San Nicandro

I want to share with you a story related to the festival of Hanukkah. As a child, my mother didn't teach me anything about the holiiday, its history or the custom of lighting candles each night as part of the celebration. You see, originally, Donato Manduzio,...

I am a 37-year-old mother and I am part of the Jewish Community of San Nicandro. Since my childhood, I have grown up learning about Judaism and the Torah, which have shaped and formed me throughout my life. Through this, I have developed a very strong love for G-d. While the environment around us is very different from the way in which we lead our lives, nonetheless I have found the inner strength to remain firm in my beliefs. One of the most important things was that I had the support of people who knew to guide me along the right path. I am referring, of course, to the elders of our community. Since we are young, we represent the fruit of their efforts, which they planted long ago and which have now grown strong and beautiful. I thank G-d that this happened to us.I am grateful to the elders of the community, many of whom, sadly, have now begun to pass away. They are like candles that have begun to extinguish.
All over the world next week, the ram's horns of Rosh Hashanah (beginning of the New Year) will call faithful Jews to the Ten Days of Penitence that end with Yom Kippur. No prayers will be more fervent than those from the 80-odd ex-Catholics of San Nicandro, Italy. The conversion of San Nicandro began almost 20 years ago with dark-eyed, sallow Donato Manduzio. Invalided by shrapnel in World War I, Donato had lain for years on a miserable straw mattress in an attic room. At first he wept bitterly that he could not join in the daily life of his native San Nicandro Garganico (pop. 20,000). But gradually, the sounds of women singing as they carried water in copper vessels on their heads, the cries of the black-hatted mule-drivers, the hammering of cobblers in the tiny, dark shops (Donate had been a cobbler himself) lost their attraction for Donato. He heard them no more, because he was too busy reading the Bible. Along with the sounds of workaday life, Donato also closed his ears to church bells. Bible study had led him to question the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.