Having trouble viewing this email? Click here September 13, 2021 – 7 Tishri 5782

A joint Jewish European effort for Afghan refugees

Housing facilities, clothes, food, social and health care services: the needs of those forced to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover are immense. On relief for the refugees, the European Council of Jewish Communities (ECJC) and the European branch of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) last week launched a joint European effort. The appeal, extended to the Jewish world in all its institutional and associative situations, is to contribute with a donation. It is possible to do this also through a website, recently launched, that explains the guidelines of this commitment.
A quote by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel is in evidence: "In the face of suffering, one has no right to turn away, not to see". “Every little help counts”, stress the promoters. "The initiative taken by the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities, which is currently working to welcome some Afghan families, was inspiring. An example to follow”, a spoke person for the ECJC said. The idea is to "work in close synergy with all of Jewish Italy: for example, we will be present in Milan, on Sunday 19, for the collection of basic necessities organized by the Community in front of the Shoah Memorial".
The humanitarian effort was launched at a very significant moment in the Jewish calendar. In this regard, it is emphasized: “Starting the new year with a good deed will help us improve the lives of other people and change the world in a positive way”.

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On the European day of Jewish Culture,
Padua will lead along the paths of dialogue

“A responsibility we face with pride, even given the particular topic that will be touched upon. In an era in which words of hatred and opposition are spreading, we Jews, also due to our role as a minority, have the duty to lead the way”. These are the words Gianni Parenzo, president of the Jewish Community of Padua, used in April to comment on the fact that Padua will be the leading Italian city of the 22nd European Day of Jewish Culture, scheduled for Sunday 10 October. Everything will be revolving around a theme that lends itself to a range of possible declensions: “Dialogues”.
Amongst the many perspectives whose strength must be restored, enhancing a Jewish history in which "there has always been an underground river of dialogue and exchange, even alongside the forced diasporas, the centuries of discrimination and subordination, the Inquisition, the era of ghettos, modern anti-Semitism, and its tragic consequences in the first half of the 20th century”, as recalls UCEI President Noemi Di Segni. It is about a beneficial form of dialogue which has brought about examples of bright coexistence in many fields.
An international centre of reference for rabbinic education, blessed over the centuries by the presence of some of the most distinguished Rabbis and scholars, Jewish Padua has expressed a vast array of intellectuals, academics, and professionals in several different ages. It will be a solid contribution to a social progress which, also when proportionate to numbers, has few equals in Italy or around the world. Even at the time of the Ghetto, even in those generations that most suffered marginalization and exclusion, this momentum was never lacking.

(Above, the synagogue of Padua, the leading Italian city of the 22end European Day of Jewish Culture)

Translated by Gianluca Pace, student at the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, and revised by Oyebuchi Lucia Leonard, student at the University of Trieste, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.

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Taking leave from the past

By David Bidussa*

“I am what I do”, rather than “I am what I think”. In the intermediate time of balances, the possibility of rebirth is linked to the first expression more than to the second.
Not because there is a certainty of “tomorrow”. Simply to take secular leave from “yesterday”.

*Social historian of ideas



An Italian Hebrew romantic comedy
from the time of Shakespeare

By Natanya Sher*
Theatre is an art; it is a way of life. It unites people with different backgrounds, experiences, and lifestyles. All over the world, theatre is used as a form of communication. The art of sharing stories with strangers unites us and creates a sense of commonality. Despite its ancient roots, theatre has not remained static. Even plays that spring from the same cultural matrix have varied widely over space and time.  Interesting cases are presented by the Jewish theatre in Mantua, Italy during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the Yiddish theatre of the turn of the 20th century.
One could compare a play written in sixteenth-century Mantua to a Yiddish play written three hundred years later to analyze the significant cultural and traditional elements that they share.  Leone de’ Sommi’s Renaissance Hebrew comedy, Tsakhot b’Dikhuta (“A Comedy of Betrothal,”-c 1550) and the Yiddish play entitled Di Kishef-Makherin (“The Witch,” 1878) by Avram Goldfadin are two well-known plays that share core Jewish values and allow a glimpse into Jewish theatre from two distincts moments.
During the sixteenth century, Mantua, Italy became a city of refuge for many Jews. The Dukes of Mantua offered Jews permission to live in his city in exchange for unique taxes and contributions of theatrical performances for the court.  The Jews were obligated to compose, perform, and finance elaborate plays and spectacles for Carnival celebrations yearly, as well as for special events for the wealthy and members of the nobility.  Thanks, in part, to these Jewish performances, Mantua became a hotbed of theatrical innovation in Italy in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. 

Above, a beautiful ketubah (Jewish Marriage contract) dated Livorno, 1746. From The Ketubot Collection of the National Library of Israel.

* This piece is part of a series of articles written by students of Muhlenberg College (Pennsylvania, USA) enrolled in a course on the history and culture of Jewish Italy, taught by Dr. Daniel Leisawitz, Assistant Professor of Italian and Director of the Muhlenberg College Italian Studies Program.

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Lone Survivor of Italian Cable Car Crash
Is Subject of Custody Battle

By Elisabetta Povoledo*

ROME — A bitter custody dispute has flared over the fate of Eitan Biran, the sole survivor of a cable car crash that killed 14 people including his parents, after his paternal relatives in Italy accused his maternal grandfather of flying the boy to Israel over the weekend without their consent. Eitan’s parents and a younger brother died on May 23 when a cable snapped as the car was arriving at its destination on a peak overlooking Lake Maggiore in Piedmont. The car suddenly slid backward before plunging into a mountainside. Two great-grandparents visiting from Israel also died. Eitan, 6, who lived with his family about two hours from the lake, was the sole survivor.
The family drama, which has gripped Italy and is playing out publicly across the Italian and international media, is just part of the fallout from the disaster, which struck a small lakeside community that saw its economy devastated during the pandemic.

* This article originally appeared on The New York Times on September 13, 2021.

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