Jewish souvenirs in Trani, Italy

Jewish souvenirs in Trani, Italy

JEWISH HERITAGE EUROPE



Check out the rich resources on www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu -- an online clearing house for news and information on Jewish heritage that I coordinate as a project of the Rothschild Foundation Europe




Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Italy -- Medieval Jewish Cemetery in Terni Remembered

An Italian news source reports that a plaque is going to be unveiled this week marking the site of the medieval Jewish cemetery in Terni, a city in central Italy's Umbria region. Not only that, there will be a little seminar about medieval Jewish history in Umbria. (Typically, the web site running the story illustrates it with a picture of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague!)

Una lapide in ricordo del cimitero ebraico medievale di Terni sarà scoperta giovedì 26 marzo nel parco Ciaurro, sotto le mura della Passeggiata. Alla cerimonia, che avrà inizio alle ore 16, prenderanno parte il sindaco Paolo Raffaelli, il rabbino capo della comunità ebraica di Roma Riccardo Di Segni, il vescovo di Terni Vincenzo Paglia.

La lapide sarà apposta sulle mura, all'interno del parco nei pressi dell'ingresso dal largo Atleti Azzurri d'Italia ed è stata fatta realizzare a cura dell'ufficio toponomastica del Comune di Terni con la forma delle lapidi dei cimiteri ebraici. Riporterà la scritta: "Qui si trovava il cimitero ebraico che questa terra accolse nel tardo medioevo" in italiano e in caratteri ebraici.

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Umbria -- Terni province in particular -- is where I have a house and spend a good chunk of my time. There may be a few dozen Jews in Terni province today... when my extended family is there, we probably make up the largest "Jewish community." Passover is coming soon, and I'm already thinking of where to scrape up people to come to the seder....

There was never a huge Jewish population in Umbria, which was part of the Papal States -- maybe 500 people at its peak in the 14th to 16th centuries. But in the middle ages, there were a number of active communities, most of which have left no trace -- in Orvieto, Assisi, Todi... Today, there is a tiny Jewish community in Perugia and a few scattered families, but that's about it. (In Perugia, you can see a trace of the old synagogue and Jewish cemetery.)

A wonderful book describes medieval Jewish life in Umbria -- Love, Work and Death: Jewish Life in Medieval Umbria, by Ariel Toaff, translated by Judith Landry (Littman Library, 1996). It reads like a novel.

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