FEATURES Milan Jewish Community Gears Up for Expo

expoBy Rossella Tercatin

The Universal Exposition will open in Milan in less than 9 months. Running from May 1, 2015, the event promises to make the city the capital of the world for six months. Not only Milan, but the whole country is getting ready for it, in spite of the repeated problems – namely delays and scandals – which have come up during the past years.

“Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, the theme chosen for Expo 2015, has aroused a lot of interest, as the high number of participants, 144 countries so far, plus a number of international organizations and other institutions, shows.

For Expo, the authorities expect over 20 million visitors, most of them foreigners. And a good number of them Jewish visitors and others interested in what Jewish culture and tradition have to say about food, agriculture and environment.
It is therefore not surprising that the Milan Jewish community is also gearing up, along with many other Jewish organizations active in the city, including Keren Kayemet LeIsrael, the largest Jewish environmental NGO.

“Expo 2015 represents a unique opportunity for the community. We are working on a number of projects which we hope visitors will discover, including Jewish sights in the area via relevant itineraries which we are preparing, but we are also thinking about events which can show the richness of Jewish Italian culinary tradition and culture,” explained Raffaele Besso, a member of the Community Board.

Underlining the great chance for the country, the city and the Jewish Community is the Jewish movie director Ruggero Gabbai, a member of Milan City Council and the President of the Expo Commission. “For six months, the whole world will be looking at us; Milan is both a modern and traditional city which in the past five years has seen tourism increased by 33%. Certainly Expo cannot be the solution to the problems in Italy today, but it can be a showcase for what Italy has to offer, and thus a new start”. Gabbai has also pointed out the interest the City Council has shown towards Jewish themes, also inviting Milan’s Jewish leaders to send out invitations to Expo to Jewish Communities all over the world.

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement is also very active in Milan. For Expo they are working on launching a new Jewish Center and they have chosen to commission their plan to no less than the prominent Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind, “A small but very nice project” as Libeskind described it.
The architect, who lived for several years in Milan, where he also has a partner studio to his main one based in New York, declared himself optimistic about Expo. “Italy has strength and creativity. Milan is the right place to show that the country is moving forward, towards new horizons”.