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Studies in Rome open whole new network of relationships, says Lay Centre alumna in Jerusalem

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Studies in Rome open whole new network of relationships, says Lay Centre alumna in Jerusalem

By Elena Dini

JERUSALEM — Shulamit Miller was a PhD student at Hebrew University when she arrived in Rome on a Brenninkmeijer Fellowship in spring 2013, for an exchange program at the Pontifical Gregorian University. When she first arrived, a friend of hers recommended she live at The Lay Centre. Dr. Miller is now in Jerusalem, where she holds a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. We caught up with her there. Her current topic of research is, “The Christianization of the Cities of the Galilee: Socio-Cultural, Religious, and Political Changes in Times of Shifting Borders.”

What did you do during your fellowship?

I mostly came to work on my doctoral research: a study of mansions and elite domestic practices in the provinces of Judaea-Palestine during the 1st c. BCE to 6th c. CE. Thanks to the study of houses and society in Roman Italy, especially Pompeii, Herculaneum and Ostia, I was able to demonstrate that the architecture and décor of mansions in Judaea-Palestine were reflective of the social behaviors of the local elites, and the great extent to which they participated in the wider elite culture of the Mediterranean world. During my days in Rome, I also took a couple of courses: one in Christian archeology at the Angelicum, and one in art history of the Early Church at the Gregorian.

But your Roman adventure did not end there…

I actually went back to Rome with the Brenninkmeijer Fellowship again in spring 2017. I went back to Rome because I love the city and that place was very inspiring for me above all in relation to my dissertation. A lot of work in studying architectural features of the houses and the social life connected to the houses of the elite has been done in Italy.   

How would you describe your days at The Lay Centre?

I loved The Lay Centre and the time there was wonderful. I felt at home. It was a very warm and welcoming surrounding. I made friends there who are still friends. I also discovered the world of interreligious dialogue and, specifically, the Catholic world.

Do you have a cherished memory of the time you spent there?

I think what I remember with most pleasure is the celebration of Jewish or Christian holidays and Shabbat together. When I was there, it was the time of Easter and Pentecost, which coincide with the Jewish holy days of Pesach and Shavuot, and I enjoyed taking part in both the Christian and Jewish celebrations. As for the Shabbat, it was very special. Before eating, someone always says a blessing at The Lay Centre, and it was my turn on Friday night to sanctify the wine before dinner. Then, the day after, I would spend with my friends, sometimes go to synagogue, and some other times just sit there and enjoy.

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