Italian Word of the Week COMMERCIALE

italicsBy Daniela Gross

“Commerciale” is the Italian version of the English “commercial, mercantile”. It is a word deriving from the Latin “commercium”, that indicates the action of trading goods or money. In European history, for many reasons, Jews were often linked to the commercial and banking world. But it is not the subject of this column. Here, I would like to concentrate on a form of good wishes really frequent, during this last month, in the Italian Jewish world, “Buon anno commerciale – Happy new commercial year”.

Since the Jewish New Year has already begun, it is a way of distinguishing ourselves from the majority, which celebrates the New Year on December 31. It is also a way of participating in a festive event that in the Italian world is anyway strongly and joyfully present. However, these good wishes – which remind us of a similar expression widespread in Israel – sound a bit awkward.

In some way they signal the peculiar position of the Italian Jewry. Settled in the country since the 2nd century BCE and flourished in a deeply Catholic society, it always had to deal with the outside world, trying to find the right balance between its own culture and the majoritarian one. Throughout history this effort, common to all the Jewish Diasporic world, was at times complicated and sometimes impossible. So, the wish “Buon anno commerciale”, has a good reason for existing, and, although awkward, it is kind and courteous.