Heritage of Jews in Italy
The Ma’ani Center of Shavei Israel was happy to present a conference on The Heritage of the Jews of Italy given by our dear Rabbanit Renana Birenbaum.
The Jewish community in Italy is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, dating back to the days of the destruction of the Second Temple, in the pre-Christian Roman period, over 2,000 years ago. As opposed to, for example, the Jewish communities in America which are, on average, just 100 years old.
Rabbanit Renana told very interesting stories of her own experiences as the rabbanit in Turin. She also spoke about the Jews of San Nicandro.
A beautiful custom in Italy is to have a fabric panel with a verse from the Torah on it, and they embroider the names of the children at their brit milah and they save it for many generations and wrap each baby in it at their brit milah. Then when the child has his bar mitzvah, the Torah scroll is wrapped in this fabric as well. So when the child is called up to the Torah, he feels as if all of the previous generations are embracing him. Rabbanit Renana’s family decided to adopt this beautiful custom as well.
Interestingly, Italian Jews are neither Ashkenazi or Sephardi, rather they are ‘Italian Jews’ – their own unique category.