LaCulturaNonSiFerma (CultureDoesn’tStop). That’s the message launched in unison by seven Italian Jewish museums, in a show of solidarity towards the victims of the anti-Semitic attack in Brussels, and in order to promote culture as the most efficient form of struggle against hatred and prejudice. The challenge stirred interest on social networks too, with the hashtag #LaCulturaNonSiFerma.
The Mayor of Ferrara, Tiziano Tagliani, struck the same note: “Moments of openness such as this”, he explained, “are crucial because antisemitism arises out of ignorance, which itself originates partly out of divisions in society. The MEIS is a State-owned place, open to the entire general public, and through its presence we have the potential to change society and foster culture”. Those attending the event included the President of the Ferrara Jewish Community Michele Sacerdoti, the Chief Rabbi Luciano Caro, the municipal councillor for Culture Massimo Maisto and his equivalent at regional level, Massimo Mezzetti.
Sara Cividalli, President of the Jewish Community of Florence, remarked: “Opening up the museums and in our case the synagogue too, and above all your participation, is a mark of solidarity following the terrible attack in Brussels, an episode officially condemned on behalf of all Italian Jews by our President Renzo Gattegna, whose appeal to the founding principles of the Constitution echoes even louder at a time when antisemitism and xenophobia are rearing their heads again in Europe”. Cividalli continued, “This evening Italian Jewish museums are opening up to their cities and to involvement from citizens, and we feel certain that the message will be a powerful one: a message against those who, with these despicable attacks, aim to erase the memory and the history of the Jews as the testimony of a minority, along with all the other minorities in Europe”. In the same vein, the work carried out in Florence is significant. There, Cividalli pointed out, the Jewish community is “inextricable from the local context”, and there are currently many opportunities for shared events, from the European Day of Jewish Culture to the Balagan Café and the brand new Children’s Festival. The president of the Florentine Jewish Community thanked the Foundation for Jewish Cultural Heritage in Italy, represented for the occasion by its vice-president Renzo Funaro, for having appealed to Jewish museums to open as a response to this hate crime. Attendees included the Florence municipal councillor Cristina Giachi.
The doors were open, writes Michael Calimani, at the Jewish Museum of Venice too. Opening the event, Rav Avraham Dayan, vice Rabbi of Venice, recited several psalms and the Kaddish before lighting a candle to commemorate the victims of the attack in Brussels.
The Board of the Jewish Community, attending the special opening, along with Coopculture which has been managing the museum for years, thus wished to demonstrate, in a place for the conservation and dissemination of Jewish history, identity and culture, its profound solidarity with the victims of the crime perpetrated, and its commitment to building a future in which freedom, justice and peace are truly shared values, and no longer threatened by attacks such as the one in Brussels. The President of the Jewish Community of Venice, Paolo Gnignati, remarked, “It is particularly comforting to see that this open day gained an immediate response from the authorities representing the State, the Region, the Municipality, the Province. We are grateful to everyone for attending and bearing the greetings of the various groups to which we feel we belong. Today, people dying because they are Jewish is a wound that society cannot tolerate. It is an evil we hoped had been overcome, but the germs of which are still among us. During my visit to Vienna for the opening of the exhibition of the silverware from the Jewish Community of Venice, I found it particularly reassuring to see that Jewish liturgical objects can now be displayed in a place where, in the past, they would have been destroyed. The same city from which Karl Popper fled, the Jewish philosopher who professed social engineering, the improvement of society day after day. As a well-known Jewish saying goes, “It is not incumbent upon us to complete the work, but neither are we at liberty to desist from it”.
President Gnignati read out the message sent by the President of the Province of Venice, Francesca Zaccariotto who supported the initiative and underlined how it is a gesture to bring everyone together, whether members of the Jewish community, institutions, citizens and young people: “It is a tangible way to show solidarity to the victims’ families, who have been struck by a tragic loss cause by a cruel, absurd gesture which must be condemned unanimously. Opening up the Museum offers an additional opportunity, for those who have not yet had the chance, to get to know up close a cultural domain that is important for Venice and the local region. Deepening our knowledge aids dialogue and understanding, which are used by institutions to build positive relationships for the purpose of a peaceful co-existence in mutual respect”.
The public figures who spoke at the event included the President of the Regione Veneto, Luca Zaia; the Prefect of Venice, Domenico Cuttaia; the Mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni; the Police Chief, Vincenzo Roca; and the Colonel of the Carabinieri, Giovanni Occhioni. Mayor Orsoni stated, “We are here to bear witness to the solidarity of the city of Venice with the Jewish community that is Venice, is an important part of our city and our history. A terrorist attack is a horrible thing, but in some ways attacking a museum is even worse, because an attack on a museum means attacking the history of a community. And an attack in Brussels is aimed at attacking the history of Europe itself, and the remembrance of all the horrors which were perpetrated, and which damaged the Jewish community. They damaged all of us, they damaged humanity. The violence must stop, the horrors must stop. Attacks on Jewish people must stop. The Venetian community feels wounded by what has happened, and that is why I am here.
The same sentiment was expressed by the President of the Regione Veneto Luca Zaia, who upholds the motto that anybody who hurts a Jew hurts each one of us. “For us, it is not a question of the Veneto people and Jewish people; what exists is the people of the Veneto region, with total respect for the identity and history of each community. Those who perpetrated this vile attack are simply delinquents, who must be punished. But the greatest worry is for young people. For the information that circulates on the internet, the antisemitism that can be perceived, and the new tendency towards negationism, which is affecting many youngsters and against which we must stand united”.
Then came a speech from the Prefect Domenico Cuttaia, about the new waves of antisemitism and increasing racism. He stated that the sense of belonging to the republic necessarily implies an aversion to all forms of terrorism and all forms of racial hatred: “The disgusting way in which the Jewish community is attacked around the world is emblematic of the existence of these pockets of human degeneracy. In addition to the condolences we express, we must take the sacrifice of these victims as a symbol, so as to have tangible points of reference in order to pursue, individual and collectively, the goal of affirming a just society in which the dignity of all people is respected”.
The Chief of Police, as a security expert, expressed the utmost sympathy and care. Vincenzo Roca said, “I am convinced that this profound hatred requires a response, and our response is that we are here, with the museum open, to state that the Jewish people cannot be struck again”.