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"Minhag Italia": Variations of Jewishness in the 19th Century reflected in Italian prayer books. A digital analysis

The aim of this project is to carry out a digital and conceptual analysis of nineteenth-century Italian prayer books. Prayer books encompass every aspect of Jewish life, from every day prayers to the special occasions of the High Holidays. For this reason, they are the most frequently printed books in Judaism. In spite of their prominence in Jewish life, they have received very little academic attention, because they have been considered as stable factors, unworthy of analyses of its dynamics. It is true that prayer books maintained a certain uniformity in space and time, but the small changes of the different editions can actually represent substantial changes in the political and cultural perception of a specific Jewry, in a specific place and time. Thus, they are a stable factor in the sense that they provide stability through change. By using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) the project aims to single out and address exactly these variations in order to answer the following questions: How do materiality and spirituality relate to each other? Can we discern changing patterns relating to siddurim as religious/sacred objects over time? Do the changes in the prayer books show tendencies towards the desacralization of Italian Jewry in the 19th century?