Italy mourns the passing of Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, long-serving chief rabbi in Milan, Leghorn and Ancona and former president of the Italian Rabbinic Assembly. Rav Laras represented a fundamental figure not only for Italian Judaism, but for the entire society. Born in 1935 in Turin, the rabbi was deeply marked by the Shoah. He lost his mother and grandmother, and narrowly escaped deportation himself.
He was a protagonist in the mission of interfaith dialogue. In his last message published after his death, Rav Laras stressed: “It is up to all of us, Christians and Jews, to seize the opportunity to make the Bible the future, different and yet synergic, for our two Communities of Faith, to turn it into a source of life for Western civilization. And it is extremely urgent to give back to the Bible its real voice, which can in no way be reduced to a secular manual for subsistence, goodwill and pacifism of sorts”.
Last week, the Italian Parliament honored him together with Abd al Wahid Pallavicini, a moderate Italian Imam who passed away the same day.
“Their death leaves us a precious inheritance and a tough task: keeping the channels of dialogue and understanding between cultures and religions open in a time when the dark clouds of intolerance and hatred are plummeting,” members of Parliament Lia Quartapelle and Emanuele Fiano highlighted in their speeches.
The Jewish Community of Milan remembered rav Laras with these words: “He was a Great Teacher, and a guide to our community, which he served as rabbi for 25 years. His great culture and humanity impacted the Italian Jewish Community and not only it. Rav Laras, gave impetus to interfaith dialogue with sincerity and courage; spread Jewish values and became a constant reference point for its intellectual and spiritual development”.
After a last tribute in Milan, rav Laras was buried in Israel.