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Scrolls of the Law damaged at the synagogue. The Israelite community of Florence also struck”. Thus read the headline of La Nazione, the day after the terrible flood of 4 November 1966. When the Arno broke its banks, thousands of texts were damaged. In particular, 90 sefarim which were then buried in the Jewish cemetery, and more than fifteen thousand volumes from the library of the rabbinical college. While a wealth of memories had been partially dispersed, there was also a great demonstration of collective altruism which, thanks to the determination and generosity of volunteers from the most widespread origins, made it possible to save a large number of books, textiles and antique furniture held in the community’s properties.

On the 47th anniversary of the flood, a new wave of efforts is picking up speed under the auspices of the Foundation for Jewish Cultural Heritage in Italy, with the aim of producing an exhibition to be held in Florence, in partnership with the Biblioteca Nazionale and the Centro Bibliografico UCEI, to offer a new look at that chapter of the city’s history which was so full of pain, yet passion and courage too.

The project was announced by the Vice President of the FBCEI and President of the Opera del Tempio Ebraico di Firenze, Renzo Funaro, who is working to find “a suitable site” for part of the historical and bibliographic legacy which has been restored, partly thanks to the support of the Centro Bibliografico. Bolstered by the support shown by the Foundation’s President Dario Disegni and by Giacomo Saban, Director of the Rassegna Mensile di Israel, Funaro is working in this period on making the project become reality.

Meanwhile, today is the day of the solemn commemoration. “To mark this important anniversary”, says Funaro, “I would like to recall, with gratitude, the many young people who came from all over the world to help Florence. Among them were several Israeli students who were art experts and who, as reported in local news, offered their services to the Uffizi Gallery”.

Somebody else who offered their help was Luciano Camerino, who had been captured by the Nazis in Rome during the raid of 16 October 1943, and who survived Auschwitz Birkenau, and later died of a heart attack. This unforgettable man was recalled in a tweet by the UCEI board member Vittorio Pavoncello.
Sara Cividalli, President of the Jewish Community of Florence, also remembers those days clearly. One of the strongest memories of her adolescence, she told Pagine Ebraiche when she took office, was the tactile experience (“terrible and unforgettable”) of the damp, muddy pages of the books in the synagogue which had been saved from the fury of the Arno. “I can relive those feelings perfectly”, Cividalli explained, “It is something that I carry within me, and always will”.

a.s – twitter @asmulevichmoked

(4 November 2013)

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