Hebrew University scholar captivated by medieval manuscripts and Rome's golden light

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Hebrew University scholar captivated by medieval manuscripts and Rome's golden light

By Heather Walker

ROME — Ori Kinberg was a recipient of the Brenninkmeijer-Werhahn Fellowship at the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies of the Pontifical Gregorian University. He carried out research on Hebrew writers in Italy during the High Middle Ages as part of his graduate work in Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself and your studies?

I was born in a small village in the Galilee, but I have been for almost 10 years in Jerusalem. I am just about to finish my M.A. in Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University. My research focuses on medieval Hebrew poetry in Italy and especially on a collection of yet unpublished poems from a 15th-century manuscript. I study a strange and rather little-known period in the history of Hebrew literature, which is still filled with unknown figures. The excitement of working with materials no one has looked at seriously for 500 years is really worth the difficulty of the profession.

Q. Why was it important for you to come to Rome and to the Pontifical Gregorian University?

Each year The Center for the Study of Christianity at the Hebrew University awards two students a scholarship, the Brenninkmeijer-Werhahn Fellowship, for a semester at the Gregorian. Since I am researching poetry that was written in Italy, it was important for me to be acquainted with the Italian language, history and culture. I was really excited to be learning Italian in Italy and the community at The Lay Centre provided a great platform to exercise my skills. I also have a great passion for Latin literature and Roman archeology and art, for which, well, Rome is Rome. The Jewish community of the city is also one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in Europe and it was important for me to learn about it firsthand. I was very lucky to get to know it also through and with friends from The Lay Centre.

Q. How did you find out about The Lay Centre and how has your stay here enhanced your time in Rome?

I heard about the Lay Centre from a friend who received the Hebrew University scholarship last year. She did not stay at The Lay Centre, but had heard about it and told me that I simply had to go. For me this was a perfect opportunity: meeting students from different fields, some of them even interested in Hebrew, asking all the questions about Christian dogma that I never knew whom to ask, and just going around the city with this great bunch of people. I must also mention the fantastic help I got from Dr. Christiaan Santini (Assistant Director of Operations at The Lay Centre), who is not only a guardian angel for bureaucracy but also an Art Historian and great guide. Without him I probably wouldn’t have made it to Rome in the first place, because the process, especially in these COVID times, was truly complicated.

Q. In addition to your passion for the subject of your studies, you are a keen photographer. You have chosen one photograph to represent your time in Rome. Would you like to tell us about it and why you chose it? 

This picture is just another urban-landscape picture of Rome. But I chose it because I took it from my room at The Lay Centre. This was the golden light that woke me up in the morning and bid me goodnight in the evening for three months. I already miss it.


Photos courtesy Ori Kinberg, pictured below.

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