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From mayhem Italy sends Jews

Jewish Destinations: ROME Hopeful signs appear

Abby and Mark Trachtman enjoying the Tuscan countryside.

By Abby Trachtman JFLV Project Coordinator My husband Mark and I visited Rome in October and witnessed something unforgettable. We had overcome the giddiness of leaving our three teenagers at home and visited the expected sites such as Trevi Fountain, St Peter’s Cathedral, the Vatican, the coliseum and the Pantheon. However, we said, what trip to a foreign country would be complete without a little Jewish history?

The view from Rome

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We got our first glimpse of this history near the Coliseum when we saw the Arch of Titus. The arch celebrated the Roman victory over the rebellious Jews of Judea -- modern-day Israel -- in 70 C.E. Carved into the arch is a Jewish menorah and the ark of the covenant being toted away by the victorious Romans. The intended message was clear: Rome was the only superpower of its day. Mark had downloaded a Rick Steves walking tour that was to take us further into Jewish Rome; specifically, into the Jewish ghetto. First stop: the synagogue. We payed a small fee for admission to its museum and for a tour of the sanctuary. We learned that Jews in Rome are neither Sephardic nor Ashkenazi because they came from Judea in the time of Julius Caesar before the diaspora. However, Jews in Rome are all Orthodox and services are conducted in Hebrew. The inside of the synagogue looks a lot like a church. That’s not surprising: Completed in 1904, the synagogue was designed by Catholic architects. The building is in the shape of a cross and is topped with a large dome.

Something happened here Later, we walked across the river and listened to another podcast tour while touring Trastevere, a trendy area with shops, restaurants and churches. As the dinner hour approached -- I should say, our dinner hour because Italians, like most Europeans, eat dinner much later than Americans -- we found our way into a piazza in front of the Church of Santa Maria. The piazza was crowded with several thousand people. There was a stage set up near the church with a large banner that said in Italian ‘We will never forget’ and was dated 16 October 1943. We had wandered into a remembrance service for the Jews who were taken by the Nazis nearly 70 years ago. Many people held large torches which they began lighting in the dusky light. Young people held signs with the names of all of death camps. Yet, it was a beautiful evening and those gathered where happy, lively in their greetings to friends and neighbors. All skin colors were in evidence and likely all religions, too. After a little while, the crowd began to move out of the piazza. The people flowed through the streets of the neighborhood carrying torches, signs and banners. The air grew quiet and respectful. Mark and I felt incredibly moved, privileged to have witnessed such a loving and moving tribute. This was the most unusual and lovely moment of our visit to Rome. The rest of our trip was wonderful, but that moment will stay with me always.

Italy’s Jewish leaders denou Jewish Telegraphic Agency In November 2012, and with mounting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents, Italy’s Jewish leadership “forcefully denounced” a “spiral of violence” that has erupted in the country. “It would be too long to enumerate the individual episodes, but we cannot refrain from drawing attention to a climate of tension that is increasingly worry-


Despite the Christian theme in the architecture, the interior of the synagogue’s dome is painted with a rainbow. The day we visited, October 16, was the anniversary of the day when Nazi trucks parked here and threatened to take the Jews to concentration camps unless the community came up with 50 kilos of gold in 24 hours. Everyone, including non-Jewish Romans, contributed their gold and the demand was met. The Nazis took the gold and, later, they took the Jews as well. The voice of Rick Steves guided us through the few streets of the ghetto. We stopped in some small Judaica stores. There were kosher restaurants and a Jewish elementary school, where we saw the children leaving school for the day. In one small piazza, there is a fountain that the famous Italian sculptor Bernini, embellished with sea turtles. It turns out that Bernini admired the Jews and honored them with the symbol of turtles -- an ancient creature that carries all its belongings on its back.

ing,” said a statement by Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. Apparently prompted by Israel’s ramped-up military operation to stop escalated rocket attacks from Gaza, anti-Semitic slogans were scrawled on synagogues in several cities. Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slogans were chanted during student and other demonstrations in Rome the past two weekends, and a “Free Palestine” banner

m to memorials, s mixed messages

Fountain in the Jewish Ghetto with sea turtles added by the famous sculptor Bernini.

The synagogue in Rome. You are not permitted to take photos of the interior. There is a security fence around the synagogue with a guard at the entrance.

Hakol 4x4_Jan_LittlePrince_Layout 1 12/6/2012 10:56 AM Page 1

People gather in the Piazza Santa Maria before the march. Many carry signs with the names of all the death camps.

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unce growing anti-Semitism was unfurled during an international soccer match in Rome between Rome’s Lazio team and England’s Tottenham Hotspur on November 22. In addition, Lazio’s far-right militant fans chanted “Juden Tottenham” during the game, and the night before the match dozens of masked men brutally attacked a group of Hotspur fans in a downtown pub. Hotspur has a large Jewish support base in London that is sometimes referred to as the

“Yid Army.” “Racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic: the proponents of hate fall into different conceptual categories and different modes of action,” Gattegna said. “Linking them, however, is the same contempt for the most basic principles of democracy and the sharing of ideologies that are re-emerging in a growing and alarming way from the folds of a past that did not teach some people anything.”

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Hakol - January 2013 - Part 2  

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