul Forgasz will give a talk on Italia Ebraica: The Jews of Italy. A historical perspective, on Tuesday 19 November 2019, 6.30-8pm, at 199 Faraday Street, Carlton VIC 3053 (free event, RSVP essential here). The Italian Jewish narrative 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 and unusually complex sub-culture. The Jewish community in Rome is one of the oldest surviving diasporas, its antiquity reflected in a distinctive Roman liturgical rite still in use today. Italy has also been home to an Ashkenazi community since the late Middle Ages, and then, in the wake of the expulsion from Spain in 1492, a Sephardi community. Rabbis and scholars thus lived within the boundaries of traditional Jewish communities whilst simultaneously contributing to the cultural and intellectual traditions of the wider society of which they were a part. Paul Forgasz 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’’s 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 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.

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