Gersten-Hoisington Scholar-in-Residence Weekend

Friday, December 6th - Sunday, December 8th, 2019

The Jews of Italy: History, Culture, Literature, Arts, Music, and Food

with Professor Marc Michael Epstein


Professor Epstein, a renowned scholar of Jewish art and illustrated manuscripts, will be joining us for an inspiring weekend. 

Winner of the 2015 Jewish Book Award in Visual Arts for Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts, Marc Michael Epstein is currently Professor of Religion at Vassar College, where he has been teaching since 1992 and was the first Director of Jewish Studies.

A graduate of Oberlin College, Professor Epstein received his PhD at Yale University, and did much of his graduate research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Professor Epstein has written numerous articles and three books on various topics in visual and material culture produced by, for, and about Jews. His prior book, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination (Yale, 2011) was selected by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of 2011. During the 1980s, Epstein was Director of the Hebrew Books and Manuscripts division of Sotheby's Judaica department, and continues to serve as a consultant to various libraries, auction houses, museums and private collectors throughout the world. 

Friday Night Shabbat Services - 7:15 pm at TBS

“Edom: This is Rome”

Professor Epstein will speak on “Edom: This is Rome.”  He will introduce us to the historic rich Jewish culture of Italy and help us see the connection between this week’s Torah portion (which references Jacob’s brother, Esau) and Rome. 

Shabbat Morning Lay-Led Minyan Service - 8:30 am at TBS
Shabbat Morning Breakfast and Learning with our Scholar - 9:00 am at TBS


“How I Met the Pope (And Why Anyone Should Care)”

During the spring of 2018, Professor Epstein journeyed to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis I. How he came to do that, how he almost did not go, why he did, and what he experienced and learned will form the basis of our discussion of Jewish-Christian relations emerging from the Torah portion and from the history of the Jews in Italy.  RSVP Requested.

Saturday Evening Program and Dinner - 7:00 - 10:00 pm at Masonic Lodge, 1101 Highland Ave, Needham

“A Musical & Artistic Celebration of Italian Jewish Life - with Delicious Italian Dinner”

Together, we will explore the rich variety of almost 2,000 years of Jewish life in Italy as Professor Epstein guides us on a musical and visual tour of Jewish Italy — from the Arch of Titus and the Roman catacombs to the rich splendid productions of Jewish life in Renaissance Italy, and beyond.

The evening will be accompanied by a delicious Italian dinner, with a different artistic and musical theme for each course. Reserve your spot now!

Sunday “Bagel & Lox Brunch” Presentation - 9:30 am at TBS

“Art Detectives: From Spain to Italy – A Jewish Mystery”


A deceptively simple image in a forgotten book, a trail of clues, a fabulous discovery opening up a whole universe of Jewish culture: we will take a detective-story approach to closely reading the clues in art to discover unique ways of peering inside the consciousness of Jews who fled Spain to Italy, opening up the world of those who have gone before us.

A full bagel and lox breakfast will be served. RSVP Requested

Suitable for adults and families with children, ages 9 and older..

The Adult Learning Committee strives to make learning opportunities accessible to everyone. If you have any needs, financial, physical, dietary or logistical that would prevent you from attending our event, please email