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Skidmore College
Jacob Perlow Series

2015 Jacob Perlow Series Events

Italian Jews: An Evening of Cultural History
and Cinematic Representation

Sunday, March 29

Gannett Auditorium
Free and open to the public

4 p.m., lecture: "Pitigliano, the (Italian) Little Jerusalem"
By Risa Sodi, followed by Q&A

5 p.m., reception

5:30 p.m., film screening: Ferzan Ozpetek, Facing Windows (2003)
Followed by Q&A with Sodi

Sponsored by the Foreign Languages and Literatures Department, 
the History Department and the Jacob Perlow Event Fund

About the Lecture

Pitigliano, a small, rural Italian hill town just about halfway between Florence and Rome, was known for centuries as La piccola Gerusalemme, the Little Jerusalem, for its flourishing Jewish community, the learning of its inhabitants and its unusually cordial interfaith relations. This talk will investigate this unusual town and community, also renowned for its stunningly beautiful silhouette, and provide answers to some questions. What made Pitigliano unique? What was Jewish life like in rural Italy? How did the Jewish and Catholic communities interact? What does 1492 have to do with Pitigliano? How did the Jewish community fare during the Holocaust? What is Pitigliano like today?

Tying together the rural with the urban, we'll also travel to Rome, the setting of Ferzan Ozpetek's 2004 La finestra di fronte (Facing Windows). The personal becomes political in this film as Ozpetek, a Turkish director residing in Italy, explores themes of love, commitment, loyalty and amnesia of several different sorts. Along the way, he gives a "window" into the acute dangers that stalked the wartime Roman Jewish community.

About Risa Sodi

Dr. Risa Sodi

Risa Sodi holds a B.A. magna cum laude in history and Italian from Smith College, an M.A. in French and Italian from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Italian language and literature from Yale University. From 1995 to 2013, she served in the Yale Italian Department as the senior lector II and director of the language program, where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses on Jewish Italy, opera, film, modern literature and foreign-language pedagogy. She also regularly taught courses abroad in Sardinia, Umbria and Tuscany in conjunction with Yale's summer session.

In 1990, Sodi published A Dante of Our Time: Primo Levi and Auschwitz, the first monograph in on Levi in English, which drew on her 1987 Partisan Review interview; the book was reprinted 2012. She is also the author of Narrative and Imperative: The First Fifty Years of Italian Holocaust Literature, 1943-1993 (2007) and, with Millicent Marcus, New Reflections on Primo Levi: Before and After Auschwitz (2011). Her most recent publication is a chapter in the Modern Language Association volume Approaches to Teaching Primo Levi (2015).

Sodi has lectured in Canada, England, France, Italy and the United States on the Jewish Italy and Italian Jewish authors, Holocaust in Italy and Italian film. She has also published many articles on these topics.

Since 2013, Sodi has served as the inaugural director of academic advising for Yale College. In that role, she supports the work of the residential college deans, freshman and sophomore advisers and directors of undergraduate study, and develops new academic advising programs. Since July 1, 2014, she has also held an appointment as associate director of the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning, where she develops and leads programs for faculty members, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students.


About the Jacob Perlow Series: A generous grant from the estate of Jacob Perlow—an immigrant to the United States in the 1920s, a successful businessman deeply interested in religion and philosophy and a man who was committed to furthering Jewish education—supports annual lectures and presentations to the College and Capital District community on issues broadly related to Jews and Judaism.