NEWS The Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah Inaugurated in Ferrara

meisBy Ada Treves

“A masterpiece, a great example of integration and the sign of a strong identity” was the comment made by the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella at the end of the visit to the exhibition “Jews, an Italian story. The first thousand years”, curated by Anna Foa, Giancarlo Lacerenza and Daniele Jalla that officially inaugurated the Museo dell’Ebraismo italiano e della Shoah (Meis) last week. “President Mattarella asked many questions, he showed a deep knowledge of the subjects and a great interest” explained the President of the Meis Dario Disegni, at the end of a day in which Ferrara has been center of the national attention.
“It will be important for children, for those who do not know about the millenarian history of Italian Jewry – explained Minister Franceschini, responsible for Culture and Turism in Italy on the very same day, speaking in presence of President Mattarella – It will also be a place of interest for international tourism: we presented the Meis in New York and Jerusalem and we have had proofs of great interest ” . The Minister then mentioned the Jewish imprint in the history of Ferrara, with the collective memory he personally is an example of for a family link with one of the oldest Jewish shops: “The spirit of the Jewish community is everywhere, tourists come and ask where the Finzi-Contini garden is located… these are all good reasons for this museum to be located here”. The Mayor, Tiziano Tagliani, mentioned the privilege and responsibility for Ferrara, recalling how the city knows the suffering produced by the racist laws of 1938. He than referred to the last surviving Shoah witness of Ferrara, Franco Schönheit, present at the inauguration and today a fundamental voice for Memory.
The director of the Center for Jewish Documentation in Milan Gadi Luzzatto Voghera, member of the Scientific Committee of the Meis, has explained that even experts can discover things they did not know in the new museum: “The Meis will show Italy’s Jewish roots to the general public. The exhibition has the merit of taking you to places otherwise inaccessible, with reproductions such as the one related to Bova Marina or the bas-relief of the Arch of Titus”.
In the synthesis of the President UCEI Noemi DI Segni, the Meis is the demonstration that Jewish culture is alive, integrated, and has been present in Italy for millennia. Judaism is not only Holocaust and dramatic events but also daily life and culture.
And, the day after the official opening, the real life of the new museum has started, with the real public: “I’m surprised. The exhibition is very interesting and introduced me to a part of Jewish and Italian history that I did not know. I had a shop in Ferraraand here in the city there were so many Jewish ones: from Pesaro to Senigallia, up to the Saponaro, in via Saponaro, which sold fabrics and where I had been a shop-boy. I remember the older ones speaking Hebrew. The journey here at the Meis brought me back to that season of my life”, commented Paolo, a pensioner who lives in the city. And a lady especially arrived from afar answered “The exhibition does not leave you indifferent, rather it provokes emotions. The voice of the desert, for example, has touched me. And then I really liked the videos where the experts are talking, I found it a brilliant idea: it is rare for visitors to have the privilege of knowing the faces and voices of those who took care of an exhibition from the scientific point of view. There are so many details, and it seems to me to be an exhibition that is also suitable for schools, an engaging lesson in history: after all, if museums are not addressed to the students, everything is in vain “.
And Giulia, from Ferrara, commented “I was struck, in particular, by the sound effect of the wind at the beginning of the path, and by the hall about the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, both very touching”. Then, with a smile, she added: “I think I will soon come back to review everything more calmly… without my husband!”
A success, strongly sought by the director, Simonetta Della Seta, who with this first exhibition has chosen to start telling the story of the Italian Jewish minority starting from afar, from the first years in the country. And after the grand day with all the authorities, the real life of the new cultural hub of Italian Jewry has begun with the first visitors, and with the many citizens of Ferrara, finally showing how much they have wanted and looked forward to this moment, and keep showing up at the entrance, as a new demonstration of how tight is the relationship between the city and its Jewish community.