07ViterbiAndrewThe Viterbi Family Program in Mediterranean Jewish Studies

The Viterbi Family Program in Mediterranean Jewish Studies is the first of its kind at a university.  Endowed by Erna and Andrew Viterbi and their children, the program builds on a trend in historical studies to look beyond traditional political boundaries in order to understand transnational commercial and intellectual connections between different groups of people.  The Viterbi program brings an emerging or a distinguished scholar to campus for one or more quarters of instruction.  The endowment also funds quarterly seminars on Jewish communities in Italy, France, Spain, the Balkans, North Africa, Egypt or Israel. We are grateful to the Viterbi family for their vision in establishing The Viterbi Family Program in Mediterranean Jewish Studies and are deeply honored that they chose the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies as the Program’s home.

Viterbi Visiting Professorship in Mediterranean Jewish Studies

The UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies invites applications for the Viterbi Visiting Professorship in Mediterranean Jewish Studies during the 2018-19 academic year. Please click here for application.

Viterbi Visiting Professors

2016-2017: Daniel Stein Kokin

2013-2014: Guri Schwarz

2011-2012: Andrew Berns

2009-2010: Sergio DellaPergola

2008-2009: Federica Francesconi

2007-2008: Robert Bonfil

2006-2007: Fabrizio Lelli

Viterbi Program in Mediterranean Jewish Studies Event 2016-2017

Daniel Stein Kokin

12/7/16 – Rome in the Jewish Imagination

Daniel Stein Kokin (UCLA and Universität Greifswald)

As capital of a mighty empire and missionizing church, Rome for Jews has often appeared a source of unyielding oppression and persecution. Yet Jews have lived continuously in Rome for more than two thousand years, longer than in virtually any other city in the world. Stein Kokin explores the more than two millennia of vexed ties binding the “eternal city” and “immortal people” (as Mark Twain described the Jews).

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Daniel Stein Kokin studied at the University of Chicago and Harvard and taught at Yale, the University of Oregon, and the University of Greifswald in Germany. Stein Kokin is the recipient of fellowships from Villa I Tatti: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, and the Käte Hamburger Kolleg at the Ruhr University Bochum (Germany). His research interests span Jewish and Renaissance studies: he has published on Renaissance humanism, Jewish-Christian relations and polemic, Christian Kabbalah, Jewish visual culture, early modern political thought, reception history, and Israeli film. He is currently completing his first book, The Hebrew Question in the Italian Renaissance and an edited volume, Hebrew between Christians and Jews.

Cosponsored by
UCLA Department of Italian
UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies


3/16/17 – Memory and Continuity of the Southern Italian Jewish Legacy

Fabrizio Lelli (University of Salento, Lecce)

Lelli’s project looks at the history of Apulian Jewish culture and its major intellectual achievements in the late Middle Ages and also concentrates on written and oral testimonies of former Jewish refugees, who at the very end of WWII resided in the United Nations transit camps established in the Apulian region. In this talk, Lelli will focus on the extraordinary spiritual rebirth of contemporary Judaism, by comparing it with other intellectually significant phases of Apulian Judaism in the past.

Cosponsored by
UCLA Department of Italian
Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles

Jewish Visual Culture in the Mediterranean Basin

4/27/17 – Jewish Visual Culture in the Mediterranean Basin

DANIEL STEIN KOKIN (UCLA and Universität Greifswald)
STEVEN FINE (Yeshiva University)
TALYA FISHMAN (University of Pennsylvania)

What motifs, themes, and tendencies have characterized the visual expression of Mediterranean Jews across the centuries? What religious meanings have they conveyed or experiences stimulated? And what relationships do they reflect with surrounding cultures and religions? These are among the questions to be addressed in this symposium.

Cosponsored by
UCLA Department of Italian
UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
UCLA Department of Art History


Viterbi Program in Mediterranean Jewish Studies Event 2015-2016

Shira Klein

Why Italian Jews liked Fascism

SHIRA KLEIN (Chapman University)

What did Jews think of Fascism in interwar Italy? Using a lively selection of sources from memoirs to photographs to songs, Klein explains why Jews rarely opposed Mussolini until 1938 when the Fascist government enacted a series of racist laws against them.

Cosponsored by
UCLA Department of History
UCLA Center for European and Russian Studies
UCLA Department of Italian

Viterbi Program in Mediterranean Jewish Studies Event 2014-2015


Jewish Refugees in Apulia

At the end of WWII, more than 250,000 Jewish refugees lived in DP camps in Germany, Austria and Italy which were set up under the aegis of the UN and the Allied Forces, with the support of international Jewish organizations. Since 2000, Fabrizio Lelli has been collecting documents and personal testimonies from former refugees in the Apulia region of southern Italy. Traumatized, unable or unwilling to return to their former homes, many were stuck in a Mediterranean limbo, trying to recover from the war but without knowing where they would—or could—go next. Through his Jewish Refugees in Apulia project, Lelli has published the moving stories of 36 refugees on his website. His work also played a role in convincing an Italian municipality to preserve three murals painted by a Jewish refugee in a building slated for demolition.


Viterbi Program in Mediterranean Jewish Studies Cosponsored Events 2014-2015


Ladino’s Controversial History

For more than a century, everything related to the history and use of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) has been a matter of disagreement among scholars. In this talk on the Ibero-Romance language used by Sephardi Jews in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean in the 16th through mid-20th centuries, Borovaya will offer a history of the Sephardi vernacular and elucidate some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the language.

schechter geniza

Languages of Everyday Writing in the Medieval Islamic World: History, Methodology, Digital Prospects

The Cairo Geniza consists of over 380,000 fragments of writing composed between 870 and 1896 CE. While most are biblical, Talmudic, and rabbinic texts, the Geniza’s 8,000-18,000 ‘documentary’ fragments offer a unique window on daily Jewish life. However, since the contracts, doctors’ prescriptions, shopping lists, and business letters are written in dialects of medieval vernacular Arabic in Hebrew characters, often interspersed with Hebrew and Aramaic, very few scholars have direct access to them. This academic workshop, intended for faculty and graduate students, is part of an effort to develop a research website to make these remarkable primary sources more accessible.