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Centrally located on Mezran street in Tripoli, the Scuola Roma was a feature of Italian influence that helped few Libyan Jews cultivate an Italian identity.
Setting: Located less than three kilometers from the Mediterranean coast, the Scuola Roma served as an educational space in Libya in the 1950s and ‘60s. Adjacent to Tripoli’s main port, the school was located in a bustling city region close to markets and businesses as well as the nearby coast.
Education and Colonialism: After the Italian occupation of Libya in 1911, European influence infiltrated school systems, clubs, restaurants, and coffee shops.1 Italian authorities created state-sponsored schools in the 1920s and ‘30s, and more Jews began to attend state schools and learn Italian.2 By the time their colonial rule ended in the early 1950s, Italy’s presence had significantly altered schooling expectations for Jews in Libya. After moving to Israel later in life, an alumnus of the Scuola Roma noted that her Israeli neighbors identified her cultural habits as Italian more than Libyan.3 Most students at the Scuola Roma were Italian, but many Jews from the new city attended the school as well, alongside few Muslims.4 5
Gender: Because women were traditionally excluded from religious study, few Jewish women had access to education until the late nineteenth century.6 While some other Italian schools of the era only served students of one gender, such as the Pietro Verri school, girls and boys studied together at the Scuola Roma.7 8