United in the diversity of souls and paths. A perspective which the World Jewish Congress wanted to promote with an event entirely female oriented, with various voices of women in leadership roles within the Jewish world who gave their own testimony. Among them, Noemi Di Segni, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities – UCEI, who was called to open the congress alongside the Israeli Minister of Diaspora affairs Omer Yankelevitch and the former parliamentarian Ruth Calderon.
Diverse topics of discussion and debate were mentioned on this occasion, with references to both Italian and global challenges. “Diversity is a fact; unity is a goal. Several questions need to be asked: Why do we need unity? Then: How much do we acknowledge each other’s right to live our Jewishness? In what way do we live together in the Diaspora? Can we do the same in Israel? Can we guarantee Jewish unity as part of the future? And also, a question that is especially important for Italy, are we consistent with what we affirm officially? All these are questions – began Di Segni – that I believe can be answered through the specific spectrum of the female experience”
Important is the role of leadership now taken by many Jewish women, as Di Segni noted with reference to Italy. It is a process that began with emancipation and has increased particularly from the post-war period onwards. “While women once only helped behind the scenes, especially in the social and educational field, now they are able to apply their skills even in the areas of community management”. These are the words the UCEI president added, also emphasizing how Tulia Zevi, the first female leader of the Union, should be recognized for opening the way. Among many achievements of her tenure, Zevi obtained a historical agreement with the Italian government.
Crucial was the commitment shown also on the external front: various projects were mentioned where the Union acted against every form of violence and encouraged the coexistence and peaceful encounter among different identity, cultures and religions. The role of Jewish women has been extremely important “in the development of the feminist movement, but also in the educational and pedagogical field”. And moreover, during the Resistance fight, when many women made this choice “not only because they were persecuted as Jews, but because they thought it was the right thing to do for the sake of freedom”. Amazing women, “some of which had participated as pioneers of the political post referendum reality of Italy, bringing a reflection of Jewish values in the Constitution.
Among today’s challenges, she concluded, there is that “to draw examples and strength from history and to project ourselves into a completely changed society in terms of democratic and religious stratification”, since orthodox Jewish women see in Israel a model. Another is to remember that “democracy and peace should never be taken for granted, but safeguarded not only by the higher institutions with which we relate, but also with countless, little and daily actions, starting from personal example”.
Translated by Oyebuchi Lucia Leonard, student at Trieste University, intern at the newspaper office of the union of the Italian Jewish Communities.