“The new synagogue we built with such great success has been a clear sign of the strong connection between religion and freedom.”
In 1878 Ezechia Norzi stated those words. He was the secretary of the Vercelli Jewish community, also known as “Jewish University” back then. After 140 years since the building of the synagogue bound to welcome a community involving hundreds of individuals, a few dozen people gathered to celebrate the synagogue’s construction anniversary. It was a token of recognition for those who were “proud to be part of the glorious Italian history at last” during those years. Several representatives of the civil, religious and military institutions attended the ceremony as well.
The president of the community, Rossella Bottini Treves, greeted the public. The recovery of the building and many of its valuable decorations are due to her, as well as the rebirth of the community. And although its small numbers, the community conveys a strong sense of vitality. Rav Elia Richetti, the community rabbi, opened the ceremony playing an ancient shofar that came from the Jewish community of Biella, now embedded in the section of Vercelli. He took the shofar from one of the display cases located in the museum on the women’s balcony.
There were speeches by the afore mentioned representatives, by the city councilor for Culture Daniela Mortara, by Prefect Michele Tortora, by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities’s president Noemi Di Segni – who wanted to recall the importance of small communities for Italian Judaism, by Dario Disegni representing the Foundation for Jewish Cultural Heritage in Italy as well as the Turin Jewish community, by rav Richetti himself and rav Alberto Somekh. Besides, many traditional songs were sung. From Alessandria to Vercelli, from Trieste to Gorizia, the voices and traditions of the Piedmontese Judaism have contributed to share with dozens of people the meaning of the pristine Judaism, both in the present and in the past. It’s the same Judaism that keeps existing in dozens of Italian small cities after having actively helped with their development for centuries.
The speeches by rabbis attending, together with the one by architect Baruch Lampronti have drawn people’s attention to notice the abundance and multiplicity of traditions. They embodied the same iron will that brought the Vercelli Synagogue back to its ancient glory, after 140 years since its founding.
Translated by Simone Simonazzi, student at the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of Trieste University, intern at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.