A New Museum Explores 2,000 Years of Jewish Life in Italy

There are full chambers, simulating the Jewish catacombs in Rome, their partitions adorned with frescoes of menorahs, different spiritual symbols and Hebrew lettering. “The Jewish catacombs in Rome were a treasure trove for our knowledge of Jews in the Imperial Age, about 40,000 people,” stated Ms. Della Seta.

The show is thematic in addition to chronological. The dispersal of Jews all through the Italian peninsula, the connection between Jews and Christians, the contribution of Jewish scholarship and science to the broader civilization. Video screens are strategically positioned that includes specialists — historians, archaeologists and rabbis — explaining their selection of artifacts or historic occasions.

What comes throughout all through the two-floor exhibition is the breadth and tenacity of Jewish life over the millenniums. The Italian peninsula witnessed serial conquerors — Romans, Goths, Byzantines Longobards and Muslims — who’re all gone. Yet the one steady presence has been the Jews, clinging to their id and civilization in the face of extreme challenges to their survival. There are about 30,000 Jews residing in Italy right this moment, the bulk in Rome and Milan, in keeping with the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, an umbrella group.

The mission of the museum, stated Dario Disegni, chairman of MEIS, is to foster dialogue, understanding and coexistence. “The MEIS tells the story of a minority, which was integrated in the Italian society and, at the same time, was able to maintain its identity, both cultural and religious, without being assimilated. It is really a model, a point of reference for the Italian and, more generally, Western societies of today.”

It is a message, at a time when Italy and different European nations are being examined by a brand new wave of immigration and rising intolerance, that may give MEIS a broader resonance and goal than that often related to a historical past museum.

Harry D. Wall writes incessantly, and produces movies, about Jewish tradition and heritage world wide.

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