Catania, a new Community Section is born Giulio Disegni (UCEI): A sign of rebirth

After centuries of oblivion, in 2023 Hanukkah’s lights beamed again in Catania, the historic port city on Sicily’s east coast. It was an exciting new beginning, said to Pagine Ebraiche Moshe Ben Simon, an Israeli who moved to Sicily some thirty years ago and set out to gather a small Jewish group. “Our numbers may be small, but it was important to get started. Meeting for Hanukkah, especially during this very delicate time for Israel carries a symbolic weight.” On the occasion, the local Jewish group celebrated another important step: the recognition of the Catania Section, under the jurisdiction of the Jewish Community of Naples. It’s a significant formal step, laid down in Article 4bis of the Statute of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities, explained the UCEI vice-president Giulio Disegni. “Thus, were born the Section of Palermo, also in Sicily, followed by the Section of San Nicandro in Puglia and Palmi in Calabria. Now, there is also one in Catania. It is all part of the Union of the Jewish Communities effort to map and oversee the places where there are Jewish groups in Southern Italy. Half a century after the Jews were expelled by the Spanish Inquisition, there is a revival of Judaism and interest in its contribution to the area.”
Some services will be set up for Catania, Disegni says. “The goal with the Community of Naples is to keep the Section alive through meetings and activities, that will be held online for the moment m. The Rabbi of Naples, Cesare Moscati, is to start a series of online lectures on Jewish topics.” The importance of the new Sicilian group is attestes, adds Lydia Schapirer, president of the Jewish Community of Naples, “in the unanimous vote of the Council to approve its establishment.” The new Community Section has also been presented to the mayor of Catania, Enrico Trantino.
“Our goal is both to foster Jewish life in the city today and to rediscover its roots,” Ben Simon explained. “I am a tour guide and have thoroughly studied the history of Judaism in Sicily. In Catania we have a series of tombstones from the Roman period, which date the Jewish presence to the third or fourth century before the Vulgar Era. There are also archival documents from the medieval period attesting the presence of a very large and dynamic community, partly due to the city’s central port role. The fact that there were two Giudecca, as Jewish quarters were called across Southern Italy, confirms the once flourishing local Jewish life.” Then came a turning point with the expulsion of the Jews from Sicily in 1493 decided by the Spanish rulers. Since then, there have been no formal reconstitutions of Communities in the Italian island, except until very recently, with the Palermo Section and now the new Catania Section.

Translated by Klara Mattiussi, revised by Annadora Zuanel, students at the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities – Pagine Ebraiche.