In the Beginning, a Word Cloud…


As I am about to distribute a syllabus to students, I like to do a visual check of what I have been writing (and thinking). Typically, I use Wordle, perhaps because I like the ease with which I can switch among different layouts.

So, here’s the description of Jewish Nighlife in three word-cloud formats:

Jewish Nightlife Wordle (2017-1)


Jewish Nightlife Wordle (2017-3)

and finally

Jewish Nightlife Wordle (2017-2)

One of the main things I observe in these layouts is the prominence of performance. This indeed reflects my own interests—the interconnections between ritual, artistic, and classroom performance arenas—but I had not immediately realized that this is how the course is structured. I also see a word missing: subversiveness—even though this is one of my main underlying interests in studying the intersection between night, music, poetry, and ritual, I find it revealing that it is not featured at all in the course description.

An intellectual (and activist) agenda hidden in a (word) cloud…


Jewish Nightlife is Back! Fall 2017 at UCB

This Fall Semester Jewish Nightlife will return to UC Berkeley, and feature weekly workshops with the internationally acclaimed artist, Victoria Hanna (Jerusalem). The course will include history, performance, ethnographic fieldwork, and an in-depth study of Jewish protective amulets from The Magnes Collection.

Find out how to register here (for Jewish Studies) and here (for Music).

Stay tuned for more information, but in the meantime, enjoy Victoria Hanna’s video, 22 Letters…

…and read & download the course flyer:

Jewish Nightlife: Course Introduction

Jewish Nightlife: Poetry, Music, and Ritual Performance
From Renaissance Italy to Contemporary Israel

MUS 74 & 139 | MO & WE 2-4 PM | The Magnes, 2121 Allston Way

Instructors: Dr. Francesco Spagnolo (lectures); Yair Harel (music lab).
(Read more about the instructors here).

Jewish Nightlife is a multi-disciplinary exploration of the nexus between the ritual performance of Jewish texts and social changes across Jewish history, including the study of Hebrew poetry, music, and synagogue liturgy in Renaissance Italy, in North Africa, the Middle East, and present-day Israel.


The course explores the inter-relations between the ritual performance of Jewish texts and social change across Jewish history, and focuses on three related topics: the rise of Kabbalistic nocturnal rituals in the Italian ghettos in early-modern period; the performance of Hebrew poetry in North Africa and the Middle East in the modern era; and the renaissance of piyyut (Hebrew liturgical poetry) in Israel from the 1970s to the present, from the singing of bakkashot among Syrian and Moroccan Israelis to the current transcultural activities of online and participatory communities.

The course will incorporate field trips to Berkeley synagogues, and will leverage the resources of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, including liturgical and poetic manuscripts and printed texts, written music manuscripts, audio and video recordings, iconographic sources, and ritual and everyday life objects from the global Jewish diaspora. In addition, the course will be complemented by weekly workshops led by Israeli artist, Yair Harel, during a residency at The Magnes, sponsored by the Schusterman Visiting Artists Program of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation. Harel is also the creator of the website, An Invitation to Piyyut, which integrates scholarship, digital archiving, and crowdsourcing, in the study and the performance of Hebrew liturgical poetry and music.