Having trouble viewing this email? Click here February 6, 2023 – 15 Shevat 5783


Holocaust Remembrance Day,
"Italians more aware, but less involved"

By Daniel Reichel

"Some good news. Italians are more aware of the meaning of January 27: 61 percent know what this date represents. This is the highest percentage recorded in the last ten years. However, the downside is an increase, compared to the last two years, in the number of people who say they are little or not at all involved in the initiatives promoted for Holocaust Remembrance Day (35 percent).
This is then linked to a sharp decline in the perception of the spread of antisemitism in Italy: if in 2021 55 percent considered it quite widespread, in January 2023 it fell to 42 percent. This decrease is not due to the belief that there has been an effective fight against this phenomenon - explains sociologist Riccardo Grassi, research director at the SWG Institute in Trieste - but it is to be traced "to what appears to be a widespread decrease in sensitivity to the issue". An issue that deeply touches the work being done in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
These are some of the data emerged from the latest survey on "Italians and Remembrance Day", now in its tenth year. The survey was carried out by SWG, one of the most important Italian research institutes, with the collaboration of the editorial staff of Pagine Ebraiche, and it is a valuable insight to understand the evolution of the perception in the country of the role of January 27, the Holocaust Remembrance in general and antisemitism. "In the last ten years the interest and attention shown by Italians to the celebration of Remembrance Day has had many ups and downs, – explained Grassi, – both in terms of knowledge and of interest and participation". There aren't many surveys that can "count on such a long monitoring", added the sociologist.
"During the ten-year collaboration with Pagine Ebraiche, there have been social, cultural, geopolitical changes of extraordinary scale. Collecting data over an extended period allows us to grasp the difference between short-term variations, essentially of an emotional nature, and long-term variations, which become structural". With regards to Holocaust Remembrance Day, an obvious example of this variation is the difference in the percentage of respondents able to correctly identify the January 27 anniversary from 2014 to date. The percentage has hovered at just over 50 percent over the years, with a peak of 61 percent reached in the last survey.
A figure, as mentioned previously, that is positive, as is the evolution over the years of the meaning that respondents attribute to the anniversary. "We have seen how, since 2014 when we began the surveys, Holocaust Remembrance Day has gone from being perceived as a 'due' and 'formative' occasion, therefore lived with great emotional detachment, to being evaluated as a 'just' and 'necessary' moment in the civil calendar", highlighted Grassi "The latter two elements represent a much higher attribution of moral value. And, in general, we see how the recurrence is considered indispensable". Specifically, January 27 is considered "just" by 40 percent of Italians, "formative" by 37, while it is "due" and "necessary" for 34.

Eleven percent calls it "rhetorical", while 7 percent calls it "useless" - a small but disturbing increase from 2022, when only 5 percent of respondents called it "useless". In addition, the survey shows that the choice of meaning appears to be strongly influenced by the political affinity of the respondents: for example, the voters of PD (the Democratic Party), support its need and formative value, while the voters of the right-wing party Lega perceive it more often as rhetorical (23%). Moreover, an alarming number of Italians consider Holocaust Remembrance Day an anniversary that "serves no purpose": 22 percent, over one in ten Italians.

From the top, the majority of Italians consider Holocaust Remembrance Day useful and formative, but over one in ten think it "serves no purpose" or it concerns only the Jews (orange and blue line at the bottom of the graphic); 61% know what January 27 represents; 11 percent of Italians call it "rhetorical", while 7 percent calls it "useless" ; although data show the growth of hate crimes against Jews, the percentage of those who believe that antisemitic sentiment is widespread in Italy decreases to 42 per cent.

Translation by Alice Pugliese, revised by Annadora Zuanel, students at the Secondary School of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities – Pagine Ebraiche.

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Calabrian citrons, a secular-old tradition
gets recognition by the European Union

Every year rabbis from all over the world travel to the southern region of Calabria to get a special type of etrog (citron) for Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles commemorating the Jews wandering in the desert after flying Egypt. A symbol of excellence of the Calabrian territory, the diamante citron used as Etrog, is now certified as such also by the European Union, which last week gave approved the attribution of  the "DOP brand" (short for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which literally means Protected Designation of Origin) to protect this product for which the major center of attraction is the town of Santa Maria del Cedro on the Thyrrenian coast.The yellow citrus symbolizes the special relationship at the center of many projects developed with the Italian Jewish institutions. "The citron represents an extraordinary development asset for all of Calabria. It is a very appreciated fruit in the Jewish communities, and our region is increasingly a candidate for being a place of reference for this culture", remarked the President of the Region Roberto Occhiuto at a conference that took place last week in the local Museo del Cedro (Cedar Museum), which was attended among others by UCEI vice-president Giulio Disegni and the local representative of the Jewish Community of Naples Roque Pugliese. "Starting from citrons, we also have many giudecche (ancient Jewish neighborhoods) and many settlements that may be valorized in this direction" added Occhiuto. Congratulations for this result came from the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities and the Jewish Community of Naples.

From top, a scene from the film Where Life Begins by Stéphane Freiss set in an Italian etrog farm; a moment of the presentation in Santa Maria del Cedro.

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„Wir stehen alle unter demselben Himmel“

Die Ausstellung des Museums für das italienische Judentum und die Shoah in Ferrara mit dem Titel „Unter demselben Himmel“ über die Bedeutung des Sukkot-Festes soll den Blick der Öffentlichkeit erweitern. Der Besucher soll die Möglichkeit haben, die Welt aus einem anderen Blickwinkel, dem jüdischen, zu betrachten. Seine Werte, Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede zu erfassen, ohne dabei die Freude am Feiern zu vergessen. „Wir hoffen, dass wir mit dieser Ausstellung einen Moment des tiefgreifenden Austauschs zwischen den Kulturen und des gegenseitigen Kennenlernens fördern“, so der Museumpräsident Dario Disegni bei der Eröffnung der neuen Ausstellung, die von Museumsdirektor Rabbi Amedeo Spagnoletto, von Sharon Reichel kuratiert und von der Architektin Giulia Gallerani zusammengestellt wurde. Der von Disegni ist nicht nur ein Wunsch, sondern auch eine Realität. Wie eines der wertvollsten Stücke der Ausstellung beweist: die zehn bemalten Tafeln aus der Abtei Praglia. 
Tafeln, die ein Sukkah vom Ende des 18. oder 19. Jahrhunderts bemalten und die heute zum ersten Mal gemeinsam im Museum ausgestellt werden. „Wir sehen sie anders, als sie in der Abtei ausgestellt sind, weil wir sie auf die Ebene unseres Blicks gehoben haben. - erinnerte Reichel während der Vernissage - Wir können sie betrachten und eine Beziehung zu ihnen haben, die vielleicht mehr als eins-zu-eins, mehr intim ist. Ein echter Dialog, denn genau das ist die Idee des Museums: eine Interaktion mit der Öffentlichkeit aufzubauen“.

Übersetzt von Maria Cianciuolo, Schülerin der Hochschule für moderne Sprachen für Dolmetscher und Übersetzer der Universität von Triest, Praktikantin in der Redaktion der Vereinigung der Italienischen Jüdischen Gemeinschaften – Pagine Ebraiche.

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"Just a girl" by Jewish-Italian writer Lia Levi
awarded by the American Library Association

"Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II " by Jewish-Italian author Lia Levi was awarded, last week, the prestigious Mildred L. Batchelder Award by the American Library Association (ALA) which goes to an outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States. Published in Italian as "Una bambina e basta. Raccontata agli altri bambini e basta", the book -  illustrated by Jess Mason and translated by Sylvia Notini - was published in March in the United States by Harpers Collins Publishers. The story adapts for children the award-winning memoir of the same name that in 1994 was her first novel and is the results of years of meetings in Italian schools by the author. The book tells the story of a Jewish girl growing up during a terrible time of racial discrimination and war who discovers light and joy in unexpected places.
The year is 1938. Lia is six years old, loves to build sandcastles at the beach, and her main problem is her shyness. Her life dramatically changes when the fascist racial laws expel Jewish children from school, forbid Jews to vacation and prevent her father from working. As the family must give up their home and move from city to city, Lia questions start to multiplicate. What does it matter to Mussolini if some children go to school and others do not? Why cannot nanny Maria stay with them anymore? Why can't she just be a child, just a child? As prime minister Mussolini joins forces with Hitler in World War II and war comes closer, it is too dangerous for them to stay together, and Lia and her sisters are sent to hide at a Catholic boarding school. Separated from her parents and everything she knows and loves, little Lia must find a way to survive.

Above, the writer Lia Levi in an illustration by Giorgio Albertini.

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My Father’s House by Joseph O’Connor review,
the priest who defied Nazis

By Sarah Moss*

Joseph O’Connor’s earlier work was instrumental in demonstrating that modern historical fiction can mean novels of ideas and the state of the nation rather than works of populist nostalgia. Writing about second world war espionage and resistance is brave in this context – there are so many gold-lettered tales of homosocial derring-do sold to men in airports – but anyone buying My Father’s House with this expectation will find themselves expected to think as well as fantasise. Like 2019’s Shadowplay, My Father’s House is woven through the historical record. There was indeed an Irish priest living in Vatican City involved in running an escape line for resistance fighters, escaped prisoners of war and Jewish people from Nazi-run Rome, and his collaborators share names and biographical details with characters in this book. O’Connor is clear that his characters are "not to be relied upon by biographers or researchers" and that sequences "presenting themselves as authentic documents are works of fiction". The writer’s challenge is to balance the messy improbability of what actually happened with the structural requirements of the novel.

*This article was originally published on The Guardian on February 2, 2023.

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Pagine Ebraiche International is edited by Daniela Gross.
Special thanks to: Francesco Moises Bassano, Susanna Barki, Amanda Benjamin, Monica Bizzio, Angelica Edna Calò Livne, Eliezer Di Martino, Alain Elkann, Dori Fleekop, Daniela Fubini, Benedetta Guetta, Sarah Kaminski, Daniel Leisawitz, Annette Leckart, Gadi Luzzatto Voghera, Yaakov Mascetti, Francesca Matalon, Jonathan Misrachi, Anna Momigliano, Giovanni Montenero, Elèna Mortara, Sabina Muccigrosso, Lisa Palmieri Billig, Jazmine Pignatello, Shirley Piperno, Giandomenico Pozzi, Daniel Reichel, Colby Robbins,  Danielle Rockman, Lindsay Shedlin, Michael Sierra, Rachel Silvera, Adam Smulevich, Simone Somekh, Rossella Tercatin, Ada Treves, Lauren Waldman, Sahar Zivan.
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Pagine Ebraiche International è a cura di Daniela Gross.
Realizzato con il contributo di: Francesco Moises Bassano, Susanna Barki, Amanda Benjamin, Monica Bizzio, Angelica Edna Calò Livne, Alain Elkann, Dori Fleekop, Daniela Fubini, Benedetta Guetta, Sarah Kaminski, Daniel Leisawitz, Annette Leckart, Gadi Luzzatto Voghera, Yaakov Mascetti, Jonathan Misrachi, Anna Momigliano, Giovanni Montenero, Elèna Mortara, Sabina Muccigrosso, Lisa Palmieri Billig, Jazmine Pignatello, Shirley Piperno, Giandomenico Pozzi, Daniel Reichel, Colby Robbins,  Danielle Rockman, Lindsay Shedlin, Michael Sierra, Adam Smulevich, Simone Somekh, Rossella Tercatin, Ada Treves, Lauren Waldman, Sahar Zivan.