Jewish journeys across Italy explore culture and build dialogue

“Culture, dialogue and respect are the foundations of our coexistence”. Intolerance and racism must never be underestimated, and it is up to every one of us “to bring to life, through confrontation and encounter, the values of civility and solidarity upon which the republican Constitution is based”. This was the message sent yesterday by the Italian President Sergio Mattarella to the President of UCEI – Union of Italian Jewish Communities Noemi Di Segni on the occasion of the European Days of Jewish culture.

The event, which involved over 90 Italian cities and towns, kicked off at the Palace of Culture in Rome, the oldest Jewish community in the Diaspora and this year the leading city. “Our history dates back 22 centuries. So, the theme Jewish Journeys on which the 2020 edition is focused, immediately caught our attention, and we tried to develop this idea in all its facets”, said the President of Rome Jewish Community Ruth Dureghello in the welcome address.

“We are glad and proud to celebrate a new edition of the Day and to emphasize, year after year, that Jewish culture is part of the Italian cultural context” said the President of UCEI Noemi Di Segni. Along with our duty to remember the Holocaust, we have the duty to never forget that “Judaism is not only the Shoah, the pogroms, the persecutions. It is life, yesterday as today”. In the wake of Covid 19, restrictions were in place, and many events were streamed online.

In Rome, the program included visits to the synagogues, a bike tour through historical Jewish sites, a guided tour to the Jewish neighborhood in Jewish Roman dialect, cultural meetings, and the donation of the sculpture Three sisters by Antonietta Raphaël to the Foundation of the Shoah Museum.

In Milan, the events were streamed online. The most symbolic was the concert at the Central synagogue, in which a group of musicians of La Scala Theater honored the memory of Vittore Veneziani, the choir director of La Scala expelled in 1938 after the racial laws.

Be it real or virtual, it is important to have a path to follow in our life, even we don’t fully know its final destination, said the Chief Rabbi of Milan Alfonso Arbib, in the opening ceremony. “We could say that Jewish history started with a road, with G-d telling Abraham to leave his country and his father’s household. He tells him to leave a place and the negative element with which it is identified to go towards what? It is not known. G-d tells Abraham to go ‘to the land I will show you’. And so Abraham does not know then his final destination”.

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