The Jewish Community of Turin, in Piedmont, has a new Chief Rabbi: the official ceremony took place last Sunday, the 16th of November, in the presence of more than 100 people, a big number for a community like Turin. It took more than a year to find the right candidate but we can now announce that rav Ariel Di Porto – with his wife and two small children – has been in town since September.
In Rome, where he is originally from, he was Head of the Rabbinical Office of the Jewish Community for the last four years and the challenge of changing his role was one of the reasons he decided to come to Turin. “One of the things of which I am very happy is that I now have the chance to start studying again”. After his unanimous appointment by the Council of the Jewish Community, he began to prepare for the move. He began to familiarize himself with the community slowly, spending several days a week in town for a few months before actually moving.
The President of the Community, Giuseppe Segre, opened the joyous first day by introducing the subject of the study session organized in the morning to honor the new Chief Rabbi. “Today is a day of happiness and joy for the community and we all know very well that the best way to honor someone is to get together, and study” he underlined. So the whole of the community busied itself in the past week to prepare everything, from the program to the lunch, from the invitations to the decoration of the “Centro Sociale”.
Many rabbanim from the whole of Italy came to offer their knowledge by giving lessons in honor of rav Di Porto, starting form rav Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome, who also acted as Chief Rabbi pro-tempore for the Jewish Community of Turin for the past year. There were lessons by rav Alfonso Arbib, Chief Rabbi of Milan, rav Alberto Moshè Somekh, Director of the Margulies-Disegni Rabbinical School, rav Giuseppe Momigliano, Chief Rabbi of Genoa and President of the Rabbinical Assembly of Italy, before the closing speech by rav Di Porto himself. Also rav Alberto Sermoneta, Chief Rabbi of Bologna and rav Alberto Funaro from Rome came to the celebration, together with many friends from Rome and from all over Italy.
In the afternoon, in the small historical synagogue of Turin – not the biggest but surely the most fascinating one – song after speech after song gave their welcome to rav Ariel Di Porto, with again, the words of the President of the Community Segre, rav Riccardo Di Segni and rav Giuseppe Momigliano, but also of Renzo Gattegna, the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, who participated the entire day of celebration and took the occasion of the ceremony to address his words to all those who are responsible for Italian Jewry: “The nature of the institutions we represent is so particular that we should never take decisions in solitude. Presidents cannot stay without rabbis, and rabbis cannot operate without their presidents, and it is vital that we all try to listen to each other, to learn from each other and to be ready to cooperate.”
Rav Ariel Di Porto, at the end of the afternoon, before the blessing given to him by all the many rabbis that came to Turin especially showed that his knowledge of the Community is already quite good: “The Jewish Community of Turin has always been an important reality for the whole of the Italian Jewry: the capability to keep a school going, more than one Beth ha-Kneset, a mikva, a home for the elderly and a fine rabbinical school for a community of not even a thousand members is an amazing achievement. The first important thing I want to achieve is to have everyone feel at home here, because there is a space for everyone, for whoever they are.”
And while during this important day his emotions were quite obvious, it was youngest of his two sons, barely four, who was able to get a smile from everyone as he managed to get his father to pick him up and to end a touching ceremony with the living symbol of the future in his arms.