NEWS Milan Leads the Way to Explore Jewish Languages

gece-milanBy Daniel Reichel
The Italian Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti chose the word Shalom, peace, to open the European Day of Jewish Culture, celebrated last Sunday all over Italy. Speaking at the Great Synagogue of Milan – selected as the leading city for 2016 – the Minister underlined the role of the Jewish minority in society and the necessity to teach the value of coexistence to the new generations.
“The leitmotiv of the 2016 edition, ‘Jewish Languages and dialects’, is particularly significant and fascinating;” said the president of the Union of Italia Jewish Communities Noemi Di Segni during the opening ceremony in Milan. “It allows us to remember and speak about the souls and cultures that characterize Jewish society in Israel and throughout Diaspora.”
“On the other hand, continued president Di Segni, speaking about languages is also a chance to reflect on the challenges, opportunities and the risks of everyday communication. As we all know, a word can be an important tool for dialogue but at the same time an inexhaustible source of schizophrenic hatred, violence and division.”
The responsible use of words, was also the main theme of the speech of the chief rabbi of Milan Alfonso Arbib. “When the Jews spoke Arabic,” was instead the topic of the talk given by Norman Stillman, professor at the University of Oklahoma, which concluded the first part of the day. The ceremony was opened with greetings from the two presidents of the Milan Jewish Community, Raffaele Besso and Milo Hasbani, along with Davide Romano, member of the board in charge of culture, and his deputy Gadi Schoenheit. All of them underlined why 2016 marks a very important year for the Milanese Keillah as the Jews of Milan are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Community.
The city of Milan and its mayor, Giuseppe Sala were represented by the deputy mayor Anna Scavuzzo and the cultural attaché, Stefano Del Corno.
After the speeches there was a photo exhibition called “Grand Tour” showing travel in Jewish Italy which was inaugurated inside the synagogue. Celebrating as well was the 500th anniversary of the Ghetto of Venice. This exhibit, with photographs by Alberto Jona Falco, creator and curator of the initiative, was exceptionally presented also in Milan.
Before continuing with the program of the day, the “Healing Garden – The garden of health” was inaugurated at the Residenza Arzaga, Milan’s Jewish Nursing Home: the initiative is a sign of the commitment of kehilla to the elderly. The meeting was organized by the Charity Federica Sharon Biazzi Onlus in collaboration with the Arzaga Residence.
In the afternoon the Museum of Science and Technology, Leonardo da Vinci hosted the event, “Words between Love and Art,” which featured a conversation between Rabbi Amedeo Spagnoletto, and art historian Philippe Daverio.
In a day dedicated to languages, Yiddish and the Yiddish sense of humor were also celebrated and presented by the Theatre Company At Seventh with the show “Laugh in Hebrew”.
The philologist Giulio Busi, professor of Jewish Culture at the Free University of Berlin, rav Roberto Della Rocca, rabbi and director of the Culture and Education of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, and Sara Ferrari, translator and professor of Hebrew Language and Culture at the University of Milan, spoke together about “Hebrew words in Art, Literature and the Bible.”  Chaim Baharier, expert on biblical hermeneutics, spoke about Hebrew words and their potential.
The last appointment of the intense day was dedicated to Jewish culture with the performance “Coffee Odessa”: a journey through different times and places, discovering the connection between music and Jewish identity. The actors were, Miriam Camerini, Manuel Buda and Bruna Di Virgilio.