Renaissance Jews thought that paradise on earth existed in their time, and could be found. To their minds its most conspicuous property was the fertility of its soil, quality of its climate, and salubriousness of its produce. That they approached Paradise in this manner is evidence of their preference for natural, as opposed to theological, explanations of Eden. One such Jew was Judah Saltaro, the author of an unstudied composition on terrestrial paradise. This presentation introduces Saltaro, explores trends in Renaissance thought– including dietetics, natural philosophy, and new world discoveries– and explains how Jews of the Italian Renaissance integrated those trends into their own Hebraic traditions.

About the Speaker: Andrew Berns is currently the Viterbi Visiting Professor in Mediterranean Jewish Studies at UCLA. He received his PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011, his MPhil in 2004 from Cambridge University, and his BA from Reed College in 2002. His dissertation, “The Natural Philosophy of the Biblical World: Jewish and Christian Physicians in Late Renaissance Italy,”explores how Italian physicians studied the Bible and other sacred texts in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. Research interests include the history of Jews in early modern Europe, Renaissance intellectual history, and the history of medicine.