NEWS Happy Birthday, Rabbi Toaff

toaffBy Adam Smulevich

Hundreds of people gathered in the heart of the old Ghetto to celebrate the 99th birthday of Elio Toaff, emeritus Chief Rabbi of Rome.

On April 30th, the Jewish Community of Rome organized a special birthday party under the windows of Rabbi Toaff’s apartment.
Together with the president, Riccardo Pacifici, many members of the Community Board joined dozen of children of the Jewish school singing “Yom Huledet Sameach” (“Happy Birthday”), while Rabbi Toaff was waving at the crowd from his balcony.

Spiritual leader, scholar, man of dialogue: Rabbi Toaff is considered one of the most influential figures in the twentieth century. Over 28 years ago, his meeting with Karol Wojtyla, the first pope ever to visit a synagogue, is still considered a turning point in the Jewish-Christian relations.

In a recent interview published on Pagine Ebraiche, Rabbi Toaff sent a message to new generations. “My advice is to have courage. But above all not to ever lose the opportunity of engaging in two activities that make us be ourselves: helping others, and study” the Rabbi said.

In a greeting message for his birthday, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Renzo Gattegna thanked Rabbi Toaff for having taught several generations “the pride of being Jewish and the importance of living our identity in a constructive and positive dialogue with the entire society”.

Messages of congratulations were sent to Rabbi Toaff by the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano and by the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.