DIALOGUE Florence Honors Its Chief Rabbi

leviBy Adam Smulevich

“Let us pray the Lord to strengthen our society and to remove xenophobia, fear and hate between people because of their origin or religion. We pray the Lord to allow us to see humanity in every person we relate to”.
Asked to speak during the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Florence from Nazi-Fascism, Chief Rabbi Joseph Levi talked clearly about the values to defend in contemporary society and about the challenges and the future of interreligious dialogue.

His words, with many references to Middle East tensions, had a big impact in local media just a few weeks after he received, together with other religious leaders, the prestigious Fiorino d’Oro given by the Mayor to people or associations which have distinguished themselves for special achievements.

One of Rabbi Levi’s main achievements, as mayor Dario Nardella pointed out, was the significant contribution given to building harmonious relations among different faiths and cultural communities in Florence.
During the solemn ceremony held in Palazzo Vecchio, Rabbi Levi was also honored by others with many words of appreciation and kindness.

“I’m really excited – he explained to Pagine Ebraiche – This initiative recognizes the efforts of religious leaders who, in a city historically devoted to dialogue as is Florence, have offered and continues to offer their contribution on sensitive issues to a diverse group of people. This satisfaction is both personal and collective, as is the merit of those who in past years have developed important projects of cooperation”.

In his speech Rabbi Levi mentioned the humanistic tradition of Florence, the city where the Renaissance was began, and whose natural vocation is to be a place of universal values.
“With the help of many people and organizations we are trying to give impetus to a tangible culture of dialogue and interreligious encounters thus bringing the culture of the city of Florence beyond the provincialism of the small community in which this dialogue takes place”, Rabbi Levi said.

In June Rabbi Levi also joined “The prayer for peace” in the Vatican gardens. On this occasion he was invited to read a Psalm during the meeting which brought together Pope Francis, Shimon Peres and Abu Mazen.