A tribute to Amos Luzzatto (1928-2020)
A writer, a leader, a great Italian Jew

“With Amos Luzzatto, a leader and an extraordinary man have disappeared. It is an indelible sign what Amos, for two terms president of the UCEI, essayist and active disseminator of the thousands of years of Jewish experience, has left throughout Italian society”. With these words, the president of UCEI – Union of Italian Jewish Communities Noemi Di Segni, commemorated the death of one of the great protagonists of the Italian Jewish world.
Amos Luzzatto, who died Wednesday in his Rome home aged 92, was a physician, a writer, university professor, scholar and former two-time head of UCEI. As an essayist and active popularizer of the multi-millennial Jewish experience, he left an indelible mark on the whole Italian society. He will also be remembered for his human rights battle, for his fight to defend Holocaust Remembrance, and for his battle against racism and prejudice. Testimonies of affection have been numerous.
Amos Luzzatto had an exciting and challenging life, which he recalled in the book Count and tell: memories of a left-wing Jew, published in 2008 by Mursia. He was born in 1928 in Rome in a family of ancient tradition. His mother’s father was Dante Lattes, one of the most important representatives of Jewish Italian culture in the 20th century. His father’s great-great-grandfather was the poet, exegete, and Hebrew scholar Samuel David Luzzatto (Shadal). In 1939, he emigrated with his mother and grandparents to the then Mandatory Palestine, the future State of Israel. He returned to Italy in 1946, after the II World War.
He was president of UCEI from 1998 to 2006, president of Jewish Community of Venice, and editor in chief of the Rassegna mensile di Israel. “Giving political representation to Italian Jews – he said to Pagine Ebraiche in 2015 – meant to me to uphold and defend the accord with the state, and to give meaning to us as a minority, which along with other minorities could substantiate the democratic pluralism which in Italy has not always being adequately supported”.
In 2005, in a speech on the occasion of the Holocaust Remembrance Day in front of the then Italian President Ciampi, he recalled the quintessential and perennially valid lesson of Judaism. “Violence, incitement to hatred between different peoples, cultures, religions, the homologation, as far as the past is concerned, of the executioners and their victims, all this is tragically in the daily news”, he said.
“Will we be able to react to this tide? Will we be able to teach our children the freedom to consciously choose between good and evil, between the struggle of oppression and civil coexistence in respect of the other? Hillel, a great master of Judaism said: ‘Do not do to others what you would not want for yourself. All the rest is commentary. Go and study’ “.
Among his books, Ebrei moderni – Modern Jews, Sinistra e questione ebraica – The Left and the Jewish stance, Oltre il ghetto – Beyond the Ghetto, Leggere il Midrash – How to Read the Midrash.