Ascarelli, Devora

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ASCARELLI, DEVORA (16th century), Italian writer. Ascarelli may have been the first Jewish woman whose writings were published. Her book, containing translations of liturgical selections into Italian, as well as her own poetry in Italian, is the only source of information about her. According to the book's dedication, Devora and her husband, Joseph Ascarelli, lived in Rome; the family is associated with exiles from Spain and the leadership of the Catalan community of Rome. Ascarelli's book is usually identified by the title of its first selection, L'abitacolo degli Oranti or Ma'on ha-Sho'alim, "The Abode of the Supplicants," a translation into rhymed Italian of sections of a Hebrew liturgical poem. Prose translations include Benedici il Signore o anima mia, or Barekhi Nafshi, a tokheḥah prayer in the Roman rite by Rabbenu Baḥya ben Joseph the Pious (11th century) of Saragossa; La Grande Confessione by Rabbenu Nissim, identified as the head of the Babylonian Academy; and an avodah prayer for the Sephardi Yom Kippur service. The book also contains two of Ascarelli's sonnets, Il Ritratto di Susanna, "The Picture of Susannah," based on the apocryphal book *Susannah and the Elders, and Quanto e' in me di Celeste, "Whatever in me is of Heaven." The liturgical pieces appear both in Hebrew and Italian; they were apparently intended for liturgical use on Yom Kippur. The contents of the 31-page L'abitacolo Degli Oranti were probably completed between 1537 and 1540; the book was published in Venice in 1601, and with some differences in 1609; excerpts appear in A. Pesaro, "Alle Donne celebri Israelite," in Il Vessilio Israelitico, 29 (1881), 34–37 and 67–68 (reprinted with many modifications by Pellegrino Ascarelli, Debora Ascarelli Poetessa, Rome, 1925). Modern translations of Ascarelli's poems by Vladimir Rus appear in Sondra Henry and Emily Taitz, Written Out of History: A Hidden Legacy of Jewish Women Revealed Through Their Writing And Letters (1978), 130–31.

[Howard Tzvi Adelman (2nd ed.)]