“History of the Jews, history of the world”

“Roaming through dates doesn’t mean to create a timeline, which by the way this book doesn’t have. It means proposing a journey through a history made of very different events, with their echo, their consequences, and their posterity”. So Pierre Savy, director of mediaeval studies at the École Française of Rome, introducing the suggestive journey in 90 steps that is World History of the Jews, the book he curated, which was just published in Italy by Laterza in a version revised and adapted under the supervision of Anna Foa.
Numerous ideas emerged during the presentation of the book which took place last week in Rome, at Palazzo Firenze, headquarter of the Dante Alighieri Society. Speakers also included the president of the prestigious cultural organization Andrea Riccardi, the Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni attended the meeting, as well as Alessandro Masi, general secretary of Dante Alighieri, who moderated the meeting.
“A new chapter of research on Jewish identity and a challenge to fight clichés. This is not an “à la carte” identity but an identity “in progress”. Not something that is there at the beginning and we must try not to lose, but an offer of what slowly accumulates through time and is sought”, wrote David Bidussa, one of the scholars involved in this fascinating editorial work that, from the entrance of Jews in history (with the appearance of the name “Israel” on the stele of Pharaoh Merenptah) takes us, ranging over many contexts, to the present day.
”A peculiar book with a non-conventional reconstruction of the events”, remarked Rabbi Di Segni who also raised some criticism. “There is not much Judaism in the book, Jewish words are almost nonexistent”. But, despite these remarks, “a very interesting final result” remains. According to Riccardi, this plural story, shaped by the contribution of many important scholars, “is a successful attempt, an instrument that arouse our curiosity on a people that shows a surprising energy”. By making the history of Jews, “you make the history of the world” observed Riccardi, quoting the words of Rabbi Elia Benamozegh.
The historian Anna Foa evoked the image of the dates around which the various contributions revolve, comparing them to “doors that open up and talk to us”. Then, explaining her contribution, she pointed out that “It’s a history of Jews rather than of Judaism”, where “the strong peculiarity” of Italian Judaism emerges. Savy himself noted that, among the elements that stand out the most, there is “continuity”. So this book guides us through the millennia. “We use dates without having the cult of dates”, pointed out the curator. This is a book shaped by competent historians, whose reading is always enjoyable. “I’m one of those people – Savy said – that thinks that ‘educational’ is a noble adjective”.

Above, the presentation of the book World History of the Jews in Rome.

Translated by Alice Pugliese, student at the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, intern at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.