Berkowitz Fellowship

General Information

The Berkowitz Fellowship was created thanks to a generous gift by Mr. Ivan Berkowitz. The Berkowitz Fellow is typically awarded to a more senior scholar. The area of research addresses issues from a broad spectrum of Jewish learning and civilization. The Fellowship will facilitate research and scholarship into areas that examine the historical, cultural and political forces that helped shape the intellectual atmosphere in which the integration of varying traditions of law into an operative jurisprudential system was affected.

The Fellow will become fully integrated with the intellectual community of the Law School, regularly attending events at NYU School of Law, including the faculty colloquia and other similar events. The Berkowitz Fellow will present his research in progress once in the Fall semester and once in the Spring at a Workshop, which will be open to the intellectual community of the Law School, the University as a whole and other interested individuals by invitation.

Current Berkowitz Fellow - AY 2019-2020

       Shulamit Furstenberg-Levi  (Ph.D. 2001, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) is a scholar of Jewish and non-Jewish social and intellectual history of Early Modern Italy. Born in the U.S. and brought up in Israel, she has been living in Florence, Italy, since 1996, where she  teaches Jewish History and Renaissance philosophy. Her academic publications focus on the Italian intellectual and religious milieu in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In regard to the religious milieu she has published various articles on pilgrimage itineraries to the Holy Land as well as on Jewish converts to Christianity during the sixteenth century in Italy in which she analyzes the complex crossing over from the Jewish to the Christian world during the Counter Reformation. The central core of her scholarship has focused on the intellectual milieu in Naples. Her book The Accademia Pontaniana: A Model of a Humanist Network, was published by Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History in 2016 and various recent articles have elaborated on the intellectual role of the Post Pontaniana group of intellectuals.
She has recently published a book in Italian with San Paolo publishing house on “Women in Abrahamic Religions” together with two other women - a Muslim and a Christian.
She is active in Florence in creating a Feminist-Orthodox European center. 

Research Title

Research Synopsis

In my book, titled The Accademia Pontaniana: A Model of a Humanist Network, I reconstruct the humanist academy which developed around the fifteenth century humanist Pontano in Naples and investigate the networks of intellectuals linked to this humanist circle. Given that the humanists networks are often documented in the form of lists, one of the central sources of this study were lists of humanists found in various forms. A perusal of these lists will show that they do not include any Jewish intellectuals. This finding is not at all obvious if we take into consideration the presence of prominent Jewish intellectuals in Naples, during the same years in which the Accademia Pontaniana was active, such as Judah Messer Leon, Isaac Abravanel and Leone Ebreo, as well as signs of reciprocal cultural connections that have been detected in Christian and Jewish texts produced in Italy during that period. 
How should the absence of Jewish names on the lists be interpreted? Does their absence reflect an actual disconnectedness of the Jewish intellectuals from the humanist circles, or should it be interpreted as an expression of their being viewed as “others” and therefore not being included on these lists? Is the case of the Jews similar to that of women intellectuals in Naples who definitely were in close connection with the Accademia Pontaniana members and are also missing from these lists? (as I show in a recent article).
The proposed study will focus on the circle of the Accademia Pontaniana in Naples and will investigate the links that can be found between them and Jewish intellectuals. This direction has been overlooked by scholarship. While a number of studies have been dedicated to the economic and social history of the Jews in Aragonese Naples, the intellectual history of the Jews in Naples of that period has been dealt with sporadically. 
In this new project I hope to expand on the larger question of the meeting point between Jewish Studies and Women’s Studies, by focusing on the similarities between the process of unveiling the actual  place of women on the one hand and Jews on the other hand, in the intellectual discourse in Italy in the Early Modern period.  

Previous Berkowitz Fellows

  • Yosef Sharabi
  • Yuval Blankovsky
  • Yobu (Job) Jindo
  • Eli Schonfeld
  • Jonathan Yovel
  • Shai Wozner
  • Marc Hirshman
  • Gabriella Blum
  • Rabbi Saul J. Berman
  • Dr. Joseph David
  • Dr. Leora Batnitzky
  • Dr. Shahar Lifshitz