The new Jewish Museum of Padua (“Museo della Padova ebraica”) was inaugurated on Thursday in the building that once hosted the German synagogue of the city.
“The most important heritage for the Jewish community of Padua is not represented by the objects it possesses, but by the people that lived here,” said Davide Jacur, president of the Jewish Community of Padua and board member of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. The museum aims at telling the story of a community that survived hard times and started a new life again and again.
“Not only do we want to display a history we are proud of, but also show the current presence of a Jewish community that is lively and looking at its future,” said Padua’s rabbi Adolfo Locci, who was also one of the coordinators of the project for the museum. The focus on the future can be seen in the title of the main visual installation of the museum; a very special video called, “Generations that Come, Generations that Go.”
Five-meter high screens project videos in what remains of the women’s gallery of the synagogue, which was burnt in a fire during the fascist period and was renovated in the late 1990s. They illustrate the biographies of ten protagonists of Padua’s Jewish history. Among them are the philosopher Don Itzhak Abrabanel, Yehudà Mintz and his son Avraham Mintz who were founders of Padua’s Yeshivah. There is also Moshé Chayim Luzzatto, better known with the acronym Ramchal and Shemuel David Luzzatto who, in 1829, founded the Italian Rabbinical School. The characters interact with each other creating an unseen connection between times and places of Jewish Padua.
In addition to the videos, another room in the synagogue hosts the many and precious ritual objects preserved by the Jewish Community of Padua. Among the most impressive is a decorated Meghillat Esther manuscript; a Mamluk carpet, an unusual wooden calendar box used to count the days of Omer and a collection of about 40 sepharim.
“At one time our Jewish heritage had been kept hidden, but in recent years the atmosphere has changed and many exhibitions have started to spread the knowledge about Judaism and to fight ignorance,” said Jacur. “For the Jewish community of Padua it is important to be open to society, he stressed, and communicating with our city is our way of combatting prejudice.”