Travail in an Arab Land

Travail in an Arab Land

Travail in an Arab Land

Travail in an Arab Land

Excerpt

Samuel Romanelli was a free spirit, a son of the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolution. He spent much of his life traveling in search of knowledge, adventure, and patrons for his literary endeavors.

He was born in Mantua in Austrian-ruled Lombardy on September 19, 1757, the son of Moses Ḥayy and Consola Romanelli. His father's family included several rabbis, schoolteachers, merchants, and minor officials, but no very distinguished figures. His mother, however, belonged to the renowned Portaleone family, which for about four hundred years produced some of Italy's leading rabbinical scholars, physicians, and men of letters.

Little is known of Romanelli's youth. It is clear from the mastery of Hebrew, the Scriptures, and both early and late rabbinic sources exhibited in his writing that he received a superb education in the Italian Jewish tradition. (Like the Sephardi curriculum, Italian Jewish education placed a strong emphasis on Hebrew grammar and poetry as well as on the written and oral Torah and their commentators.) He probably studied in the Talmud Torah of Mantua which also included Italian and arithmetic in its course of studies. Although there had been a marked decline since the height of the Renaissance, his native city was still at that time one of the leading centers of Jewish culture in Italy. There was a major Jewish communal library attached to the Talmud Torah, and it was here that Romanelli by his own account went beyond the required school . . .

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