FEATURES Finale Emilia, Preserving the Past, Building the Future

finaleBy Rossella Tercatin

Two years ago most of the village of Finale Emilia was destroyed by a devastating earthquake which hit Northern Italy in summer 2012. In an effort to offer its support to those suffering for the earthquake, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities allocated funds to help with the rebuilding of Finale’s school, named after Elvira Castelfranchi, a renown Jewish teacher in the village for more than thirty years. She was expelled from the school in 1938 after the promulgation of the racial legislation at that time.

Finale Emilia’s Jewish history goes back centuries. Donato Donati (Italian translation for the Hebrew name Nathan Nathan), Jewish merchant and banker, moved there in 1602. Among his descendants is the prominent Italian journalist Arrigo Levi, former communication advisor for two Presidents of Italy.
Further to the effort to preserve the future of Finale through the rebuilding of the school, now is time to defend the memory of its past. The Jewish cemetery of Finale needs restoration as more than fifty tombstones, the oldest dating back to 1585 are now ruined and neglected. An appeal for funds has been launched by the cultural association, Alma Finalis.

“The restoraton is urgent, the stones will be soon completely illegible” explains the historian Maria Pia Balboni, author of “Gli ebrei di Finale Emilia” (“The Jews of Finale Emilia”, published by La Giuntina) and president of Alma Finalis.
In 1989, 25 years ago another restoration was sponsored, among others, by the Italian scientist and Nobel Prize Rita Levi-Montalcini. Today, among those who have responded to the appeal is also Dr. Levi-Montalcini’s niece, Piera.