Barbara and I were married in the Grand Synagogue in Rome in a ceremony that dates back to the fall of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Refugees from the ancient center of the Jewish people came in significant numbers to Rome (many as Roman slaves; the story is famously illustrated on the Arch of Titus in the Forum), and to this day both the liturgy and the melodies of Jewish worship are believed to be those celebrated in the Jerusalem temple. Our marriage was in the old Spanish (or Sicilian) synagogue beneath the Grand Synagogue, which was built at the turn of the 20th century.
So I took great pleasure from the news that the Grand Synagogue has now been illuminated, thanks to a joint venture involving the Jewish Community, the electric company, and the city government. The Jewish Community is the city’s oldest, and it’s entirely appropriate that the city should single out the synagogue as one of its landmarks.
When the synagogue was completed, the dome was made of highly reflective metal, which made the structure stand out on the Roman skyline. In time, the metal was removed, and the temple now regains its prominence in the night, and, as Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni movingly reminded the citizens of the city, it brings to mind the first lines of the Old Testament, when God created light. “Light was the first divine creation,” he said.
There’s the light of the sun, and light from other sources. But that which shined in the first day of creation was the holiest, the most powerful, primordial energy, which remains hidden until better times. We hope, symbolically, that the light we turn on tonight reminds us of that primordial one, which is reserved for the righteous.
The dome is now illuminated by modern LED technology, thanks to some 44 projectors. Probably the best place from which to see it is Piazza Garibaldi, up on the hill on the other side of the Tiber. When you look down, and if you then take a stroll through the neighborhood, you should brush up on the recent history of the Roman Jews, from the Holocaust to the present.
Most people do not realize that Italy surrendered to, and then joined, the Allies during the Second World War (Rome fell to a joint US-UK army on D-Day, in fact). In the process, Mussolini was overthrown, fascism was abolished, a military government was installed, and the country was taken over by Hitler’s armies. The Roman Jews were rounded up by the occupying Nazi forces in October, 1943. If you walk through the Jewish neighborhood, until very recently still called “the Ghetto, you will see bronze markets in front of the buildings from which the Jews were dragged off, ultimately to Auschwitz.
Some returned, some fought the Nazis all over the country. In Rome itself, a group of Jews organized a resistance group that fought throughout the occupation, and continued to defend the Jewish Community afterwards. Unlike most other European Jews, the Romans learned a fundamental lesson: the state was not going to defend them against the anti-Semites. If they were going to survive, they would have to defend themselves. So they studied self-defense, getting help from the security forces (notably the carabinieri), and later from the Israelis.
Remember, if you ever knew, that Italy was uniquely free of an indigenous anti-Jewish movement. Indeed, by World War I there had already been two Jewish prime ministers, and the Jewish defense forces had plenty of popular support. In direct contrast with the rest of the old continent, Italy’s Jews seem to be flourishing. In Rome alone there are now roughly twenty synagogues. Chabad is very active, especially in the north. There is a revival of Judaism in the south, most surprisingly in Sicily, where Jewish Communities are reemerging for the first time since the Inquisition. Kosher food is suddenly very popular, especially in Rome.
Indeed, one of the greatest fans of kosher food is none other than His Holiness, Pope Francis. When his Jewish friends come to visit from Buenos Aires, the pope sends out for kosher takeout, and not just to cater to his guests’ culinary requirements. He loves it.
So when you hear that the European Jews are destined to leave, and that European antisemitism is relentlessly rising, keep in mind the words of Ruth Dureghello, the president of the Rome Jewish Community. The illumination of the Grand Synagogue, she said, “is a victory…it is a signal that we don’t wish to hide…we are our Jewish history, we wish to be a light for the future.”
(Photo: Aish.com / YouTube)
Despite advances in modern medicine, China is setting up roadblocks to cope with an outbreak of an ancient plague that once wiped out one-third of the world’s population and may have been one of the plagues that God used to strike Egypt.
Chinese officials installed temperature scanners at airports and checkpoints on main roads in an attempt to stop the spread of Bubonic plague as a fourth case was discovered in less than three weeks. A program to exterminate rats and fleas, which carry the disease, was also launched in Inner Mongolia where the disease seems to be originating.
Demonstrators gather in solidarity with anti-regime protests in Iran outside the Iranian Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Reuters / Lehtikuva / Heikki Saukkomaa.
Four human rights lawyers currently imprisoned by the Iranian regime have been awarded with the annual prize of Europe’s most prestigious lawyers’ association.
The Iranian lawyers received the 2019 Human Rights Award from The Council of Bars and Law Societies Of Europe (CCBE) — a body that represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries and through them more than 1 million European lawyers.
The University of Bristol campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Bristol in England has adopted “in full” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the school’s Epigram independent student newspaper reported on Monday.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Bristol’s Jewish Society (J-Soc) welcomed the move, saying, “The University of Bristol has not been free of antisemitic incidents and the adoption of this definition is an important first step in helping the university tackle anti-Jewish racism. We now expect the university to use this definition in outstanding disciplinary cases.”
Pope Francis Meets Thailand’s Buddhist Patriarch in Golden Temple (screenshot)
Pope Francis topped off his three-day visit to Thailand last Saturday with a meeting with Thailand’s supreme Buddhist patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at Bangkok’s Ratchabophit Temple. The meeting took place in front of a 150-year-old gold statue of Buddha. The Pope followed Buddhist custom by removing his shoes.
During the meeting, the Pope gave the Buddhist Patriarch the Declaration on Human Brotherhood. The Declaration s a joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, last February in Abu Dhabi. The Pope met with the Imam last month to reinforce the Declaration.
An Israeli company says it is using space travel technology to help solve one of the most pressing problems down on Earth — the reliance on diesel fuel, a major source of pollution.
Israeli startup GenCell has developed an electric generator based on a hydrogen-energy technology used to power some of the most-famous space missions in history.
Dec 26, 2019 0by Algemeiner Staff The synagogue in Groningen, Holland. Photo: Tenar80 via Wikicommons. In what may be paradigmatic of Jewish life in Europe today, a synagogue in Holland essentially runs itself as...
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The verse (Deuteronomy 6:4) Shema Yisrael – “Hear Oh Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is One” – is understood to (in Wikipedia’s words) “encapsulate the monotheistic essence of Judaism.” It’s understood to be a declaration not only there is one and only one God, but also that God’s oneness is all-inclusive. God includes every particle of existence is within Him. God is not just ruling over the world. God encompasses the world. Time and space and all of us are within God. Nothing stands outside of God’s Oneness, and God encompasses all existence equally
Watching events unfold in Israel is an experience in split-screen living. On the right side of the screen is the chaos outside our gates, in neighboring lands. And on the left side of the screen is the chaos inside.
On the left side of the screen on Tuesday, 15,000 Israelis gathered Tuesday evening outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to demand legal justice for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the face of what they view as an anti-democratic usurpation of political power by Israel’s legal fraternity.
It hard to believe that two weeks ago, Israel was on the brink of war. With the Palestinian Islamic Jihad firing nearly 500 missiles from Gaza into Israel within a 48-hour period, even Tel Aviv was put on alert and certain train routes were canceled. My mind immediately raced to a Christian group I was going to host for Shabbat in Jerusalem Israel – Pastor Leroy Armstrong of Proclaiming the Word Ministries.
Turkey’s little remarked on but ongoing mistreatment of historic churches is increasingly reflective of that nation’s growing sense of Islamic supremacism.
Before the Turks invaded it, Anatolia (present day Turkey) was an ancient Christian region; a large chunk of St. Paul’s epistles were sent to or dealt with its churches, including the seven of the Apocalypse. With the Turks’ conquest, colonization, and subsequent Turkification of Anatolia—hence why it’s now simply called “Turkey”—tens of thousands of churches were systematically desecrated and turned into victory mosques.
Sorek was the grandson of a Rabbi who survived the Holocaust, and was universally described as a kind, gentle soul. His funeral was interrupted by Palestinians shooting off fireworks celebrating his murder.
Two terrorists, including one affiliated with Hamas were arrested for the murder. And at the time, Hamas said in a statement, “We salute the hero fighters, sons of our people, who carried out the heroic operation which killed a soldier of the occupation army,” Hamas said in a statement. The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad also hailed the killing as “heroic and bold.”