In some Italian Communities it’s called “Schola”. In other Communities people generally refer to it as “Tempio”. But although the names may vary, we always talk about the same thing: the Synagogue, the heart of the Jewish life in every Italian Community.
The Italian Synagogues are magnificent, perhaps among the most wonderful of the world (no exageration). For this reason they are the destination of many tourist routes in Roma, Firenze, Torino or Trieste. In these cities the Tempio dates from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and it is monumental. But in some places, as Venice, where there are some of the most famous Italian Synagogues, visitors at the beginning are surprised.
In fact, from the outside the Venetian Schole (plural of Schola: name that in vulgar Latin indicated a gathering place; in Italian the word “scuola” indicates the school) look exactly like any building around. That aspect reminds us how, until the XIX century the Synagogues in Europe were often hidden to the eyes of a hostile population through an humble aspect. The modest appearance, however, is limited to the exteriors: When you get in, you find splendid decorations and refined ritual objects.
The Synagogues are the most visible legacy of the glorious history of Italian Jews and represent now a big challenge for the Communities, called to preserve and enhance that important heritage.
But every Italian Jew, also if secular, loves his Schola and is really proud of it.