NEWS Pisa’s Synagogue Restored to Its Ancient Beauty

pisaBy Francesca Matalon

Restored to its ancient beauty, Pisa’s synagogue was re-inaugurated last week with the presence of representatives from Jewish institutions and communities, various rabbis and many citizens of the Tuscan town.

“Today Pisa’s synagogue has been returned not only to the Jewish Community which after many years, will finally be able to use a space that had been fundamental to Jewish life for more than four centuries. Even more so the city and the whole society will benefit from the reopening of the synagogue; this will include many initiatives to promote and encourage dialogue,” said Renzo Gattegna, president of the Italian Union of Jewish Communities (UCEI).

The synagogue was completed in 1595, and was completely renovated by Piedmont architect Marco Treves in the 1970s. Since 2007, when a lightning storm severely damaged the roof, access to the synagogue had not been possible, forcing the members of the city’s Jewish Community to pray in the stairwell.

Among the participants at the ceremony were the president of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly Giuseppe Momigliano, Rabbi Yair Didi, members of UCEI board: Dario Bedarida, Daniele Bedarida and Anselmo Calò, president of the Florence Jewish Community Sara Cividalli, president of the Livorno Jewish Community, Vittorio Mosseri, and Imam Mohammed Khalil.

The Archbishop of Pisa, John Paul Benotto, member of Parliament Emanuele Fiano and vice-president of the Italian Senate Maurizio Gasparri also sent messages of greeting.

The region’s Rabbi Luciano Caro, head of the committee which promoted the inauguration – composed of Maurizio Gabbrielli, Andrea Gottfried, Paolo Piantanida, Arsenio Veicsteinas, Anna Deutsch Gottfried e Giacomo Schinasi – spoke on the importance of fraternity and lead a moment of prayer with the reading of Psalms. The idea was stressed also by Pisa mayor, Mario Filippeschi, who urged the religious communities of the region to continue their efforts for dialogue and mutual understanding. Such commitment, he said, “is giving Pisa positive feedback.”

The awareness “of the importance of the result that we celebrate today,” was emphasized by the president of Pisa’s Jewish Community, Guido Cava, who is at the end of his mandate. “Today, this Community sends a strong message of reaffirmation of identity,” added the deputy head of the Mission of the Embassy of Israel to Italy, Dan Haezrachy. Following his speech, were the words of former deputy mayor of Jerusalem David Cassuto, who focused on the centrality of the synagogue in Jewish life and identity.

Invited by General Secretary of Pisa’s Jewish Community, Giacomo Schinasi, were the representatives of the institutions that contributed to the restoration of the synagogue. Among them: Daniele Ravenna, from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Tourism, the chairman of the Committee for Public Education and Cultural Heritage of the Senate, Andrea Marcucci, and former member of Parliament, Andrea Di Teodoro.

The participants could then visit the restored synagogue. They were guided by engineer Paolo Piantanida and architect Maria Grazia Contarini, while a variety singers and musicians entertained the audience with music for a day of celebrations.