Jewish leaders from all over Europe gathered in Milan last week end to attend the Meeting of Presidents of Jewish Organisations organized by the European Council of Jewish Communities e dalla American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in cooperation with Milan Jewish Community and the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI).
“After living here for so long, we can proudly state that Italian Jews are an example of how it is possible to live as a minority in a country where we are well integrated and have close ties with the rest of the population – said UCEI President Renzo Gattegna – And we are an example of how it is possible to do so without losing our history, our traditions or our identity”.
Read the complete transcript of Gattegna’s speech.
Dear Presidents, dear friends.
First, on behalf of the Italian Jewish communities and all the Italian Jews, I would like to welcome you to Italy.
I would like to thank the European Council of Jewish Communities and JDC for choosing Milan to hold this meeting; and also, let me thank you for organizing and making this event possible.
It is a great honor for us to host this important meeting with this intense program of issues and proposals to consider.
I am certain that these three days will be extremely rewarding.
As you probably know, the Italian Jewish community is small in numbers but important for the history and the significance of its presence.
Ours is the eldest community of the Diaspora: Jews have been living here for 23 centuries, over 2000 years.
There have been alternating fortunes and anti-Semitism certainly.
Our ancestors spent 3 centuries closed in ghettos established by the Popes.
Our community also suffered from the Fascism, the Nazi occupation and deportations in spite of the help we received from part of the population.
After living here for so long, we can proudly state that Italian Jews are an example of how it is possible to live as a minority in a country where we are well integrated and have close ties with the rest of the population.
And we are an example of how it is possible to do so without losing our history, our traditions or our identity.
The freedom and the democracy that Italy has today, allow us to be active and visible, to have ongoing encounters and exchange with other political and cultural groups.
The Jewish community of Milan is an example of this fortunate melding.
At the end of the last century, those who escaped from the Nazi extermination and numerous groups from Arab and Middle Eastern countries in the middle of the last century: Egyptians, Lebanese, Persians and so on.
We no longer live in times when we can train as single Jewish communities.
Current events require that we analyze and deal with our problems from a European perspective.
There are many matters to discuss and this is a wonderful occasion to understand and study in depth what our communities are facing today.
So that we can get to know each other and better.
Europe is going through a crucial phase of its existence.
It is more important than ever that we share our experiences as community presidents and leaders.
We know that each country is living different situations but in Europe the countries are strictly interconnected.
If we consider the remarkable capacity, the strenght and the power developed today by the Jewish people including the State of Israel and the Jewish Community in all the continent, we must admit that we are much stronger than in the past centuries but that we don’t use it in the best way.
I think that each community and each group dissipate and waste a lot of energies and resources repeating and going over the same problems and the same troubles.
I hope that in the future we can overcome the lack of cultural and political debate and communications and build, between us, an efficient representative body.
We are a microcosm of problems and opportunities, but together we can achieve much.
We need reason from a European point of view and share our knowledge and experiences. And we need to do so in an ongoing dialogue, without interruption.
We need, in other words, to develop a network.
Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities