Italian Jewish Word of the Week MUSEO

italicsBy Daniela Gross

This is a very easy word. “Museo” (to be pronounced Moo-zay-o) is the Italian version of “Museum” – a world, by the way, derived from the Latin and the ancient Greek that means “location sacred to the Muses”. Italy is a country renown and beloved for its Museums, and the Jewish Museums are a significant part of that cultural patrimony. Generally set up by the Jewish Communities and hosted in their ancient synagogues and buildings, they exhibit the magnificent heritage of the Italian Jews: ritual and familiar objects, precious tissues, ancient Torah rolls, documents and others evidences of the historical Jewish presence in Italy that dates back about twenty two centuries. But despite the dramatic wound inflicted by the Holocaust to the Italian Jewry, the Italian Shoah Museums are still moving their first steps and the scenario is almost complex. A Shoah Museum was instituted on April 2003 by the Italian Parliament in Ferrara, a city in central Italy that has a rich Jewish history (not by chance, soon to be conceived and enlarged as a museum of the Italian Jewry).
A couple of years later another project developed, aimed to create a Museum dedicated to the Shoah in the Capital (you can read about its recent evolution in this issue) and in the meantime also Milan was at work, creating a center for the Memory at Platform 21 in the Central Train Station. From here, between 1938 and 1945, forty five trains left to the camps transporting Jews and other deportees. A museums’ network focused on the Shoah is thus forming across Italy creating, along with the Communities’ museums, an exhaustive portrait of the Jewish Italian history.