It’s another busy morning in New York City and among the millions of workaholics, Emanuele makes his way to his office in the heart of the city that never sleeps. Each morning he turns on his computer, to be awaken by an aerial landscape of Turin on the desktop, along with two gadgets displaying two different time zones – East Coast and Italy.
“It feels like living in two different places at the same time” Emanuele explains. “You feel the time difference constantly”.
Emanuele Sorani, 27, landed at JFK airport in New York City in the middle of a snowstorm in December 2013, during one of the harshest winters ever recorded in living memory. Before moving to the States, Emanuele completed his Bachelor’s degree in International Relations in Turin, had academic and professional experiences in France and Belgium, studied for his Master’s in Geneva, Switzerland, and worked in the international industrial cooperation sector in Tel Aviv, Israel.
“Although I had lived abroad several times before, moving from Europe to America was a radical change” he says. “New York, though, is a very welcoming city, since it almost has no dominant culture of its own”.
After completing his internship in Israel, Emanuele spent a year and a half in Italy, unsuccessfully looking for a job. The unemployment rate in Italy is staggeringly high: a great resume, such as Emanuele’s, therefore is not a guarantee for a chance to pursue a career in any field. “I read about a one-and-a-half-year traineeship in New York in the Jewish press. I immediately applied for it and I was accepted”. In a matter of a few weeks, Emanuele packed and booked the first flight to New York. He is currently working in a marketing and management consulting firm, which helps international clients that seek to enter the American market.
Coming from the small Jewish community of Turin, Emanuele now fully enjoys the large number of opportunities that the Big Apple offers from a Jewish perspective. Whenever he walks in a supermarket, he is still astonished at seeing the Shabbat Candle-Light timetables hanging on the walls. “It’s much easier here to live your Jewish identity” Emanuele states. “Unlike what I experienced in Italy, people know what it means to be Jewish”.
As soon as he arrived, Emanuele searched on Google to contact the closest synagogue to his apartment and “in a matter of a few hours, my email was replied by the Rabbi, the President, and the Hospitality Chairperson of the community”. He was also warmly welcomed by a young Sephardic community, which he now regularly attends. “Many people ask me whether I am Ashkenazi or Sephardic. I’ve had to explain that I am neither too many times already”, laughs Emanuele while recalling the several times he had to explain the minhag italki, the original tradition of the Italian Jews.
Emanuele loves to travel, to explore and to challenge himself to adapt to new environments. There are a few characteristics of the average New Yorker, though, that he still has not fully understood. For instance, he attended a Metropolitan Opera performance in his best suit, only to find out that the rest of the audience was in jeans and t-shirts.
Currently this young Italian globetrotter would like to stay in New York a little longer than he had previously planned. He realizes how much the Big Apple has to offer, and he is eager to experience the frenzy of this unique city. When thinking about Italy, he has one main critique: “The university there is very good in terms of content and knowledge, but it is not well coordinated with the learning method used in most institutions abroad and it lacks a good connection with the job market, as it is the case in other countries”.
In the long term, though, Emanuele plans on returning to Italy, and not only because he misses the great food of his motherland. He acknowledges “Life in Italy is good. Even though the Jewish life there is limited, I never felt the lack of it”. His advice for young Italian Jews is to go abroad as soon as they can, in order to live worthy and mind-broadening academic and professional training. But after this eye opening experiences, if possible, to come back to Italy to put into practice in our country the valuable guidance learned abroad.
In the meantime, Emanuele enjoys his exciting life overseas, and when he has enough of the New York skyline outside his window and the chaotic lifestyle that comes with it, he just glares at the landscape of his beloved hometown on his computer desktop.
*Simone Somekh is a student at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and writes as a freelancer for the Jewish Italian press.
Shirly Piperno, fashion styling and communication student at Istituto Marangoni, London, contributed reporting.