Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Women, Jews and Venetians Conference

May 22, 2011 - May 24, 2011  |  Stevenson Fireside Lounge


“L’Italie, Laboratoire de la modernite juive,” — Workshop of Jewish Modernity –  a group of scholars recently characterized Venice and the Ghetto and thereby focused discussion on how this laboratory shaped Jewish modernity.  Carrying forward a recently emerging scholarly view about early modern Jewish communities, these essays emphasize the interaction of the Jews in the Ghetto with the larger Venetian populace and polity, reminding us that the Ghetto came to be named “La Citta degli ebrei.” An island set apart from and yet part of the city on the lagoon, the Ghetto became a political, social, and cultural locus of historical and symbolic status.

Yet the roles women played in this forging of modern Jewish identity are often absent from the conversation. Notable women such as Dona Gracia Nasi and Sarra Copia Sulam appear here and there. However, there is little sustained attentiveness to the ways in which Jewish and Venetian women across the social spectrum responded to emerging modern habits and processes. Their contribution to the “workshop of Jewish modernity” has not been charted – and thus we know little as to how and to what extent women were able to express and take agency in many spheres, from cultural practices and financial activities to intellectual pursuits.

Our gathering is directed to bringing women into the Venetian historical account. We will focus on the ways in which Jewish women, in part through their connections to other Venetian and Italian women, helped to articulate what it was to be modern, and thus participated in the forging of modern Venetian, Italian, and Jewish identities. We anticipate that there also will be discussion of the contributions of non-Jewish women in shaping the image and understanding of contemporary Venice and Venetian Jewish life. We envision that this objective might be approached through multiple disciplines, literature, history, and art history among them.

This conference seeks to help open new lines of scholarly inquiry, which we might continue to build at subsequent gatherings, with the eventual aim of organizing a larger conference in Venice in the near future. In keeping with the exploratory purpose of this gathering, featured lectures are followed by panels, — whose participants will take the conversation forward.

Schedule (View Program)


7:00–8:30 pm

Shaul Bassi, Ca’ Foscari, University of Venice, “From Shakespeare to Erica Jong: Jewish Women and Cultural Politics”

8:30 pm



9:00–11:00 am

PANEL: Venice, Portal to Jewish Modernity

Lisa Calevi, University of Oregon, “Jewish Childhoods”

Dr. Leonard Rothman, MD OBGYN retired, Independent Scholar formerly of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “Venetian Midwives, and Modern Medicine”

Monique Balbuena, University of Oregon,  “The Languages of the Conversas”

Respondent: Lisa Pon, Southern Methodist University

11:15 am – 12:15 pm

Cynthia Baker, Bates College, “The Essentially Ambiguous Jewess: An Ancient Trope in Modern Europe”

12:15–2:00 pm


Murray Baumgarten, University of California, Santa Cruz,  “Ghetto Matters, the Venice Center, and Planning for 2016: Suggestions and Discussion”

2:00–3:30 pm

PANEL: Women and the Arts

Jill Fields, California State University Fresno, “The Writing of Peggy Guggenheim: Narrating Gender, Jewish Identity, and the Avant-Garde in Twentieth-Century Venice

Dr. Joanna Harris, dance historian, Osher Lifelong Learning, University of California, Berkeley, “Two Historic Italian Women And Their Contribution To The Arts: Isabella Andreini — Commedia Dell’arte—and Catherine De Medici– Classical Ballet”

Respondent: Deanna Shemek, University of California, Santa Cruz

3:30–4:00 pm


4:00–5:15 pm

Gretchen-Starr-Lebeau, University of Kentucky, “Judging by Gender: Venetian Jewish Women Before the Inquisition

5:15–6:15 pm


6:15–7:15 pm            

Howard Adelman, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, “What Jews on the Rialto?  The Venetian Adventures of Beatrice and Reyna de Luna”

7:30–8:45 pm

PANEL: Representations of Venetian Jewish Women

Miriam Shein, Independent Scholar, “Reflection from the Ghetto: Creating a Venetian Jewish Heroine

Yael Chaver, University of California, Berkeley, “20th Century Jewish Translations of Jessica.”  

Respondent: Robin Russin, University of California, Riverside

 8:45–9: 15 pm



9:00–10:15 am

Don Harrán, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “Sarra Copia Sulam, A Seventeenth-Century Jewish Poet in Search of Immortality”




PANEL: Jewish Women and the Public World

Dr. Ariella Lang, Barnard College, “Margherita Sarfatti, Mussolini, and 20th Century Public Life”

 Michael Shapiro, University of Illinois/Loyola University, “Women and Hidden Jews under Nazi Occupation: Roberto Bassi’s Evidence

Will Wells , Dean, Rhodes State College, “Translating the Poems of Sarra Copia Sulam”

Respondent: Paul Michelson, Huntington University

12:30 pm

Lunch & a riverderci

This conference sponsored by the UCSC Center for Jewish Studies, the Museo Italo-Americano of San Francisco, and the Venice Center for International Jewish Studies. Major support provided by the David B. Gold Foundation, the Siegfried B. and Elisabeth M. Puknat Literary Studies Endowment, and the Department of Literature, with staff support from the Institute for Humanities Research.

The Santa Cruz Conference is free and open to the public. Please let us know if you plan to attend by calling (831) 459–5655 or (831) 459-2566.

For further information, including disabled access, contact Shann Ritchie at the UCSC Institute for Humanities Research,, (831) 459-5655.

*San Francisco Preview Panel at the Museo Italo-Americano in Fort Mason, Sunday morning, May 22, from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm in conjunction with exhibited materials from Il Ghetto: Forging Italian Jewish Identities.


May 22, 2011
May 24, 2011


Stevenson Fireside Lounge
Humanites 1 University of California, Santa Cruz Cowell College
Santa Cruz, CA 95064 United States
+ Google Map