The new Rabbi of Venice, Rav Alberto Sermoneta, was installed on Sunday with a ceremony that saw the historical Spanish synagogue crowded with people. Many institutional and religious authorities were present, among which the Minister of Interior Matteo Piantedosi. It was a new beginning and a day of celebration.
“I will be the rabbi of whoever wants it, I will be the rabbi of everyone,” said Rav Sermoneta, born and educated in Rome, who arrives in Venice after 25 years as rabbi in Bologna. Going back to the themes of the last parashah, the portion of the Torah read weekly in the synagogue, the Rabbi said that he “heard, after 25 years, a Lech Lechà: a divine imperative to which it was not possible to say no”. His is a challenge that begins in a community with a glorious history, whose rabbis, over the centuries, “have brought a light, becoming a point of reference for world Judaism”.
Regarding the qualities of a Master, the Rabbi emphasized the need to “know how to confront and have the humility to know one’s limits” together with the commitment “to go to every member of the community, without ever shirking”. At the center is the awareness that the Community as a whole “is a common good” in need of care and attention, a heritage to be defended also through the contribution of young people, who must be made to feel “the warmth of the Torah”.
“What does a Jewish community expect from his rabbi? Presence and closeness are expected; attention to the needs of the Community and attention to the problems of individuals, with an open eye to world affairs. But we already know that Rav Sermoneta is a rabbi who descends among the people and does not close himself in ivory towers. Absence and asceticism are not part of Jewish culture”, remarked the President of the Jewish community Dario Calimani. “Rav Sermoneta brings us the contribution of his history, his culture, and his experience. From Rav Sermoneta, from our rabbi, we expect debate and discussion, because if there is no discussion, there is no fire and passion of real life”.
To be a rabbi, observed the Rabbi of Milan and president of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly Rav Alfonso Arbib, “is a great honor, but also a no small burden”. The Rav spoke of the rabbinic magisterium as a mission marked by the need to propose a way “which may not please everyone, but it is a duty to indicate”, in the name of an action characterized by “empathy and closeness to the Community and individual members”. Rav Arbib’s wish for the Venetian community is that “it may have a future as glorious as its past”.
For the Rabbi of Ferrara Rav Luciano Caro, many qualities characterize Rav Sermoneta such as “wisdom, common sense, balance, willingness to dialogue, firmness, and respect in the relationship with any interlocutor”. Appreciation also from Rav Roberto Della Rocca, director of the UCEI Education and Culture area, who started his rabbinic career in this very city: “Rav Toaff used to tell us that his best years were spent in Venice, and I can say the same.” Now this assignment goes to “a rabbi with great empathy, generosity, sensitivity”. The prerogative of a leader, the thought of Rabbi Della Rocca, “is to know what he wants: a rabbi who does not quarrel with his community is not a true rabbi”.
In a message of congratulations, UCEI President Noemi Di Segni remarked that “Being part of a community, having as a reference a Rav with a solid experience, competence, and community culture, is necessary and indispensable to develop answers and perhaps certainties of faith to find the strength to go forward, or simply to go, as the choice of Abraham teaches us, the first stories of whom we read about in the parashà of this Shabbat”.
We must go on, continues the message “even when you do not know exactly the path and subsequent developments but you have full faith and trust in those who guide us among the endless streets, squares, and canals I am sure you all will know together with Rav Sermoneta how to trace this new path”.
The ceremony, conducted by the vice president of the Jewish community Paolo Navarro, featured various musical interludes. Accompanying the voice of the tenor Claudio Di Segni are the choristers Daniel Coen, Alberto Di Capua, and Enrico Orvieto and the organist Angelo Spizzichino.
From top, a moment of Rabbi Alberto Sermoneta’s installation ceremony and a view of the crowded historical Spanish Schola, the biggest of the Venetian synagogues.