il portale dell'ebraismo italiano

The soul of Europe

By Laura Mincer*

At the end of 1920s, Mojżesz Kanfer and Wilhelm Berkelhammer, two great Polish-Jewish intellectuals and critics, wrote: “Jews are the Ukraine of peoples, they live at the boundaries f peoples” and also: “You can find all the other peoples peripheries, more or less clearly geographically defined, where they meet other peoples and national cultures. […] But we Jews, scattered all around the world, we have so many peripheries that we don’t actually have anything else than peripheries. Everywhere, we live on the fringes, […] everywhere, we meet with foreign cultures”. Today, these words do not only have the meaning their socialist-zionist authors gave them. In times of peace, the “peripheries”, the “fringes” and the “boundaries” were porous and permeable points of human and cultural exchange. Nowadays, they turned into the “centre” of humanities research. And Ukraine, with its constant pluralism and interchange – not always peaceful but always fertile – of religions, cultures and traditions, turned into the weightiest and most tragic symbol of the soul of Europe.

*Historian of Poland, University of Genoa

Translation by Margherita Francese, revised by Alida Caccia, students at the Secondary School of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities – Pagine Ebraiche.