Calabrian citrons and Judaism, a secular-old tradition gets recognition by the European Union

Every year rabbis from all over the world travel to the southern region of Calabria to get a special type of etrog (citron) for Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles commemorating the Jews wandering in the desert after flying Egypt. A symbol of excellence of the Calabrian territory, the diamante citron used as Etrog, is now certified as such also by the European Union, which last week gave approved the attribution of the “DOP brand” (short for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which literally means Protected Designation of Origin) to protect this product for which the major center of attraction is the town of Santa Maria del Cedro on the Thyrrenian coast.
The yellow citrus symbolizes the special relationship at the center of many projects developed with the Italian Jewish institutions. “The citron represents an extraordinary development asset for all of Calabria. It is a very appreciated fruit in the Jewish communities, and our region is increasingly a candidate for being a place of reference for this culture”, remarked the President of the Region Roberto Occhiuto at a conference that took place last week in the local Museo del Cedro (Cedar Museum), which was attended among others by UCEI vice-president Giulio Disegni and the local representative of the Jewish Community of Naples Roque Pugliese. “Starting from citrons, we also have many giudecche (ancient Jewish neighborhoods) and many settlements that may be valorized in this direction” added Occhiuto.
Congratulations for this result came from the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities and the Jewish Community of Naples. “The citron is a traditional fruit for Judaism, mentioned by the Bible. It is a very important fruit, used in the liturgy and the ritual of the Feast of Tabernacles and linked, with very particular connotations, to a secular tradition”, pointed out UCEI vice-president Disegni. The European recognition, he said, “fills with joy all those who to do with the cedar, and also the UCEI wants to express its satisfaction and gratitude for what it is being done to further improve the prospects coming from the use of this fruit”.

From top, a scene from the movie Where Life Begins by Stéphane Freiss set in an Italian etrog farm; the conference at the Museo del Cedro.