il portale dell'ebraismo italiano

To build a better society we need dialogue

Jewish history and culture are deeply imbued by the concept of dialogue, both as awareness of others and as self-awareness. As President Sergio Mattarella remarked in a message on the occasion of the European Day of Jewish Culture celebrated Sunday in dozens of Italian cities and towns, dialogue is “a term filled with deep meanings. Dialogue implies mutual recognition between the interlocutors. Recognizing oneself and therefore respecting each other is a principle that underlies the cohesion within society and a key value of our Constitution”.
This dialogue has spanned the centuries between the Jewish world and society at large, making fundamental contributions to national culture and beyond, but also marked by violence and prejudice, the signs of which can still be read today. It was a profitable dialectic, albeit complicated, of which Padua, the leading city of this edition, is as example.
“In this city – remarked the President of the local Jewish Community Gianni Parenzo – the dialogue has never stopped. Thanks also to the university which, unique in Europe, has admitted and graduated Jewish students from all over the continent since the mid-sixteenth century”.
It is a significant example of how cultural exchange has ancient roots, which should be cultivated and rediscovered. And for this, continued Parenzo, the Day of Jewish Culture is needed: “To communicate that Judaism is alive and represents a small minority which has and still contributes with its values to the pathway towards a better society”.
The significance of this contribution, under the various profiles of dialogue, was the heart of the inaugural meeting of the Day in Padua. After the institutional greetings, with the reading of the messages of the Head of State Mattarella, the President of the Council Draghi, the President of the Senate Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati and the Minister of Tourism Massimo Garavaglia, the key theme was explored in a meeting dedicated to “Dialogue between institutions and the Jewish world in Italy”.
“Padua is the paradigm of dialogue with the institutions” pointed out Davide Romanin Jacur, Councilor of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities, citing as an example the university open to Jews, but also the birth in 1829 of the Rabbinical College (later moved to Rome). “We also should not forget a peculiarity of Padua, namely that at the beginning of the twentieth century all public institutional positions elected for were, for a period, attributed to Jewish personalities”. From senator Leone Romanin Jacur to the mayor Giacomo Levi Civita.
“All these were bricks in the construction of national history”, highlighted Riccardo Nencini, president of the Senate Culture Commission, speaking of the contributions of Judaism to Italian identity and culture. For Nencini, moreover, one of the fundamental elements to recall on this Day is “knowledge, because it allows to set standards of dialogue that do not put one in a position to be afraid of the other, but to converse on an equal basis. The Jewish world teaches this. We are not at this point yet, but we hope to get there”.
A historical overview linked to the role of the Jewish world in Italy from the postwar period to today was the theme developed by MEP Flavio Zanonato, who recalled the importance of the signing of the Agreement between the State and the Jewish minority and its effects. Dialogue with the Catholic world and its evolution thanks to the Encyclical Nostra Aetate was the theme developed by Don Giovanni Brusegan, former delegate of the bishop to relations with other religions. His was an invitation to pass “from documents to experience: to make concrete acts in the wake of the lesson of Nostra Aetate” of openness and recognition towards Judaism. To work on dialogue on a daily basis. A commitment reaffirmed, on the Islamic world side, also by the president of the Union of Islamic communities and organizations in Italy Yassine Lafram.
The dialogue, concluded the UCEI President Di Segni, “does not take place only with the meeting of a special day, on the occasion of great ceremonies, but needs to be cultivated in many moments and situations. With visits and mutual presence with each other, with the ability to re-read from the past the dangers of the present”. It must touch many spheres of society, even within the Jewish world, Di Segni remarked, recalling the need for some counterparts – from the Church to politics to society – to recognize the responsibilities of the past in order to build a shared future and mutual recognition.