An Ancient Roman Convert to Judaism Who Became a “Mother of the Synagogues”

April 22 2019

In the first centuries of the Common Era, many Roman Jews buried their dead in elaborate catacombs, many of which can still be seen today. One sarcophagus bears the name of Beturia Paulina, whom the inscription—from the 1st century CE—describes as having converted to Judaism sixteen years prior to her death at age eighty-six. Carly Silver writes:

Based on her name, [Beturia Paulina] likely grew up worshiping the gods of the Roman empire. Her epitaph was written in Greek transliterated into Latin. . . . As many converts to Judaism do today, Beturia Paulina adopted a name from the Jewish tradition. The epitaph mentions her as nominae Sara, or “(going) by the name of Sara.” . . . .

Perhaps most intriguingly of all, Beturia Paulina received the title of mater synagogarum Campi et Volumni, or “mother of the synagogues of Campus and Volumnius.” This terminology is multifaceted. For one thing, it implies that the idea of the synagogue . . . as a gathering place for people of the Jewish faith existed throughout Italy. And networks of synagogues existed throughout Rome itself, creating links among communities of the faithful. Campus, or “field,” probably refers to the geographic location of one center of worship, perhaps the synagogue near the Field of Mars. [Most likely, the second] synagogue was named for an individual or family called Volumnius. . . .

So Beturia Paulina was clearly closely associated with multiple synagogues in Rome. But what does her title, “mother of the synagogues,” refer to? The late historian Louis Feldman suggested that such monikers were given to women—independently of men—who gave generously to the synagogues in question. [Another] scholar, Bernadette Brooten, posited that their contributions very well might have gone beyond the monetary. Perhaps these women worked actively in these communities as leaders.

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Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Conversion

 

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror