CULTURE Celebrating Jewish Books in Ferrara

ferraraBy Ada Treves

It has been a success. The first Festa del libro ebraico (Jewish Book Festival) organized in Ferrara by Simonetta Della Seta, the new director of the Museo dell’Ebraismo Italiano e della Shoah (MEIS), and under the new presidency, has managed to host in little more than a day a huge variety and richness of events, also giving Italian Jewry a chance to confront and discuss together ideas and projects for the future. The opening concert, on Saturday night, saw the Avishai Cohen Quartet on stage in the Palazzo Roverella gardens – venue of the whole festival. It attracted a huge public, much bigger than expected, showing immediately the interest and affection of a whole town that has been following the process of growth of the MEIS and is now expecting its opening, due in Autumn 2017.

The Palazzo Roverella itself was once named after its first owner, Federico Zamorani, who was forced to sell it before the racist laws, and during her opening speech Simonetta Della Seta has suggested that its original name should be restored. Noemi Di Segni, recently named new President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI), has remarked that the mission of the Jewish museum is to be a place of living education, and also a reflection of the development and history of Italian Judaism. A great responsibility also recalled by the president of the MEIS Foundation Dario Disegni, who spoke of the museum as an international center of culture and study. The mayor of Ferrara, Tiziano Tagliani, the president of the Jewish community Andrea Pesaro and the regional councilor for Culture Massimo Mezzetti have all pointed out the importance of the Jewish Community in the history of Ferrara, remarking how much Judaism has been a key to the formation of Italian national culture. “Thanks to the government and the Parliament, the MEIS will be completed in 2020 – explained Daniele Ravenna, representing the Ministry of Culture – and I do hope it will be central to a constellation of relationships ranging from the city of Ferrara, the community and the Jewish world in general but also of a broader dialogue aimed at non-Jews.”

On Sunday, a lot of subjects were discussed, from the historic experience in early printing to the Jewish participation in WW1, from the presentation of the first Italian translation of the Talmud, marking a day with numerous appointments, that has seen its center in the international roundtable “Memory and Future: the Mission of Jewish Museums.” The conference featured Dariusz Stola, director of Polin, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Varsaw, Emile Schrijver, general director of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, Paul Salmona, director of the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris, Orit Shaham Gover from Beit Hatuftsot in Tel Aviv and Simonetta Della Seta.