Great Politicians

italicsBy Daniela Gross

“Italians are great politicians, but in the United States.” That headline appeared on Monday on the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano. There is obviously a joke, in the title, which alludes to troublesome Italian politics. But this is not the subject of the long essay by Francesco Chiamulera. On the contrary, he goes back in time, showing us how many prominent American politicians were Italian. The list is impressive, and, includes Mario Cuomo, Rudy Giuliani, and Bill De Blasio. Among them, Mr. Chiamulera cited Fiorello La Guardia. He was the first Italian-American to become mayor of New York, but it is less known that he was born to an Italian father from Puglia and to “an Italian Jewish woman from Trieste, Irene Coen.” The essay emphasized that Fiorello’s path is not really surprising, in the unifying melting pot of the United States. Mainly in New York, the Italian community mixed up with other ethnicities, and very frequently with Jews. It is a connection often aimed at social justice. Not by chance, Chiamulera reminded “…the united strike, organized by Jewish and Italian women in the winter 1909-1910, to protest against working conditions in New York clothing industries.” “Italian and Jewish sisters” – he wrote – died together “in an awful fire … when in 1911, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, a building burned down, and 146 women workers lost their lives, being locked in by their employers: Albina Caruso siding with Ester Goldstein, Lucia Maltese alongside Rose Manofsky.”