Italian Word of the Week SORPRESA

italicsBy Daniela Gross

“How many people are reunited here tonight … It’s so beautiful, so surprising”. To speak so was a gentleman with a fascinating white and huge hat, in a little synagogue in the South of the United States in the evening of Yom Kippur. It was a sort of déjà vu, because it suddenly reminded me that the same comment resonates every year in every Italian synagogue, big or small. It may sound weird, but regularly Yom Kippur brings – with all its sea of thoughts, repentance, and good intentions – also a paradoxical “sorpresa” (as in Italian sounds “surprise”). It is surprising how crowded is your synagogue, especially during the Neila, at the time of the solemn blessing that in Italy reunites whole families – men, women, kids, elderly – under the Talleth of the head of the family. You may see people that you never saw at any Tefillah during the year, you may discover kinships and ties never suspected before, and you appreciate how many babies were born in the last year. It is the appeal of the Day of the Atonement, so deep, irresistible and sometimes surprising for every Jew, even the most secular and far from the tradition.