Hanukkah lights up Calabrian cities “Let’s strengthen together a bridge”
In 1983, in fortuitous circumstances, the remains of the Bova Marina synagogue came to light. Dated by experts between the fourth and fifth centuries, it represents one of the oldest pieces of evidence of Jewish presence not only in the Southern region of Calabria but also throughout Italy and Europe. A historical heritage, but also a place to build new awareness projects aimed at the future. For the first time after centuries, that same area has come back to light up with a wrought iron menorah, made according to the aesthetic canons of the candelabrum that appears in the mosaic decorating the Calabrian synagogue.
The lighting of the fourth lamp, in the presence of numerous local authorities, represented one of the most significant events in the context of the many lighting ceremonies held in Calabria, from Rota Greca to Nicotera to Santa Maria del Cedro, with the contribution of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and the Jewish Community of Naples. To complete the occasion, two events were held in Nicotera in the evening: first, a philatelic annulment was presented in memory of the expulsion of the Jews, which took place with the sixteenth-century expulsion edicts, then the honorary citizenship of the Municipality was conferred on the president of UCEI Noemi Di Segni.
“These are important new signals from a territory that appears intent on rediscovering its Jewish roots after centuries of cancellation and oblivion”, remarked the UCEI vice-president Giulio Disegni, who spoke at the lighting ceremony together with the Rabbi of Naples Cesare Moscati, and the delegate for Calabria of the Neapolitan community Roque Pugliese. “There is a great thirst for knowledge and a genuine commitment that also sees a new generation of motivated scholars as protagonists. It is an ongoing process – he pointed out – that the institutions of Italian Jewry are called to accompany by strengthening relationships and projects”. As a matter of fact, the recent Hanukkah ceremonies show “the awareness that the history of the Jewish presence in Calabria is not something one looks at as ‘other’ from itself, but an element that is also recognized as rooted in the streets and toponymy”.
This was also highlighted by the president of the Region Calabria Roberto Occhiuto, who in a message sent to the organizers spoke of a “historic event” and an “authentic and ancient bond, which has lived for centuries within our communities and is nourished even more today”. “We are the region – he remarked – that has the most Giudecche (Jewish quarters) in Italy; we have the cedar, a fruit that is mentioned seventy times in the Bible and which has become one of the symbols of Calabria; many Calabrian surnames are among the most important of the Jewish community”. Recently, he recalled, “I asked for a meeting with the Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano to give Calabria the opportunity to host Rashì’s commentary on the Pentateuch, the first book printed with movable type, now exhibited in the Palatine library in Parma: a book that represents an absolute primacy and denotes the immediate adaptation that there was in the city of Reggio to the progress of the time and the cultural vivacity of a cultured Jewish community”. Occhiuto further explained that he believes “that Judaism in Calabria was a very inherent presence in the social and political fabric” and that the expulsion of the Jews, after a long territorial rooting, “represented a lost opportunity to develop a fruitful dialogue between different cultures”. The goal, now, alongside the Jewish institutions, “is to build a new, strong and lasting bridge”.
From the top, the lighting ceremony in Bova Marina; the conferment of honorary citizenship of Nicotera; the philatelic annulment presented in the Municipality.