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FEATURES A Shul in the Heart of Roman Jewish Life

tempioBy Rachel Silvera

It all started during Hanukkah 1985 and it marked a new challenge for the young people of the Roman Jewish Community. Today the Oratorio Fatucci-Panzieri synagogue, known as “Tempio dei Giovani” (because it was mostly attended by young Jews), located inside the Israelite Hospital on the Tiber Island, facing the Great Synagogue of Rome, is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. The significant milestone was celebrated with a party hosted by old and new members alike.

Sandro Di Castro, one of the synagogue’s founders, explained: “Thirty years ago, to avoid closing down the synagogue, which in the Thirties was the place where the elderly men of the Jewish hospice prayed, my friend Semi Pavoncello and I decided to take the keys and re-open the synagogue, which would become a landmark to the young of the community.”
“After so many years, – Di Castro added, – our hope is to find a new group that will take the keys from us.”

It was Hanukkah of 5746 when the synagogue finally re-opened its doors; a symbolic moment, especially considering the history of the small place. During the Nazi persecution, the synagogue had continued to host services even after the dramatic loss of two hazanim, Giacomo Funaro, deported to Auschwitz, Amadio Fatucci, killed at the Fosse Ardeatine.

It was also the only synagogue (hidden and unofficially) operating under the direction of Rabbi David Panzieri during the occupation. And it was the place where the American Army’s Jewish soldiers came to pray after liberating the city from the Nazis.

The president of the Roman Jewish community, Ruth Dureghello, highlighted the importance of the Tempio dei Giovani inside the city and joked about how the friends who established it are now “differently young.”

The history of the synagogue was remembered with affection by Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni and the Chief rabbi of Venice Scialom Bahbout, who was the first Rabbi of the Tempio dei Giovani, 30 years ago.

“First of all the Tempio dei Giovani, said Rabbi Roberto Colombo, the current rabbi of the synagogue, is a place where everyone can pray with kavanah, intention. The challenge now is to bring back today’s young people. The priority, however, is to study Torah: it is said that first you study Torah and then people will come and join you.”