Summer 2002


 

 

Rothschild Computer Science Institute Inaugurates

Lecture Series Jointly with Faculty of Humanities

 

A blood libel against the Jews that was celebrated in a pageant in the town of Trent, Italy, every decade for some five hundred years despite protestations even by papal nuncios and whose commemoration was brought to a halt only in 1965(!) has been historically documented on a CD-Rom by an Italian Jewish computer scientist and a Tel Aviv pharmacist, both of whom have roots in that northeastern Italian town.  The documentary team was invited to give the first in a distinguished lecture series, “From History to Multimedia,” initiated by the University’s Caesarea Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Institute for Interdisciplinary Applications of Computer Science in cooperation with the Faculty of Humanities.

    Prof. Oliviero Stock, a past chairman of the European Coordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence and former director of the Trent-based Institute for Scientific and Technological Research, which last June signed a cooperative research agreement with the Rothschild Institute, and Dr. Daniele Nissim, whose father was a rabbi in Trent, related their investigation of the infamous Simonino Affair of 1475 and described the resultant multi-media disk they produced.

    The CD-Rom presents not only copies of the original Latin-language trial record, and its translation, by the dean of the Trent University faculty of law, into Italian—the language of the disk—but also explanations of Jewish holidays, photos of actual artwork of the time depicting the trial and its tragic outcome, videotaped interviews with different Trent personalities, an index of all blood libel cases in Europe, and more, much of the information one can access through hypertext.

    The two amateur historians, who gave the University two copies of the disk, felt that a CD would appeal more to the younger generation.  They have given copies free of charge to the Trent school system, and they are now seeking to translate the work into English.

    Nissim revealed that the Stocks were one of the first Jewish families to return to Trent. Jews were banished following the burning at the stake of their co-religionists who had been pronounced guilty of ritual murder.  Pope Sixtus IV had ordered town authorities to stop the trial, and a papal messenger had proved that the Jews were innocent of the charge lodged against them—but to no avail.  The murdered Christian youth was turned into a martyr.

    The edict banning Jews had actually been rescinded two hundred years ago, in 1803.  Jews, however, not only did not return to live there, but they also refused to visit the town, site of the 16th century Council of Trent.  Stock arrived in 1988.  Eight years later, however, a group wanted to revive the cult of the murdered boy and the procession. The new archbishop was reminded of the Church’s new attitude toward Jews and subsequently wrote “the right things” to his priests that proved the final word on the matter.  Last December, the archbishop was presented with a copy of the CD-Rom at a ceremony attended by all the relevant church people as well as town dignitaries.

    Stock and Nissim now hope their effort will create a new reality, reversing that in which, in Stock’s words, “the younger generation doesn’t know anything, and the older generation has been taught many wrong things.”

 

Original artwork from the time of the blood libel in Trent, Italy. The Jewish community is banished.

 

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