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A Straus Scholar Impacts Jewish Life in Italy

Sarah Wapner
Straus Center Impact and Recruitment Officer

straus scholar jewish italy


Straus Scholar Baruch-Lev Kelman graduated summa cum laude from Yeshiva University in 2021 with a degree in Jewish studies and architecture. Over the course of his undergraduate studies, Kelman served as the Glatt Research Associate at YU’s Center for Israel Studies for four years and published his written work in the Yeshiva University Journal of the Arts and Tablet. A passionate student of Jewish history, Kelman wrote his senior thesis on Jacob Judah Leon Templo’s 17th-century work Retrato.



In the fall of 2021, while still a senior at YU, Kelman began his master’s degree at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, focusing on the Jewish history of Renaissance Italy. In February 2022, Kelman embarked on a four-month research trip to the Italian cities of Urbino, Ancona and Vatican City, where his work aims to spotlight the intellectual and political life of Renaissance Jews in the Marche region of Italy.



“From the 14th century to the 16th century, Urbino was a Renaissance center home to acclaimed artists such as Raphael, prominent religious figures such as Pope Clement XI, and politicians like Federico da Montefeltro,” Kelman explained. “Urbino also hosted a Jewish community led by notable rabbis and Jewish political figures like Dona Gracia Nasi [a Portuguese Jewish intellectual and one of the wealthiest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe]. My end-of-semester paper for my master’s degree at Revel will examine Italian-Jewish contributions to the Renaissance era and will rely on documents pertaining to Dona Gracia’s embargo of the Papal port of Ancona, civil documents of the Marche region, and Italian and Ottoman rabbinic responsa literature.”



Kelman, who is fluent in Italian and Hebrew, is studying with Vilberto Stocchi, the rector of the University of Urbino, in collaboration with Yeshiva University professors Dr. Steven Fine and Dr. Ronnie Perelis and other Italian academics in the areas of Renaissance literature and philosophy.

In addition to his independent research, Kelman is participating in the University of Urbino’s Winter School Program on the literature and political philosophy of the Italian Renaissance. Kelman is also involved in the communal life of Ancona, Italy, where he promotes interfaith relations and works to revitalize the Jewish community of the city and surrounding areas.

“My program of study in Italy enables me to participate in interfaith dialogue and community leadership, and greatly enhances my studies in Urbino, a renowned capital of the Italian Renaissance famed for its Jewish courtier culture involving such notable figures as Solomon Molkho and Dona Gracia Nasi,” Kelman said.



Reflecting on his experiences at the Straus Center, Kelman is grateful for the rigorous intellectual opportunities offered to him through the Straus Scholars Program. “The Straus Center’s interdisciplinary approach to Torah U’Madda has thoroughly prepared me for my mission in Urbino,” he explained. “Straus courses dedicated to the great works of the Western canon have given me the tools to critically consider the art and literature of early modern Italy, while the Straus Center’s emphasis on Jewish contributions to Western civilization instilled in me an appreciation for Renaissance Jewish culture. As a Yeshiva student and a Straus alum, I have a deeper appreciation for the Marche region of Italy than the average tourist. There is something magical about walking through the streets where some of the earliest editions of the Talmud were published and some of the greatest rabbinic families emerged.”

Kelman looks forward to returning to Yeshiva University’s New York campus in fall of 2022 to continue his graduate studies at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

To learn more about the Straus Scholars Program, click here.

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