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Encountering Jewish Rome

Encountering Jewish Rome is an Initiative of the University of Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway, promoting the preservation of the Jewish historical heritage in the city, as well as teaching, undergraduate and graduate research, internships, public lectures, and partnerships in the field of Roman Jewish Studies.

Jewish Historical Heritage

Starting in 2017 Notre Dame students while in Rome reside at the villa located in Via Celimontana, 23 that in the years 1938-1940 hosted the Scuole Medie Israelitiche (Jewish Middle and High Schools), when the racial laws promulgated by the Fascist regime in 1938, excluded Jewish students and teachers from Italian public schools. During the academic years 1938-1939 and 1939-1940, more than 400 students alternated morning and afternoon at the villa. In 2008, in the 70th anniversary of the promulgation of racial laws in Italy, the former President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano inaugurated a plaque in the garden of the villa that commemorates the "exceptional cultural and human quality" of the school.

The University of Notre Dame acquired the building and renovated it under the direction of Architect Anthony Wingfield: the original structure, decorations and finishes, along with the plants in the surrounding garden were preserved as much as possible. The acquisition of the villa sparked part of the inspiration to engage with the history of the Jewish presence in Rome.


Notre Dame students at the Rome Global Gateway each semester take the course All Roads Lead to Rome, on the history, architecture, art, literature and communities of the city of Rome from the foundation to present. One of the classes in this course is dedicated to the history of the Jewish presence in Rome since the II century BCE, through readings, like Giacomo Debenedetti's October 16th 1943, which is an account of the roundup of the Roman Jewish ghetto and deportation of Roman Jewish citizens during the Nazi occupation of Rome; a visit to the Jewish neighborhood, the Jewish Museum, the two Synagogues and the Historical Archive of the Roman Jewish Community "Giancarlo Spizzichino".


Encountering Jewish Rome supports Notre Dame undergraduate and graduate students, post-graduate scholars as well as faculty who pursue research projects in Roman Jewish Studies.


While in Rome students have the opportunity to do internships at local institutions involved in the promotion of knowledge and research on Jewish Studies and the Shoah, such as the Archivio Storico della Comunità Ebraica di Roma "Giancarlo Spizzichino" (ASCER) and the Museo Storico della Liberazione.

Public events and lectures

A series of meetings open to the public in Rome and in teleconference with Notre Dame main campus has been promoted.

Fall 2019

November 20th - Presentation and screening of Claudio Della Seta's documentary Una giornata particolare (A Special Day) (2016) account of the destiny of a Roman Jewish family at the time of the Fascist racial laws (1938-1943), followed by a debate with the author and the Jewish Community of Rome. With a testimony of Mrs Mirella Fiorentini.

Fall 2018

Novembre 20th - Presentation and discussion of the volume Sapere ed essere nella Roma razzista. Gli ebrei nelle scuole e nell'università (1938-1943) (Learning and living in racist Rome. The Jews at school and at the University 1938-1943), Gangemi Editore, 2015, by Silvia Haia Antonucci and Giuliana Piperno Beer. In conversation with the authors.

Spring 2018

April 11th - Literature, History and Humanity: Reflecting on the Shoah in Italy through the Words of Primo Levi and The Jewish Community of Rome. Undergraduate and graduate students both in Rome and on campus engaged in readings from Giacomo Debenedetti (1901-1967), Primo Levi (1919-1987) and Giacoma Limentani (1927-2018) and shared reflections.

Fall 2017

November 28th - Interview with the Roman Jewish writer Giacoma Limentani (1927-2018) who shared her experience as a former student at the Jewish School that during the years 1938-1940 was hosted at the Villa. Mrs Limentani described the school as a place of freedom and trust at a time of violence and uncertainty, a place where it was still possible to live and hope for a better future.


Encountering Jewish Rome is co-sponsored by and promoted in collaboration with The Center for Italian Studies at Notre Dame.


Primo Levi Collection. Rare Books & Special Collections at the Hesburgh Library at Notre Dame hosts the Primo Levi Collection, including all first editions of Primo Levi's works as well as first editions of notable translations outside of Italy.

Archivio Storico della Comunità Ebraica di Roma "Giancarlo Spizzichino" (ASCER).

Museo Storico della Liberazione, Via Tasso.

  • 1969 The Rome Studies Program is established by architect Frank Montana
  • 2007 The Hesburgh Library began cataloging the library collection as part of the University architecture library
  • 2010 Notre Dame purchases a building on Via Ostilia and begins renovations
  • 2017 Students move into the Villa on the Celio, a new student residence owned by Notre Dame
  • 2019 Architecture alumni and friends will gather in Rome to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rome Studies Program
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