Of all the port cities of Italy, where lively communities flourished, Ancona is the least studied, although just like Trieste, Livorno, Venezia, it is filled with Jewish memories. Who knows if in the synagogue of Ancona is still preserved those splendid curtains to hang on the ark that encloses the scrolls of the Law, in the centre of which an inscription of Hebrew characters says that in 1630 Leone Montefiore donated this work of subtle and ingenious feminine art, embroidered by his wife Rachele. And who knows if, a step away from the synagogue, in the hamlet of Fermo, the hamlet of Montefiore, it is still retained; the memory of establishing one of the oldest families of European Judaism. In 1758, sir Moses Montefiore was born, the philanthropist, who dedicated himself so much to the material and moral redemption of the Eastern Jews, the maxims of Syria and Morocco. Still in London, in 1858, Claudio Goldsmith Montefiore, his great-grandson was born. A historian and theologian, he founded a magazine of great fortune, “The Jewish Quaterly Review”, he published a Bible “for home reading” (The Bible for home reading, 1896) and an English translation of The Psalms (1902) which was widely distributed.
This week, I read a book of touching memories, rich with family documents, but above all, filled with a strong and admirable sense of piety (Marco Cavallarin, “La famiglia di piazza Stamira. Una famiglia ebraica anconetana nei fatti del Novecento” elective affinities, 2021) (The family of Stamira Square, A Jewish Ancona family in the reality of the twentieth century). The toponym Ancona, for a small portion, also belongs to my family history, at least to the branch from Ancona settled in Trieste. Perhaps it could be why I approached these pages with sympathy.
Like all previous works by this author, the events and the documents intertwine with the family memories and images. The saga of the Ancona family Sacerdoti is the fulcrum around which the great history revolves: fascism, the laws of 1938, the Resistance and Zionism. Sara is an Aliyah, Enzo enters the partisan fight, Vittorio is a doctor in hiding, Cesarina miraculously escapes the massacre of Meina on the shored of Lake Maggiore. Cavallarin accurately reconstructs four life stories, he does it with a light hand, dry style, a thread of healthy irony to counter paradoxes and sometimes even contradictions of memory. A successful example of how to make a virtuous use of a trunk full of cards and touching snapshots.
Translated by Oyebuchi Lucia Leonard, student at the University of Trieste, intern at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.