“This is a historic day, not only for the Jewish community, but for the whole city. Rabbi Toaff left an indelible mark on our story, he influenced all of us with his example and his open-mindedness. The symbolic acknowledgement of this person today is an important step also to strengthen even more the relationship between Rome and the Jewish community”.
Virginia Raggi, mayor of the Italian capital, didn’t hide her emotions on the day when a part of via del Tempio, between via Catalana and via del Portico di Ottavia, was named after rav Elio Toaff.
Hundreds of people, many of them very young, came together in the heart of the Jewish quarter, near the house where Toaff, who served as the chief rabbi of Rome for half a century, lived and the entrance of the synagogue.
Ruth Dureghello, president of the Jewish community, said: “Today we celebrate a great Italian. A story of resistance to difficult times and then of regrowth and rebirth, through the defense of Jewish values. Today’s naming of this street is a very important sign.”
Rav Riccardo Di Segni pointed out: “Many streets in Rome are dedicated to popes, cardinals and saints. This is the first street dedicated to a rabbi. A rabbi who left a mark on a century. A man of dialogue, but also of solid principles. A man who gave dignity to the Jewish community and to the city.”
The city expressed its gratitude through the words of professor Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, who said: “This plaque allows a man who still lives to be among us.”
Professor Riccardi, on the other hand, voiced his disappointment over the fact that Italy, in his opinion, has given Rabbi Toaff “very little recognition” so far.
Also Sabrina Alfonsi, president of the Municipio I of Rome, praised the rabbi and his world-wide significance: “A man of dialogue”.
Kids from the kindergarten that bears his name and from the Jewish school sang.
Rav Toaff, noted Dureghello, would have loved this tribute. Elio Toaff’s son, Ariel, wrapped up the ceremony by sharing a memory of his father that took the audience to a deeper, more familiar dimension.
He painted a jovial image of a man who often liked to make irreverent jokes and with his mind towards his hometown, Livorno, where he chose to return after his death.
Translated by Sara Volpe, 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.