A tribute to Arrigo Levi (1926-2020), the journalist who advised two Italian Presidents
By Pagine Ebraiche staff *
Arrigo Levi dedicated his whole life to journalism and institutions. As a great Italian Jew who was a protagonist in times of intellectual engagement, he left a permanent mark, becoming one of the most appreciated journalists of his generation as well as a close advisor for two Presidents of Italy.
Arrigo Levi has left us over the past few hours, at the age of 94. Shortly before his passing, he sang Israel’s national anthem and a Modenese nursery rhyme.
Testimonies of affection have been numerous. “In his books, his foreign correspondence, and his TV shows, he recounted and acutely interpreted the great upheaval of our times. I also remember him for the civil passion that animated him from an early age, and for his human, affable, gentlemanly traits,” said Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
Arrigo Levi was born in Modena, but at the age of 16 he moved to Argentina to escape fascist persecution. In Buenos Aires, he began a career in journalism, as an Italia libera employee. It was the beginning of a career that, after he returned to Italy, would lead him to work with information medias such as BBC, La Settimana Incom, Gazzetta del Popolo and Corriere della Sera (as a correspondent from Moscow and London). From 1973 to 1978, he worked as La Stampa’s Director, and in 1988 he became Corriere della Sera’s Chief Editor. In 1998, he was appointed Adviser for External Relations to the Italian Presidency and worked for Ciampi and then Napolitano.
He is also remembered for working at RAI, where he also narrated the Six-Day War. He who less than 20 years earlier had been a young soldier hastening to Israel to defend it from the many enemies who were threatening its survival.
His 90th birthday was celebrated by UCEI with a special event. UCEI President Noemi Di Segni had then underlined, “There are a lot of reasons to thank you, dear Arrigo. For the significant journalistic pages you have given us, for the extraordinary books you have written, for your constant engagement for the State of Israel, and above all for your outstanding humanity and for the way you look at the ups and downs of life and at the challenges arising every day. You set an example to us all.”
He has several essays and works to his credit. In Un paese non basta (One country is not enough), his extraordinary autobiography, he also talks about his personal engagement in the Israeli War of Independence. He writes, “We were 120 boys. Not all of us were Zionists. What mattered to us was to defend Israel’s right to exist. For the sake of the humanism which united us. For the sake of 600 refugees’ right to live in peace, most of whom had survived the Holocaust.”
Susanna Sciaky, Adei Wizo’s National President, recalled an event linked to the book, saying, “I recall meeting him personally in Milan in 2010 on the occasion of the 10th edition of the Adelina della Pergola prize, when Adei Wizo awarded him a special mention for Un paese non basta. We at Adei Wizo won’t forget young Arrigo Levi’s engagement in the creation of the State of Israel during the Israeli War of Independence of 1948, when he enlisted as a volunteer in the Negev Brigade Second Company, stationed in Be’er Sheva.”
(Picture by Giorgio Albertini)
* Translated by Claudia Azzalini and revised by Mattia Stefani, both students at the Advanced School for Interpreting and Translation of Trieste University and interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.