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Francesco Spagnolo

Francesco Spagnolo is a multidisciplinary scholar focusing on Jewish studies, music and digital media. At the University of California, Berkeley, he is the Curator of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life and an Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Music. He is also an affiliated faculty with the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, the Institute of European Studies, the Religious Diversity Cluster of the Haas Institute, and serves on the Digital Humanities Council. Dr. Spagnolo is also a host for the cultural programs of Italian National Radio (RAI) in Rome and a Scholar-in-Residence with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (San Francisco).

Intersecting textual, visual and musical cultures, Francesco Spagnolo actively contributes to academia, cultural heritage institutions, as well as live and electronic media, in Europe, Israel and the United States. A former lecturer at the University of Milan and at the University of California at Santa Cruz, he is frequently invited to present at academic institutions worldwide, publishes on topics ranging from music to philosophy, film, and literature, and curates exhibitions and digital programs.

Dr. Spagnolo’s current research interests center on a multidisciplinary approach to Jewish Studies. As a scholar, he concentrates on the role of music and synagogue life in the Jewish diaspora, particularly among Italian Jews, and arena in which Ashkenazi and Sephardic liturgical and popular musical traditions have historically come together in unique ways. As a curator, his focus is on the performative aspects of Jewish material cultures and creative expressions across the global diaspora. Where his scholarly and curatorial work meet is in asking a variety of questions about the nature of (Jewish) cultural heritage, and the role of synagogues, archive, and museum (including their respective “rituals” and performative settings) as communal institutions in the modern period.


  • PhD, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2007
  • Laurea, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy, 1994
  • B.A. Conservatorio di Musica “G. Verdi”di Milano, Italy, 1986

UC Berkeley Courses

Select Publications 

Books, Journals, and CDs

  • Editor, The Musical Traditions of the Jews in Corfu, Greece, “Anthology of Musical Traditions in Israel,” The Jewish Music Research Centre, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (in preparation)
  • Editor (with Judah Cohen and Klára Móricz), Journal of Jewish Identities. Special Issue on Jewish Music, 10/1 (January 2017), The Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Author (with Alla Efimova), The Jewish World: 100 Treasures of Art and Culture, New York, Skirà Rizzoli 2014
  • Editor, Italian Jewish Musical Traditions from the Leo Levi Collection (1954–1962), “Anthology of Musical Traditions in Israel” no. 14, The Jewish Music Research Centre, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem & Archivi di Etnomusicologia, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome-Jerusalem 2001 (reissued 2006)
  • Editor, Estetica delle situazioni estreme [An Aesthetics of Extreme Situations], Cuem, Milan 2000, 200 p. [Italian]
  • Author, Il ballo del camaleonte. Citazione, strategie del testo e sopravvivenza intorno a Zelig di W. Allen [The Chameleon’s Dance. Quotation, Textual Strategies and Survival Around W. Allen’s Zelig], Cuem, Milan 1999, 115 p. [Italian]
  • Editor, Imre Toth, No! Libertà e verità, creazione e negazione [No! Freedom and Truth, Creation and Negation. A Palimpsest of Words and Images by Imre Toth], Rusconi, Milano 1998, 487 p. (reissued: Bompiani, Milan 2003) [Italian]

Recent Articles (in books, journals, and encyclopedias)

  • “Sound Objects: Music, Material Culture, and the Sound Study of the Synagogue,” in Gabrielle Berlinger and Ruth von Bernuth eds. Wandering Objects: Collecting and Interpreting Jewish Things. Wayne State University Press, Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology (forthcoming in 2023)
  • “Written in Italian, Heard as Jewish: Reconsidering the Notated Sources of Italian Jewish Music,” in Lynette Bowring and Liza Malamut eds. Music and Jewish Culture in Early Modern Italy : New Perspectives. . Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2022: 23-36
  • “Layers of Song. Migrations, Identities, and Synagogue Music in Corfu, Greece,” in Kate van Orden ed. Seachanges: Music in the Mediterranean and Atlantic Colonial Worlds, 1550- 1800, I Tatti Studies (Harvard University), Florence 2021: 107-129
  • “From ‘Musica Hæbreorum’ to ‘Musica Sacra.’ Musical Encounters in the Italian Synagogue (17th-19th centuries),” in Contessa, Andreina, Simonetta Della Seta, Carlotta Ferrara degli Uberti, Sharon Reichel eds. Beyond the Ghetto: Inside & Out, Silvana, Milan 2020: 78-83
  • “Sounds of Emancipation: Politics, Identity, and Music in 19th-century Italian Synagogues,” The New Italy and the Jews from Massimo D’Azeglio to Primo Levi. Ed. Jonathan Druker and L. Scott Lerner. Spec. issue of Annali d’Italianistica 36/2018: 115-140
  • Il suono della Melting Pot. I canti sinagogali di Venezia e le registrazioni di Leo Levi (1954-1959), in Musiche della tradizione ebraica a Venezia. Le registrazioni di Leo Levi (1954-1959), Ed. Piergabriele Mancuso, Roma, Squilibri, 2018: 46-60 [Italian]
  • “The Bimah & The Stage: Synagogue Music and Cultural Production in the Italian Ghettos” in Venice, The Jews, and Europe 1516-2016, Ed. Donatella Calabi, Venice, Marsilio 2016: 264-269
  • “Italian Jewish Cultural Identity: A Regional Perspective” in Musiche della tradizione ebraica in Piemonte, Ed. Franco Segre, Roma, Squilibri 2015: 11-44
  • “Unsettling Encounters: Missing Links of European Jewish Experience and Discourse” in Samuel Bronner ed. Framing Jewish Culture: Boundaries and Representations. Jewish Cultural Studies 4/2013: 357-363
  • “Back to Life, Twice. The Revivals of Ladino Song in 20th-century Italy,” Journal of Synagogue Music 38/Fall 2013: 109-120
  • “Music and Synagogue Life” in Italy, Ed. Roni Weinstein, Jerusalem, Ben Zvi Institute 2012: 143-150 [Hebrew]
  • “’Those Note in Minor Tones…’ Oriental Themes, Liturgical Debates and Musical Icons in 19th-Century Jewish Italy” in Garment and Core. Jews and their Musical Experiences, Ed. E. Avitsur, M. Ritzarev and E. Seroussi, Ramat Gan, Bar-Ilan University Press 2012: 83-100
  • “Scritto in italiano, ascoltato in ebraico. A proposito delle fonti scritte della musica ebraica in Italia” in Ebraismo in Musica. Da Mantova all’Europa e ritorno, Ed. Stefano Patuzzi, Mantova, Di Pellegrini 2011: 87-101 [Italian]
  • “Cultural Content and Digital Form, or The Other Way Around? Jewish Collections, Research and the Digital Renaissance” in Testimonianze della cultura ebraica: ricerca, valorizzazione, digitale. Il progetto Judaica Europeana, Proceedings of the international conference, Fermo, Oct. 6-7, Ed. Giuseppe Capriotti and Pierluigi Feliciati, Macerata, EUM Edizioni Università di Macerata 2011: 249-274