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April 4, 2016 - Adar II 25, 5776


From the Venice Ghetto, a Lesson
about the Fight for Freedom

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By Adam Smulevich

A day marked by strong emotions in Venice inaugurated the initiatives for the 500th anniversary of the first ghetto in Europe.
Followed with interest all over the world, the March 29 events represented the beginning of a series of initiatives which have been planned to reflect on the themes of exclusion, rights denied, freedom lost and conquered again. The underlying idea is to look at the history of the past, in order to draw great lessons for the present and future.
"This anniversary is not a celebration, because imprisonment is not to be celebrated. However, this is a unique opportunity for knowledge," the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Renzo Gattegna said. He was welcoming, together with the president of the Jewish Community of Venice Paolo Gnignati, the president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Laura Boldrini. They came together to visit the Ghetto, the Jewish Museum, and the astonishing synagogues of the quarter.

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venice and the ghetto - SCHAMA

"The Most Jewish Historical Judgement?
It Could Have Been Worse"

img headerBy Simon Schama*

History is not always a stroll down memory lane. Sometimes, an event  we assume to be safely locked off at a particular time and in a particular place - for example, this city, March 29th, 1516, the edict of the Senate confining the Jews to the island of the geto nuovo, this very moment -  cuts loose from its moorings half a millenium ago and comes  crashing into our own imperilled present where it finds us thinking urgently, unavoidably, about what it means to share, or not to share the space of the city: to live in it together or to live in it apart?
And then we realise, yet again, that history does not always behave in the orderly fashion required by professors, as if the mess of it were susceptible to being laid out on successive pages of a book; one happening obediently following another. If there's one thing we should have learned about our own time, it's that dissociated phenomena, ostensibly separated by centuries, can, and do co-exist, simultaneously, adapting to, and feeding off, each other. Zombie ideologies - the Caliphate, the "Crusaders" can be raised from the tomb by the Internet, no respecter of the difference between fact and fantasy, and be made over, armed to the teeth, for the modern world. Just as the printing press gave alchemy a reading public; the Web is both factual and fantastical, technically global but culturally tribal. For truly contemporary historians an Einsteinian universe of bent time seems a lot more plausible than a serial trajectory pulling humanity, irreversibly, from primitivism to progress.

*Simon Schama is an historian.

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"This Is Not a Celebration, but an Opportunity for Reflection"

img headerBy Renzo Gattegna*

It is a pleasure and an honor for me to represent the Union of Italian Jewish Communities in this prestigious venue, generously offered to us by the Teatro La Fenice for an event which saw the collaboration of the Jewish Community and the Municipality of Venice which I sincerely thank in the persons of their president and the mayor: Paolo Gnignati and Luigi Brugnaro.
I also wish to thank all those who have contributed and supported this event, which has gradually grown in importance and has now achieved national and international scope and size with the presence of the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldrini and the president of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder.
As I have already had the opportunity to say on other occasions, I immediately want to clear up any possible misconceptions and strongly reaffirm that the Jews have no nostalgia for the ghetto, the establishment of which must be remembered and studied, but not celebrated or paid tribute to.
The establishment of the ghetto of Venice and all the others that were created since then remains inextricably linked to periods of systematic harassment and segregation, the negation of the most fundamental rights and an age-old contempt taught and practiced against the civil, peaceful and defenseless Jewish communities.

*Renzo Gattegna is the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.

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"A Place of Life and Solidarity,
Even in Front of Oppression"

img headerBy Paolo Gnignati*

We are here today, in this theatre that is a symbol of Venice, just a few meters from San Marco and the Doge's Palace, the center of power of the Republic, 500 years to a day from the establishment by the Venetian Republic of the Ghetto of Venice as a place of mandated residence for the Jews on 29 March 1516.
We are well aware that the date marks an anniversary that is not a joyous one, either from a Jewish or civil point of view, yet it can not be let go unnoticed because it offers an extraordinary opportunity to look both back to the past and forward to the future.
It is obvious that we are not happy to remember the condition of separation and discrimination in which the Jews as a minority were forced to suffer in the Ghetto, and even less do we intend to celebrate the fact that from the 16th century onward in Italy the word ghetto was used first by Popes and gradually by others, to identify the place where the Jews were segregated.
The word has come to indicate not only the Venetian gated precinct where it had been coined, but gradually took on the universal meaning of place segregation and discrimination that it has today, an image synonymous with exclusion and minority.

*Paolo Gnignati is the President of the Jewish Community of Venice.

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"Segregation Didn't Stop Jewish Creativity"

img headerBy Ronald Lauder*

It is a great honor for me, personally, to be here in Venice today as the representative of the Jewish communities around the world. I want to thank the Italian government, the city of Venice, and the Jewish community for your gracious welcome and for marking this very important event.
Most of all, I want to thank you for remembering.
It is not an easy thing to recall events from our past, events that we have done that were wrong.
They embarrass us. That is natural for all human beings. But to recall an error in a very public way, I believe, shows great courage and strength. And that is something that Jews have always seen and admired in the Italian people, your courage, and  your strength. For that, we thank you.
But as we gather here tonight, we must be honest as well, the 500th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish ghetto is a complicated affair. On the one hand, the creation of this ghetto was a terrible act, it was the first decree to physically separate an entire community based only on their religion. At its height, 5,000 people were confined to a very small, congested space – the size of about 2-and-a-half city blocks. The gates were closed at night and guarded. The people were locked in.

*Ronald Lauder is the President of the World Jewish Congress.

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CULTURe - bologna children's book fair

Images and Words to Get Together notwithstanding the Differences

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By Ada Treves

The 53rd edition of the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the most important international event dedicated to books for young readers has opened this morning and Pagine Ebraiche, as it happens every year, is present. The latest issue of the national monthly of Italian Jewry contains eight special pages devoted to the fair and the latest trends of a market that has seen no crisis and is distributed by the organization itself, under the title "Leggere per crescere" (To read to grow).
We publish here the introduction to the special section, while DafDaf, the Jewish magazine for kids will be protagonist at the BCBF on Wednesday afternoon, for a round table on migration, integration and children's books both in Germany - guest of honor - and in Italy.

A Bridge of Children's Books. The idea of German Jewish journalist and writer Jella Lepman was to start all over again with the education of the youngest generation, beginning with culture. Sent to Germany immediately after the war, with hers thousands of projects and the many battles she was ready to fight Jella Lepman has given the first answer to the great void left by the war, and hers was the first sign of a cultural revival that would bring Germany among the protagonists in the world of education and culture. On her ideas the main research centre on children's literature was established, as well as the most authoritative literary prize for youth, the Jugendbibliothek - the rightly famous International Youth Library in Munich- and Ibby, the International Board on Books for Young People, active in the whole world. 

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de Roberto Della Rocca*

En la Parasha de Va-jakhel nos cuentan que cuando nuestros padres se encontraban en el desierto, trabajando con entusiasmo en la construcción del Santuario y tratando desesperadamente de recuperar el tiempo perdido y llevar a cabo este gran proyecto, Moshè cree necesario el acto de recordar a los hebreos la importancia del Shabat, incluso antes de hablar de la construcción del Santuario. Como es sabido, las actividades prohibidas en Shabat han sido necesarias para la construcción del Santuario. La suspensión de actividades en Shabat nos enseña que el fin no justifica los medios en la ética judía, nunca, y que incluso durante la edificación del Santuario la Comunidad no debe perder el sentido de su dirección, dejándose derrotar por el impetu de construir. Shabat es una pausa transitoria para escuchar nuestra voz interior, una interrupción para preguntarnos ¿quién somos? ¿A dónde vamos? Para que el desasosiego no nos haga olvidar los valores que justifican la existencia de una Comunidad judía.

*Roberto Della Rocca es un rabino. Este artículo ha sido traducido en español por Giulia Castelnovo, estudiante de la Scuola superiore traduttori e interpreti di Trieste, que está haciendo su práctica para la revista Pagine Ebraiche.

Leia mas


A Sui Generis Purim


By Yaakov Mascetti*

Texts are organic entities - they breathe, grow, become old, fall into disgrace, rejuvenate and come back to life. The Book of Esther is one of these texts - it never fails to give me new feelings, it never stops talking to me, and, to say it with Kafka, more than a book it is a letter that never truly reaches its addressee but always delivers new messages. And of course, being the interpretational creatures that we are, caged within the four cubits of our hermeneutic circles, the things we perceive within the texts are always already what we wanted to perceive, and not what "there is."
So I have recently become very interested in matters of particularity and universality, or better how the individual relates to the general, how the microcosmic represents metonymically the macrocosm, or if the fragments are actually parts of a whole. And while this has become something of a leit motif in my courses this year, and despite the fact that I would love to bore you all with yet another one of my tirades on Hamlet or Coriolanus or Othello, or on some poem by John Donne, it appears to me that the Book of Esther addresses the tension between these two concepts in a unique and very powerful way.

*Yaakov Mascetti holds a Ph.D. and teaches at the Department of Comparative Literature, Bar Ilan University.

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Bis hier: Freiheit.
Dort: Sklaverei


By Guido Vitale

"Noch bevor wir mit dem Interview beginnen, lassen Sie mich sagen, wie sehr ich Axel Springer schätzte. Mein Vater traf ihn, kurz nachdem mein Bruder bei der Gei-selbefreiungsoperation in Entebbe 1976 gefallen war. Sie trafen sich in Berlin in Springers Büro. Er nahm meinen Vater ans Fenster, zeigte auf die Berliner Mauer und sagte ihm: Das ist eine Trennlinie. Bis hier: Freiheit. Dort: Sklaverei". (Benjamin Netanyahu, Die Welt 2-4-16).

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Sarra Copia Sulam
and the Venetian Ghetto


By Daniel Leisawitz*

Last week marked the official 500-year anniversary of the Ghetto of Venice.  On March 29, 1516, the Venetian Senate enacted a decree stating that any Jews wishing to live stably in Venice must all dwell together in one area, enclosed by two locked gates that would open in the morning and close in the evening.
Recently, there has been much discussion (some on these very pages) regarding exactly how to mark this quincentenary.  Should it be celebrated or mourned?  Trumpeted loudly or pronounced in somber tones?
I would like to let the Ghetto speak for itself in the person of one of its most remarkable residents.  Sarra Copia Sulam (c. 1600 - 1641) was born in Venice, and came to hold a prominent place in the culture of the Ghetto by founding a sort of salon which hosted intellectuals and artists, Jews and gentiles, for academic discussions.  She was herself a poet, and highly respected for her learning, artistry and charm.

*Daniel Leisawitz, professor at Muhlenberg College (Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA). The artwork is by Abraham Cresques a 14th-century Jewish Spanish cartographer.

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moked è il portale dell'ebraismo italiano

This newsletter is published under difficult conditions. The editors of this newsletter are Italian journalists whose native language is Italian. They are willing to offer their energy and their skills to give international readers the opportunity of learning more about the Italian Jewish world, its values, its culture and its traditions.
In spite of all our efforts to avoid this, readers may find an occasional language mistake. We count on your understanding and on your help and advice to correct these mistakes and improve our publication.

Pagine Ebraiche International Edition is published by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI). UCEI publications encourage an understanding of the Jewish world and the debate within it. The articles and opinions published by Pagine Ebraiche International Edition, unless expressly stated otherwise, cannot be interpreted as the official position of UCEI, but only as the self-expression of the people who sign them, offering their comments to UCEI publications. Readers who are interested in making their own contribution should email us at desk@ucei.it
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© UCEI - All rights reserved - The articles may only be reproduced after obtaining the written permission of the editor-in-chief. Pagine Ebraiche - Reg Rome Court 199/2009 – Editor in Chief: Guido Vitale - Managing Editor: Daniela Gross.
Special thanks to: Francesco Moises Bassano, Susanna Barki, Amanda Benjamin, Monica Bizzio, Angelica Edna Calò Livne, Eliezer Di Martino, Alain Elkann, Dori Fleekop, Daniela Fubini, Benedetta Guetta, Sarah Kaminski, Daniel Leisawitz, Annette Leckart, Gadi Luzzatto Voghera, Yaakov Mascetti, Francesca Matalon, Jonathan Misrachi, Anna Momigliano, Giovanni Montenero, Elèna Mortara, Sabina Muccigrosso, Lisa Palmieri Billig, Jazmine Pignatello, Shirley Piperno, Giandomenico Pozzi, Daniel Reichel, Colby Robbins,  Danielle Rockman, Lindsay Shedlin, Michael Sierra, Rachel Silvera, Adam Smulevich, Simone Somekh, Rossella Tercatin, Ada Treves, Lauren Waldman, Sahar Zivan.

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Realizzato con il contributo di: Francesco Moises Bassano, Susanna Barki, Amanda Benjamin, Monica Bizzio, Angelica Edna Calò Livne, Eliezer Di Martino, Alain Elkann, Dori Fleekop, Daniela Fubini, Benedetta Guetta, Sarah Kaminski, Daniel Leisawitz, Annette Leckart, Gadi Luzzatto Voghera, Yaakov Mascetti, Francesca Matalon, Jonathan Misrachi, Anna Momigliano, Giovanni Montenero, Elèna Mortara, Sabina Muccigrosso, Lisa Palmieri Billig, Jazmine Pignatello, Shirley Piperno, Giandomenico Pozzi, Daniel Reichel, Colby Robbins,  Danielle Rockman, Lindsay Shedlin, Michael Sierra, Rachel Silvera, Adam Smulevich, Simone Somekh, Rossella Tercatin, Ada Treves, Lauren Waldman, Sahar Zivan