Carlotta Ferrara degli Uberti, historian and curator of the MEIS upcoming exhibit “Beyond the Ghetto. Inside&Out” in conversation with historian and Pulitzer Prize winner David Kertzer about the Mortara case.

Bologna (Papal States), 24 June, 1858. Edgardo Mortara, a six-year old Jewish child, is kidnapped by the police and admitted to the House of Catechumens. Baptized in secret by a servant, Edgardo will never be returned to his family. In the midst of the Risorgimento, the case shocks Italian and international public opinion calling into question the legitimacy of papal power.

If you would like to attend the zoom event please follow the link below and fill the form

Foundation of the National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah (“MEIS”) announces a call for applications for a two-year research grant on the topic of “Women in the history, culture and education of Italian Jews”.

Pubblication date: 20/03/2020

Applications and research projects must be received at the Fondazione MEIS offices no later than 1:00 p.m. on 29/05/2020



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Join the National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah – MEIS  and 135 other museums and cultural institutions around the world for “We Are Here: A Celebration of Resilience, Resistance, and Hope” on Sunday, June 14 at 8:00 PM.

Featuring award-winning media personalities Whoopi Goldberg, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Adrien Brody, Mayim Bialik, Jackie Hoffman, and Tiffany Haddish, world-renowned singers and musicians Renee Fleming, Lea Salonga, Steven Skybell, Joyce DiDonato, and Lang Lang, and other public figures from all walks of life, the free 90-minute program will commemorate the recent anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and project a message of hope amidst the crises we face. Find more info and tune in to view the program at www.WeAreHere.live
You could watch the  show also on the MEIS website.

They were youths, some studying at university, others still at their school desks. They were interested in love letters, writing short stories, going out with friends. In 1938, with the enactment of the racial laws, they were alienated from society, expelled from the universities and schools, and excluded from public life.

These young people had just seen all their rights denied, and could read bewilderment, confusion, indecision in their parents’ eyes. 
Thus these youngsters — Italians, Jews, persecuted, hopelessly adrift — would join others and fight to regain their freedom and to free their entire country. They brought their families to safety and exposed themselves to the two-fold danger of being both Jewish and anti-fascist.
They moved into the mountains, slept in uncomfortable, makeshift shelters, were sent into exile or captured.
So many Italian Jews, both women and men, joined the Resistance, contributing to the liberation of Italy. 
The National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah wishes to share ten stories of courage, idealism and selflessness. The pursuit of freedom is a challenge to be fought for day in and day out, and should be paid homage to every day, let us remember those youths in the mountains who made our world better.
“In a situation as dramatic as the one we are now living through,” writes MEIS President Dario Disegni, “this 25th of April, Italian Liberation Day, must demand of us a great moral and civil recovery, prompting us to reflect not only on the horrors of the past, but also on the profound injustices and inequalities still present in our society. In celebrating Liberation Day and recalling those who fell for our freedom — including Emanuele Artom and many Jewish partisans — such recovery will help us emerge from the current crisis that has engulfed the entire planet more humane, more upright, more united and determined to build a fairer, more equitable, more livable world: in sum, a place better than the one we have been living in”.

We thank the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation-CDEC

Emanuele Artom, diary of a partisan

Born in Aosta in 1915 to a family from Turin, Emanuele Artom grew up in the Piedmont regional capital and studied under Augusto Monti at the Massimo D’Azeglio Classical Lyceum. He enrolled in the Faculty of Letters, graduating with honors in 1937.
With his brother Ennio, who died tragically in a mountain accident, he was leader of a Jewish cultural club which counted Primo Levi, Franco Momigliano and Luciana Nissim, among its members.
In 1943 he joined the Partito d’Azione and, as partisan, took the name of Eugenio Ansaldi. Always on the front lines and engaged in complex, dangerous activities, he was a political commissioner.
Captured in 1944, he was brutally tortured and died in jail from the abuses he suffered.
His diary — published unedited by Bollati Boringhieri under the title “Diario di un partigiano ebreo” (edited by Guri Schwarz) — is considered not only a valuable historical tool but has also been praised for its literary value. 
Emanuele’s mother, Amalia, who held a degree in Mathematics, was the longtime principal of the Jewish secondary school in Turin that bears his name.

Photo credit: Giuseppe Mosso, Ritratto di Emanuele Artom, 1935 ca. Archivio CDEC, Fondo Antifascisti e partigiani ebrei in Italia 1922-1945

Matilde Bassani Finzi and the school in via Vignatagliata

Born in Ferrara in 1918, from an early age, Matilde Bassani was raised on ideals and politics. Her father, a professor of German at the Technical Institute, was fired in the 1920s for his anti-fascist ideals; her uncle, Professor Ludovico Limentanti, signed the Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals and her cousin was the physicist and partisan Eugenio Curiel.
Her professor, Francesco Viviani (also the teacher of the writer Giorgio Bassani) who died in Buchenwald, and the socialist teacher Alda Costa both played an important role in her education.
Having graduated with honors in Literature, together with Giorgio Bassani and Primo Lampronti, Matilde was one of the teachers at the Jewish school in Via Vignatagliata, which welcomed the children expelled from public institutions in Ferrara.
The school in Via Vignatagliata was top notch. In addition to the immortals of Italian literature, the children also studied contemporary poets; it was here that the ideals of freedom and equality were imparted.
In 1943 she was arrested for her anti-fascist activities and taken to the prisons in Via Piangipane (now home to MEIS). Released in July of the same year, she fled to Rome and met her future husband Ulisse Finzi, with whom she shared the decision to resist.
After the war, she made a name for herself as a psychologist and always remained on the front lines, defending rights and holding prestigious positions in the Unione Femminile Nazionale [National Women’s League] and the Consiglio Nazionale delle Donne Italiane [National Council of Italian Women].
When interviewed by Anna Quarzi, President of the Istituto di Storia Contemporanea, in 1997, she said: “From an early age, I was nurtured on milk and anti-fascism. In fact, my family was anti-fascist out of a natural aversion to dictatorships, out of a love for freedom”.

Photo credit: Archivio storico e fotografico della famiglia Finzi – Milano

Franco Cesana, a soldier at 13 anni

Born in Mantua in 1931, Franco Cesana is often remembered as the youngest partisan to fall in the Italian Resistance. He grew up in Bologna, was expelled from public school after the promulgation of racial laws and was admitted to the Orphanage “Orfanotrofio Israelitico di Torino e di Roma”.
Following in the footsteps of his brother Lelio, declaring he was of age, he joined the Brigate Garibaldi before he was thirteen. Near Pescarola, on the outskirts of Bologna, he and his brother were taken by surprise by enemy fire, Lelio managed to save himself, Franco did not. There is a touching letter he wrote to his mother in which he reassures her about his condition: “So you don’t have to worry about me, I’m fine. My health is very good; sleeping is just a bit precarious”.
The story of Franco Cesana was told in the exhibition “Stars without a heaven. Children in the Holocaust” produced by Yad Vashem of Jerusalem and MEIS in cooperation with the CDEC and the Legislative Assembly of the Emilia-Romagna Region.

Photo credit: Anonimo, Ritratto di Franco Cesana, 1940 ca. Archivio CDEC, Fondo Antifascisti e partigiani ebrei in Italia 1922-1945

Eugenio Curiel, the physicist of the Resistance

Born in Trieste in 1912 into a well-educated, well-to-do Jewish family, Eugenio Curiel distinguished himself through his political commitment, always strongly linked to his intellectual training.
After studying engineering for two years at the University of Florence and transferring to the Polytechnical Institute of Milan, he decided to enter the Department of Physics at the University of Florence where his uncle, Ludovico Limentani, was professor of moral philosophy. His brilliant career was marked by periods during which he taught in the schools, until he was hired by the University of Padua as an assistant.

Within the university environment, Curiel forged bonds of friendship and took steps toward Communist-inspired political activism.
Dismissed from teaching after enactment of the racial laws, he began to move between Italy and Switzerland. He was wanted for his anti-fascist activities and was arrested in Trieste in 1939. Condemned to exile, he moved to the island of Ventotene. With the fall of Fascism, Curiel returned to Milan to resume his political activities. However, on 24th February 1945, he was recognized by the Brigate Nere and, after being chased, he was shot dead.
He was awarded the Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare [Gold Medal of Military Valor] posthumously.

Photo credit: Anonimo, Ritratto di Eugenio Curiel, 1935-1940 ca. Archivio CDEC, Fondo Antifascisti e partigiani ebrei in Italia 1922-1945, b. 5, fasc. 99

Mosè Di Segni, the free doctor

Doctor, anti-fascist, Zionist, partisan.

The soul of Mosè Di Segni, born in 1903 in Rome and died in 1969, has many facets. Father of three children, Elio, Frida and Riccardo (today the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community in Rome), Mosè Di Segni was a pediatrician in Florence and leader of the Avodà Zionist Club founded by Enzo Sereni.
In 1936 he was sent as military physician to Spain but two years later, due to the racial laws, he was discharged from the army and fired from the Spallanzani hospital in Rome where he had worked.
An advisor to the Jewish community, he was actively engaged in helping the Roman Jews in their darkest years. Warned by a friend that he was on a list of people destined for deportation, he managed to hide in Serripola (San Severino Marche) where he joined the Brigate Garibaldi as a partisan, never failing in his vocation as a doctor and always helping the local population.
Precisely for this reason, a few years ago the Municipality of San Severino delle Marche granted his three children honorary citizenship.

Recently the book “Mosè Di Segni medico partigiano. Memorie di un protagonista della Guerra di Liberazione (1943-1944)”, edited by Luca Maria Cristini (San Severino Marche, Edizioni della Riserva naturale regionale del Monte San Vicino e del Monte Canfaito, 2011) was published.

Liana Millu, the writer from Birkenau

Liana Millu (Millul) was born in Pisa in 1914 and developed her passion for writing and journalism early on, writing for the Leghorn-based “Il Telegrafo”. After obtaining a master’s degree, she started teaching school but, the following year, was fired because of the racial laws. She moved to Genoa and continued writing until the September 8, 1943 when she decided to join the clandestine partisan group “Otto”. After being denounced by an informer, she was arrested in Venice on March 7, 1944, taken to the Fossoli camp and, from there, deported to Auschwitz and transferred to Ravensbrück. In 1947, two years after the end of the war, she published “Smoke Over Birkenau”, one of the very first memoirs dedicated to the Holocaust: a very important testimony revolving around the experiences of women in the camps, as recalled by Primo Levi who wrote the introduction to the 1971 edition. Immediately after the liberation, Liana started writing the book in pencil and gave the stub to Levi himself, a sort of passing of the baton. She died in Genoa in 2005.

In this video (in Italian) produced by Fondazione Fossoli, Piero Stefani and Ottavia Piccolo talk about the personality of Liana, through memories and readings of her works.

Photo credit: Anonimo, Ritratto di Liana Millul, 1940 – marzo 1944 Archivio CDEC, Fondo fotografico Millu Liana

Luciana Nissim, Primo Levi’s friend

Born in Turin in 1919, and despite the racial laws, Luciana Nissim managed to graduate with honors, receiving a degree in medicine in 1943.
She came into contact with Primo Levi and became his friend. After the armistice, she decided to join him in the partisan struggle, reaching the Giustizia e Libertà group of freedom fighters in Valle d’Aosta. On December 13, 1943, she was arrested with her companions and taken first to the Aosta prison and then to the Fossoli camp. From there, in February 1944, she was deported to Auschwitz where she managed to save herself because she was a doctor.
After the war she was reunited with her family, specialized in pediatrics and married Franco Momigliano, also a partisan. She began working in Milan with the great psychoanalyst Cesare Musatti, making a name for herself in the Italian Psychoanalytic Society and introducing great innovations in methodology.
Her story and writings are collected in the book “Ricordi della casa dei morti e altri scritti” published by Giuntina. She died in Milan in 1998.

Photo credit: Anonimo, Ritratto di Luciana Nissim (a sinistra) e Vanda Maestro (a destra), 1940 ca. Archivio CDEC, Fondo fotografico Maestro Vanda

Rita Rosani, teacher, holder of a Medaglia d’oro

The partisan Rita Rosani, winner of a Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare [Gold Medal of Military Valor] was born in Trieste in 1920 to a Jewish family of Moravian origin.

The original family surname, later Italianized, was in fact Rosenzweig (“rose branch”).
She was a primary school teacher at the Jewish school and engaged to Giacomo Nagler, known as Kubi, who would meet his fate in Auschwitz.
After having saved her family from deportation by hiding them away in Friuli, she joined the Resistance, first in Portogruaro and then in Verona. She formed the “Aquila” band and fought in the Valpolicella and Zevio areas. She was captured on Mount Comun and killed by a lieutenant of the Republican National Guard on September 17, 1944. This is the motivation for posthumously granting her the Medaglia d’Oro: “Politically persecuted, she joined a band of armed partisans, living the hard life of a fighter. She was a companion, sister, leader of indomitable valor and ardent faith. She avoided the certain dangers and suffering of the rugged existence to carry out the delicate, highly risky missions assigned to her”.

It is a tribute to her that Livio Isaak Sirovich wrote the book “Non era una donna, era un bandito . Rita Rosani, una ragazza in guerra” (Cierre Edizioni).

Photo credit: Archivio Fondazione CDEC, fondo Antifascisti e partigiani ebrei, b. 16, fasc. 353. 

Enzo e Emilio Sereni, a story of two brothers

Born in 1905 in Rome to an upper middle-class family (his father was physician to the Kings of Italy), from a very young age Enzo Sereni was passionate about the Zionist movement and ideals. After receiving a degree in Philosophy at the age of 22, he made his aliyah (literally “ascent”), emigrating to the Mandate for Palestine where he started working and building the Givat Brenner kibbutz.

Socialist and pacifist, Sereni wrote essays and did translations, becoming a true cultural point of reference. When the cloud of Nazism approached Europe, he took over the task of helping the persecuted Jews emigrate and was temporarily arrested by the Gestapo.
He helped organize the SOE, the British Special Operations Executive parachute units and created a special section of the Jewish Agency aimed at saving European Jews from Nazi persecution. In 1944, at over forty years of age, he was parachuted into Northern Italy where he took the name Samuel Barda, but was captured shortly thereafter and deported to Dachau where he was assassinated.
On Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, also known as Har Hazikaron, the Mount of Remembrance, a plaque celebrates his courage.
To learn more about his story, the book: “The Emissary: A Life of Enzo Sereni” by Ruth Bondy (Robson Books).

His brother Emilio Sereni, born in 1907, received a degree in Agronomy and joined the Communist Party at the age of twenty. Active in politics, he made many trips including one to Paris in 1930 where he came into contact with Palmiro Togliatti. Returning to Italy he was sentenced to prison but, after being pardoned, he managed to return to France where he continued his anti-fascist operations. Convicted again in 1943, he managed to escape and settle in Milan, taking over the office of demonstrations and propaganda. He served as party representative at the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale Alta Italia [National Liberation Committee for Northern Italy] in Milan. Once the war was over, he held the roles of Minister of Post-War Social Services, Minister of Public Works and Senator. His studies on the condition of the Italian countryside and agricultural issues are fundamental works.

The extraordinary events of this Italian Jewish family are preserved and recounted in the historical novel by  Clara Sereni (Emilio’s daughter) “Il gioco dei regni” (published by Giunti).

Photo credits:  Anonimo, Ritratto di Enzo Sereni, 1940 ca. Archivio CDEC, Fondo antifascisti e partigiani ebrei in Italia 1922-1945, b. 18, fasc. 400

Anonimo, Ritratto di Emilio Sereni, 1945-1950 ca. Archivio CDEC, Fondo antifascisti e partigiani ebrei in Italia 1922-1945, b. 17, fasc. 399

The night between the 14th and 15th of the month of Nissan (this year coinciding with the 8th of April, after sunset) marks the start of Pesach, one of the most important and meaningful festivals of Judaism.

Pesach recalls the Jewish people’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt, their exodus and dramatic crossing of the Red Sea — to freedom and receiving the Tablets of the Law, the core of ethics.

Celebrating Pesach requires several days of preparation. First of all, days before the event, observant Jewish families begin rigorous cleaning of their homes, eliminating any trace of leavened foods (chametz). This is because, while fleeing Egypt, the Jews lacked the time to let their bread rise. During the week of Pesach, they eat unleavened bread — matzah.

Once one’s home has been readied, the next ritual is the search for chametz: small pieces of leavened foods are placed in each room and then the whole family is engaged in the search to find, gather and throw them away. Then a prayer is recited asking to be released of the obligation, should some leavened food still be found in the house, and not eliminated.

 At this point comes preparation of the ritual dinner — the Seder — which, among the Jews of the Diaspora, is also repeated on the second evening of the holiday.

The festive meal is marked by reading of the Haggadah, the book that recounts the Jewish people’s time of bondage and their exodus from Egypt. And it is a precept that every Jewish man and woman should feel as though they themselves had emerged from Egypt, experiencing first-hand the passage from slavery into freedom.

The story is enriched with lessons from the great teachers of the past and, above all, with some significant questions about Jewish identity, the first of which is: Why is this night different from all other nights?

The book itself is a metaphorical representation of the difficult passage to freedom. A journey to be recounted from one generation to the next, year after year, morphing into an open dialog between parents and children on Jewish history and values. It is no coincidence that one particularly important feature of the reading are the questions posed by four children: “the wise child”, “the wicked child,” “the simple child,” and “the child who is unable to ask”. Although they are so strongly different and typified, all are equally fundamental to reflections on the meaning of Pesach. Another central moment is the reading about the ten plagues visited upon Egypt and Pharaoh who, with hardened heart, refused to let Moses’ people go.

Only after this dramatic moment are the three key words of the festival remembered: Pesach (passing over), Matzah (unleavened bread) and Maror (bitter herbs), reflecting the bitterness of the life of the enslaved Jews. All participants at the dinner must repeat these three words before the celebratory meal can begin.

This Pesach will be different from any that have come before: because of the Coronavirus emergency, many families will not be able to celebrate the Seder together, as tradition would have it.

 In such a perilous time for our country and the entire world, this remembrance of the long road to freedom is filled with even greater lessons and meanings. Emerging from a period of suffering is never easy, the path can be long, the road rocky; one has second thoughts on the choices made, or is even tempted to go back. The Seder brings to life this very multitude of questions and contrasting sensations: the bitter herbs are mixed with the sweet taste of the charoset, fresh and dried fruits are blended to recall the mortar used by the Jews in Egypt to make bricks.

But when you read the last page of the Haggadah, freedom finally arrives, made possible only through a deep awareness and a strong sense of individual and collective responsibility.

 In the picture, is the Haggadah of Venice dating back to 1609, from the David Sofer Collection. This precious illustrated object is one of the works that will be on display in the MEIS exhibition “INSIDE & OUT. Beyond the ghetto”, ready to be inaugurated as soon as this emergency has passed.

Hoping to reopen the MEIS soon and let you admire the entire exhibition in person, we wish you a happy and healthy Pesach and a peaceful Easter.

PESACH SAMEACH   פסח שָׂמֵחַ                                                                                                            

Dario Disegni              Simonetta Della Seta

President                     Executive Director 

(Passover Haggadah with Ladino translation, 1609. David Sofer Collection, photo credit: Angelo Piattelli)

The National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah in Ferrara is temporarily closed because of the Coronavirus emergency. However, we remain committed to spreading the knowledge about Italian Jewish history and culture. Therefore, we are going “virtual.”
The latest MEIS’ exhibit devoted to the Ferrara ebraica/Jewish Ferrara, one of the most important Jewish communities of Italy, can now be found online.
We invite you to watch some videos, listen to music and discover number of precious artefacts.
Begin your visit now: https://ferraraebraica.meis.museum/en/

The Jews and Ferrara, have had an inextricably intertwined relationship for over a thousand years.
The path of the exhibition accompanies the visitor on a journey through time, capturing the singular identity and the main stages of the ancient and still active Jewish community of Ferrara.
The exhibit, promoted and guided by the MEIS Executive Director Simonetta Della Seta, is curated by Sharon Reichel and designed by Giulia Gallerani.

(photo credit Marco Caselli Nirmal)

The National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Holocaust-MEIS in partnership with the Jewish community of Ferrara and the National Committee for the Centenary Celebrations of Primo Levi’s birth, will host a concert dedicated to Levi’s poetry. The Concert will be on September 15th (7.30 pm) at the Sala Estense.

The theme of this year’s European Day of Jewish Culture is “Dreams – A Staircase to Heaven.” In his poetry, Primo Levy focused on the dreams of freedom after the trauma of the Holocaust.  
The concert will be perfomed by Frank London, winner of a Grammy for Contemporary World Music and the soul of the “Klezmatics” band, together with Shai Bachar, a pianist and produce and the singer Shulamit Ottolenghi. The performance will be introduced by the MEIS director, Simonetta Della Seta.

MEIS BOOKSHOP (5.00 pm, free entrance)

Four women, all of Sephardic heritage, will be united for the first time.

The sole  purpose of this ingathering is to give a new life and a new voice to Jewish women of the Renaissance.

Our guests will bring to the MEIS old traditions, new ideas, philosophy, science and music.

Nicole, Daniela and Michela are three descendants of the glorious Abravanel dynasty. The Abravanel was one of the most important and powerful Jewish family during the Renaissance. They travelled around the world and were highly respected. They knew glory and honors, but also suffered misfortune and humiliations.

The director of MEIS, Simonetta Della Seta, will introduce the Parisian scholar Nicole Abravanel (simultaneous translation by Giulio Stabellini), who will speak about the arrival of the Sephardic culture in the city of Ferrara due to the expulsion of the Jews from the Spanish territories. The cabalist and writer Daniela Abravanel, who comes from Mexico, will share the story of her famous ancestor, Benvenida Abravanel. Benvenida was the teacher and friend of the Duchess of Tuscany, Eleonora – Cosimo I de Medici’s wife. The neurolinguistic expert, Michela Ebreo, a descendant of Leone Ebreo (born Yehudah Abravanel, whose famous work “Dialogues of Love” is exhibited at the MEIS), will reveal the scientific legacy of the Renaissancefemale Sephardic world.

The afternoon will conclude with a concert (starting at 7.00 pm) by the singer and actress Evelina Meghnagi, devoted to Sephardic music and to the amazing Dona Gracia Nasi, one of the most fascinating woman of Renaissance.  It will be a journey through time and space.


Thanks to the event “Female Voices from the Jewish Renaissance” on Tuesday, July 25,2019, the MEIS will be open until 10:00 PM. There will be a guided tour focused on the history of Jewish women during the Renaissance: a history about challenges, emancipation and ingenuity.

The guided tour will  begin at 9:00 PM (meeting at the ticket office at 8:45 PM).  The cost of the guided tour is an additional 5.00 euros per person, free for children up to 6 years old (ticket price excluded).

Photo credit: Marco Caselli Nirmal

On July 11th (18:00 pm at MEIS Bookshop) Andreina Contessa, Director of the Historical Museum and Park of the Castle of Miramare (Trieste), and earlier Chief Curator of the U. Nahon Museum of Hebrew Italian Art in Jerusalem, will shed new light Jewish women who became art patrons, dealers and clients during the Renaissance. 

She will focus on the fascinating and mysterious story of Consilia Norsa, the woman who commissioned one of the oldest Holy Arks, drawing on the discovery of Norsa’s prayer book, a richly illuminated manuscript, which provides interesting insights on the role of women in the Renaissance.   She will also help us to understand the holy arches of Mantua, preserved today in Jerusalem. 

Andreina Contessa is the author of “Mantova e Gerusalemme” (Florence, 2017). She will be introduced to the public by the Director of the MEIS Simonetta Della Seta.

The 7° edition of the European Jewish Choir Festival, organized by the Ha-Kol Choir of Rome and the European Association of Jewish Choirs (EUAJC), will end on Sunday 30th (8.30 pm, free admission with allocated seat. Tickets can be picked up at the Theatre ticket office starting at 7.00 pm) with an amazing gala concert hosted by the Municipal Theatre “Claudio Abbado” of Ferrara

A special guest will join the performances of six choirs from Rome, Paris, Strasbourg, Vienna, London and Lviv: the choral academy “Vittore Veneziani” of Ferrara named after the Jewish director and composer who directed the Scala choir until the promulgation of the Italian racial laws. Veneziani was appointed by Arturo Toscanini and He was hired again after the war.

The Sunday concert will be the happy ending of the event that began on Thursday 27th.
The Meis and the Municipal Theatre hosted live performances by over 200 singers.The program offered liturgical music, traditional Sephardic and Ashkenazi songs and contemporary arrangements.

As recalled by Richard Di Castro, the Ha-Kol Choir’s President, “The Festival was born by chance in 2012, when we were invited to attend a meeting with other formations in London. During that experience we have grasped the potential power of such an event, which has become itinerant”.
After London, the Festival arrived in Vienna, Rome, once again in London, St. Petersburg, Lviv and Ferrara. 
“Each city opened its arms wide, providing beautiful venues, from the London synagogue of Marble Arch to the Teatro Argentina in Rome, to the Chapel of the State Academy in St. Petersburg. For an amateur singer it is an honor to enter inside these music sanctuaries “.
Jews have always sung, played and composed music, even in the most tragic moments of their history.
These events are an opportunity to learn different musical traditions and allow the groups involved to get to know each other, understand and interact with each city that welcomes them. Music is definetly a bridge of dialogue. 
“For this reason, the Meis Director Simonetta Della Seta explains –  the European Jewish Choir Festival fits perfectly the mission of Meis, this is why we wanted them here. Meis is not just a place that hosts history or Jewish history, it’s a hub for meetings and sharing”.

(photo by Marco Caselli Nirmal)

The seventh edition of the European Jewish Choir Festival will be hosted in Ferrara from Thursday, June 27 – Sunday, June 30, 2019. The Festival is organized by the Ha-Kol Choir of Rome and the European Association of Jewish Choirs (EUAJC), at the invitation of the MEIS and the ‘Claudio Abbado’ Municipal Theater.

For days, the Theater and the Museum in Via Piangipane 81 will welcome 240 musicians and choristers from five European countries. They will perform music from Jewish liturgy and everyday life, songs from both Sephardic and Ashkenazi traditions, along with contemporary arrangements and compositions.

Richard Di Castro, President of the Ha-Kol Choir, recalles that “the Festival was born a bit fortuitously in 2012 in London. After U.K., it was held in Vienna, Rome, London, St. Petersburg, Lviv and now Ferrara. Each city opened its arms to us, providing beautiful venues, from the London synagogue in Marble Arch to the Argentina Theatre in Rome and the Academic Glinka Capella in St. Petersburg. For amateur choirs, like those participating in the Festival, it is an honor to enter these sanctuaries of music”.

Jews have always sung, played and composed music – underlines Di Castro –, even in the most tragic moments of their history. And this event offers an opportunity of cultural exchange between different musical traditions, for the groups involved to get to know each other, to understand and interact with the city that welcomes them”.

Music, in short, often serves as a bridge to dialogue. In 2014, for example, at the gala concert at the Parco della Musica in Rome, the Ukrainian group and the Russian group from St. Petersburg performed on the same stage, despite the ongoing conflict between their respective countries.

But that is not all. Music is also a factor that enlivens sites and cultures: “Last year the Festival was held in Lviv – closes Di Castro –, where close to 200,000 Jews had once lived. By the end of the war, after the Soviet liberation, only eight hundred Jews remained and just one synagogue, among many, was left. Yet, the Jewish tradition was still alive. Thanks to the Festival, fifty years later, that synagogue was once again filled with people and music, and the Ashkenazi rabbi, dressed his ceremonial robe, could not believe his own eyes. It was very moving”.

Equally touching is the story of the only non-choral group participating in the Festival (from the very outset): the Shtrudl-Band of Lviv. The members cannot afford much, so they travel by bus to each venue to perform their klezmer music. 

In addition to this band, the Estense city will host the Ha-Kol Choir, the Wiener Judischer ChorLes Polyphonies Hebraiques of Strasbourg, the Ensemble Choral Copernic of Paris and The Zemel Choir of London. The Accademia Corale ‘Vittore Veneziani’ of Ferrara will play host and also perform the gala concert on June 30th.

The idea of bringing the Festival to Ferrara, a city with an important Jewish heritage, was proposed to Dr. Di Castro in July 2017 by the Director of MEIS, Simonetta Della Seta: “On November 1st, I received an enthusiastic letter from the President of the EUAJC, Anthony Cohen, with whom Dr. Di Castro had shared my proposal. I spoke with colleagues Marino Pedroni and Dario Favretti, respectively Directors of the Municipal Theatre and Ferrara Musica, who immediately expressed great interest in planning the event for late June 2019. The proposal, now transformed into reality, enables us to welcome the arrival of summer to the tune of Jewish music”.

In addition to the fruitful collaboration with the Municipal Theatre, renewed through this Festival, Dr. Della Seta underscored how the next edition is scheduled for Jerusalem: “This baton is being passed on, sealing the ideal bond between Ferrara and one of the beating hearts of Judaism“.

Also contributing to the Ferrara leg of the Festival is the local Jewish Community. Its president, Fortunato Arbib remarks that “Jewish culture has a tradition of choral expression that goes back thousands of years. Just think of the song of liberation and joy that the Jews intoned after miraculously crossing the Red Sea, as recounted in the Book of Exodus. Or the songs that normally accompany religious rites. The spiritual affinity between Ferrara, music and Judaism is also witnessed by the fact that the city was the birthplace of Vittore Veneziani – Director of La Scala in Milan until the promulgation of the racial laws and later reinstated in that position by Arturo Toscanini after the war. There was also Fidelio Finzi – composer and Director of the Chorus of the Teatro Regio of Parma. He too was banned in 1938”.

The figure of Veneziani is also remembered by Dr. Favretti: “He was the greatest choral conductor of the first half of the 20th century and a great expert in Jewish music, harmonizing the spirituals of Israel while in exile in Roveredo, Switzerland. Indeed, it is also for this reason that I believe the participation of the Accademia Corale founded by him boosts the value of the Festival, making Ferrara its ideal location”. 

Favretti also stresses that Ferrara owes “an enormous debt of gratitude to the local Jewish community and, in particular, to the late Renzo Bonfiglioli. In the ten years, between 1945 and 1955, when the Theater was closed, he acted as an institutional substitute, working with foresight and generosity, promoting seasons of concerts at the highest level and offering – literally, since he paid for it out of his own pocket – the best national and international music of the times. In a very difficult moment in history, Bonfiglioli was able to establish an organizational culture that is still a model for us today”.


The exhibit, curated by Giulio Busi Silvana Greco, addresses one of the key periods in the cultural history of the Italian Peninsula, a time that was decisive in forming the Italian identity. And it reveals a completely original aspect: the presence of the Jews and the fruitful dialog with the Christian majority.

Significant texts written in Hebrew surprisingly appear in such paintings as The Holy Family and the Family of Saint John the Baptist by Andrea Mantegna, the Birth of the Virgin by Vittore Carpaccio and Christ Disputing with the Doctors in the Temple by Ludovico MazzolinoElijah and Elisha by Sassetta. Even the illuminated Hebrew manuscripts such as the Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides, or Italy’s oldest wooden Holy Ark and the extremely ancient Torah Scroll of Biella, still used today in the synagogal liturgy, bear witness to the fact that, during the Renaissance, the Jews were there, right in the front row, active and enterprising. In Florence, Ferrara, Mantua, Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Naples, Palermo and Rome. At times welcomed and well accepted — and not merely as secondary players, money lenders, doctors and merchants, or the object of prejudice. They were exponents of times encompassing multifaceted experiences, times of meetings and conflicts, times of harmony and harsh clashes 

Wednesday 5 June, 2:00 pm


Day in memory of Gianfranco Moscati, collector of Jewish artefacts and benefactor:

2:00 pm Opening greetings
Dario Disegni, President of MEIS, and Simonetta Della Seta, Director of MEIS

2:30 pm Promotion of the Moscati Collection at MEIS
Sharon Reichel, MEIS curator

3:00 pm The exhibitions
Sara Modena, Associazione Figli della Shoah

3:30 pm Philanthropy
Maria Rosa Teatro, President of Associazione Gioco Immagine e Parole

4:00 pm Gianfranco Moscati, the man
Gabriella Steindler Moscati, Gianfranco Moscati’s wife

Thursday, June 6th – 6:30 pm


MEIS and the “G. Frescobaldi” Conservatory of Ferrara present the concert:

Volò nei tuoi begl’occhi
Alma de l’alma mia Vo’
fuggir lontan da te
from Madrigals for two voices opus XIII

Sonata È tanto tempo hormai
from Miscellaneous Sonatas book IV

Temer, donna, non dei
Messaggier di speranza
Poiché “mori” dicesti
from Madrigals for two voices opus XIII

Sonata entitled La scatola
from Miscellaneous Sonatas book IV

Lamnatseah, ‘al hashemit
Shir hamma’alot
from the The Songs of Solomon

Sonata Sopra la Bergamasca
from Miscellaneous Sonatas book IV

Mirate che mi fa crudel amore
Se gli amorosi sguardi Spazziam
pronte (ballet)
from Songs for 3 voices, Book I

Renaissance Ensemble – Conservatory of Ferrara
Sopranos: Alice Fraccari, Maura Marongiu, Naoko Tanigaki
Tenor: Giovanni Biswas
Basso: Niccolò Roda
Renaissance flutes: Gianni Lazzari, Laura Pontecorvo
Viola da gamba: Luca Piccini
Harpsichord: Marina Scaioli

Thursday, June 13th – 6:00 pm


The historian Giacomo Todeschini presents his work on the role the Jews played in Medieval Italy (Carocci editore, Milan, 2018).
Introduced by the Director of MEIS, Simonetta Della Seta, Todeschini dialogues with Anna Esposito, professor of Medieval History at Sapienza University of Rome.
If, from the fourth to the eleventh century, despite controversies regarding conversions, the Jews were indeed one of the groups comprising the complex, multi-centric reality that was Italy from the twelfth century to the end of the Middle Ages, this relative normalcy gradually morphed into a minority condition.
Historiography has represented Italian Jews, above all, as specialized in interest-bearing loans and public usury, but, prior to the Christianization of the peninsula, they actually worked in numerous professions and yielded an intense production of cultural, literary and legal works.
The Jewish component of Italian society, therefore, spent the ten centuries of the Middle Ages interacting with the Christian majority and the élite of society in an ever-changing relationship. And reconstructing the history of the Jews of those times means reconstructing a piece of Italian history

Tuesday, June 18th – 6:00 pm

NESSUNO SA DI LUI. Carlo Pitti, il vero artefice del ghetto ebraico di Firenze – free admission

Ippolita Morgese introduces Nessuno sa di lui (Le Lettere, Bagno a Ripoli, 2018) which reads like a novel, recounting the public and private story of Carlo Pitti, the magistrate entrusted with establishing the Jewish ghetto in Florence (1571). 
Introduced by the Director of MEIS, Simonetta Della Seta, the author dialogues with the poet and literary critic Alba Donati.
Thanks to the discovery of Pitti’s private archive, Morgese reconstructs the milieu of those times, the practices, family traditions and customs of life in the second half of the sixteenth century, the time that marked the end of the long Florentine Renaissance. The book written by the archivist and paleographer is a docu-fiction full of unpublished data, intrigues, settings and authentic anecdotes about a key mover and shaker in Medici-dominated Florence

Thursday and Friday afternoon, June 27th and 28th


On the occasion of the Festival, being held in Ferrara for the first time, the MEIS hosts a performance by the 40-member Vienna Jewish Choir, the 23-member Ensemble Choral Chopernic of Paris, 35-member Les Polyphonies Hebraiques de Strasbourg, 46-member Zemel Choir of London, 20-member Coro Ha-Kol of Rome and the 14 musicians of the Shtrudl – Band of Lviv.
The event is organized in collaboration with the “Claudio Abbado” Municipal Theater of Ferrara, where the choirs will hold evening concerts from the 27th to the 30th of June.
The Festival is sponsored by the City of Ferrara, Ferrara Musica, the Jewish Community of Ferrara, the Daniela Di Castro Association and Associazione Circolo Negozianti Palazzo Roverella

Thursday, July 11th – 6:00 pm

MANTOVA E GERUSALEMME. Arte e cultura ebraica nella città dei Gonzaga – free admission

Andreina Contessa, Director of Museo Storico e Parco del Castello di Miramare, presents her work, edited by Giuntina (Florence, 2017).
For nearly eight years, chief curator of the U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art in Jerusalem, Dr. Countess tells a brief history of the Judaism of Mantua through its artistic production and ancient sacred objects, now largely scattered throughout the world.
Following one of the world’s oldest Holy Arks on its travels from Mantua to Jerusalem, the author reveals the history of the Mantuan Jewish community, opening up unexpected horizons for Jewish artistic patronage in Italy, particularly for women. Following in the footsteps of the donor of this ark, she explores the stories of all Mantuan arks today found in Jerusalem.
In the appendix, a selection of the objects, documents and posters sheds new light on the Jewish way of life in the city of the Gonzaga, home of one of the most animated, most glorious Jewish communities of Renaissance Europe.
Conversations between Dr. Contessa and the Director of MEIS, Simonetta Della Seta

Thursday, 25 July – 5:00 pm


Interactive workshop with three descendants of the  Abravanel family – Daniela from Mexico, Michela from Trieste and Nicole from Paris – who gather in Ferrara to talk about cabala, science, poetry and music.
Afterwards, a special performance by actress and singer Evelina Meghnagi dedicated to Dona Gracia Nasi: one of the most powerful Jewish women of the Renaissance, she managed to have her way with the Inquisition, cope with the friendly fire of family intrigue and establish herself as a successful entrepreneur, social philanthropist and cultural promoter, without ever abdicating her deep roots founded in Judaism

Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah – MEISHOP (Via Piangipane, 81 – Ferrara)


9:30 a.m. Gabriella Steindler MoscatiLa mia vita incisa nell’arte. Una biografia di Emma Dessau Goitein (Mimesis, Milan, 2018). The author speaks with the art historian Martina Corgnati

10:15 a.m. Marcella FilippaRita Levi Montalcini. La signora delle cellule (Pacini Fazzi, Lucca, 2018). The author speaks with the geneticist and writer Guido Barbujani

11:00 a.m. Marta NicoloUn impegno controcorrente: Umberto Terracini e gli ebrei, 1945-1983 (Zamorani, Torino, 2018). The author speaks with Fausto Ciuffi, Director of Fondazione Villa Emma

Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah – MEISHOP (Via Piangipane, 81 – Ferrara)

TWO LITERARY CASES – free admission

11:30 a.m. Giovanni GrassoIl caso Kaufmann (Rizzoli, Milano, 2019). The author speaks with the historian Anna Foa

12:30 a.m. Alain ElkannAnita (Bompiani, Milan, 2019). The author speaks with the art critic Vittorio Sgarbi

Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah – Garden of Questions (Via Piangipane, 81 – Ferrara)

3:30 p.m. FORBIDDEN BOOKS – free admission

Inauguration of the work by artist Manlio Geraci, curated by Ermanno Tedeschi: 774 burned books represent the 774 deportees who left for to Auschwitz with on the first train that left from track 21 of Milan Central Station

Municipal Theater of Ferrara (Corso Martiri della Libertà, 5)


Conversation with Simonetta Della Seta, Director of MEIS

The Israeli author reveals how his characters are shaped by the Hebrew language (interview in English with translation)

Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah (Via Piangipane, 81 – Ferrara)

MUSEUM OPEN NON-STOP 9:00 a.m.– 6:00 p.m.

On the occasion of the Jewish Book Festival, MEIS will be open from 9:00 a.m.to 6:00 p.m. with the exhibit The Renaissance Speaks Hebrew and the permanent exhibit Jews, an Italian story. The first thousand years, the multimedia show Through the Eyes of the Italian Jews, which provides an introduction to the themes dealt with by MEIS, the totems in The Realm of Questions, the Garden of Questions — that help one understand kasherut, the Jewish dietary laws — and the docufilm We were Italians, presenting testimony from survivors of the Shoah

The Jewish Book Festival is organized in collaboration with the Municipal Theater of Ferrara and under the patronage of the Emilia-Romagna Region, the Municipality of Ferrara, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and the Jewish Community of Ferrara

From 12th April to 15th September MEIS hosts the exhibit The Renaissance Speaks Hebrew, by Giulio Busi and Silvana Greco.

The exhibit addresses one of the key periods in the cultural history of the Italian Peninsula, a time that was decisive in forming the Italian identity. It also reveals a completely original aspect: the presence of the Jews and the fruitful dialogue with the Christian culture of the majority.

On display are such paintings as The Holy Family and the Family of Saint John the Baptist (1504-1506) by Andrea Mantegna, the Birth of the Virgin (1502-1507) by Vittore Carpaccio, Christ Disputing with the Doctors in the Temple (1519-1525) by Ludovico Mazzolino and Elijah and Elisha by Stefano di Giovanni di Consolo, known as Sassetta, surprisingly all of which feature significant texts written in Hebrew. There are illuminated Hebrew manuscripts in the rich Renaissance style, such as The Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides (1349), purchased by the Italian State less than a year ago. There is also Italy’s oldest wooden Holy Ark, which has returned for the first time from Paris, and the Torah Scroll of Biella, a very ancient parchment of the Jewish Bible, still used today in the synagogal liturgy.

During the Renaissance, the Jews were there, right in the front row, active and enterprising. They were in Florence, Ferrara, Mantua, Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Naples, Palermo and obviously Rome. At times welcomed and well accepted as moneylenders, doctors and merchants, and not merely as secondary players, or the object of prejudice. They were exponents of times encompassing multifaceted experiences; meetings and conflicts, harmony and harsh clashes. For the first time, MEIS tells the story of this rich, complex encounter, thanks also to the enticing background scenery conceived by the designers at Studio GTRF Giovanni Tortelli Roberto Frassoni.

Retracing such an interweaving of mutual experiences means, first of all, recognizing the debt Italian culture owes to Judaism and exploring the Jewish premises for Renaissance civilization. It also means admitting that this interpenetration has not always been synonymous with harmony, nor with undramatic acceptance. Indeed, it has led to intolerance, contradictions, social exclusion and violence against the Jewish group, engaged in the difficult task of defending its specific identity.

With this new narrative, the Museo Nazionale dell’Ebraismo Italiano e della Shoah in Ferrara takes a crucial step forward in its offering to the general public. Not only because the exhibit adds a further chapter to the story of Italian Judaism (after the exhibit on the first thousand years, which has now been transformed into the first part of the permanent exhibit), but also because this new section touches the heart of the MEIS mission: to bear witness to the complex, but possible dialogue — at times fruitful, though not without moments of ambiguity — between minority and majority. This is a precious lesson that Italy reaps from its history, and offers to the present, to a Europe that is increasingly multicultural and called upon to question itself and its roots.

The Renaissance speaks Hebrew was honored with the Medal of the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella, an award for national representation.

The exhibition is organized by MEIS, with the patronage of the Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities, the Emilia-Romagna Region, the Municipality of Ferrara, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities – UCEI and the Jewish Community of Ferrara.

Sponsors: Intesa Sanpaolo, Fondazione Ebraica Marchese Cav. Guglielmo De Levy, TPER, Leonardo, Coop Alleanza 3.0, Bonifiche Ferraresi.

We thank Ambassador Giulio Prigioni for his generous contribution in memory of his daughter Francesca.

Thanks go to Alessandro Treves for supporting the restoration of the Holy Ark and pulpit.

Thanks to the Norsa Pesaro family.

We thank Assicurazioni Generali for its organizational collaboration.

Hours: April 12, 2019 – September 15, 2019, Tuesday through Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. The same hours apply for the bookshop and the educational suites. Schedule of special openings and closings are available at meis.museum.

General admission: €10.00; Discounted admission: €8.00 (children 6-18 years old, university students, MyFE Card holders); Groups of a minimum of 15 people: €6.00 (one free admission for every 20 paying visitors); Families composed of at least 1 adult and 1 child between the ages of 6 and 14: €6.00; Universities and schools (minimum 15 people, from Monday through Friday): €5.00 (2 free admissions for persons/teachers accompanying each group); Free admission: children under the age of 6, persons with 100% disability and the person accompanying them, card-carrying journalists and tour guides, ICOM members and uniformed military personnel.

The ticket is valid for the entire museum (exhibits on the first thousand years of Italian Judaism and the Renaissance), the multimedia show Through the Eyes of the Italian Jews, for the Space for Questions, the Garden of Questions and the docufilm We were Italians about Italian survivors of the Holocaust. Further details on rates and guided tours are available at meis.museum.

Bilingual catalogue Silvana Editoriale.

“The most important fight, today, is the one against the distortion of the Holocaust, or the invention of a not true past. Many countries compete to tell us how much they fought against the Nazis, but in those same countries there were many collaborators. The extermination of the Jews, it is true, was conceived by Germany, but without the collaboration of so many forces in the occupied countries, it would not have been entirely possible. Without them, the Shoah, this species of Everest, of unprecedented tragedy, would not have been there. IHRA has a huge responsibility to watch over protecting that historical truth”.

With these words historian Yehuda Bauer, the maximum world expert on Holocaust, opened the last day of the four days plenary held by IHRA in Ferrara, the second organized by the Italian chairmanship. And his words enclose IHRA’s mission.

Three hundred delegates from more than forty states, historians, representatives of governments, ambassadors, heads of Holocaust Museums from all over the world, representatives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and directors of many national Centers of Contemporary History have arrived in Ferrara thanks to the initiatives of the National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah, a place with a narrative centered on the value of life and on human rights. A Museum that delegates visited with great interest during the plenary.

MEIS also actively took part in the work of the assembly, in particular in the Memorials and Museums Working Group through its Director, Simonetta Della Seta, in the role of Head of the Italian delegation.

In the organization of the event, with the summits that went along with some significant collateral events – from the visit to the concentration camp in Fossoli and the Museum to Deported in Carpi to the world premiere of the documentary by Ruggero Gabbai “We were Italians” – the Municipality of Ferrara played a fundamental role. “Mayor Tagliani and the City Council – underlined Della Seta – have believed since the beginning in this international opportunity offered to the city and have made available to the IHRA the beautiful halls of the Residenza Comunale, the Castello Estense with the Imbarcaderi, until the grand finale in a Teatro Comunale that has been re-organized for the occasion. All delegates were thrilled to work in such great settings”. “Now Ferrara has 300 prominent ambassadors all over the world” – commented Ambassador Sandro De Bernardin, IHRA Chair during the year of the Italian Presidency.

A contagious enthusiasm that has touched also the almost four hundred students of the Institute of Higher Education “Orio Vergani”, engaged in an unprecedented challenge: preparing and serving an entirely kosher dinner to the IHRA guests under the guidance of chef Laura Ravaioli, reviving traditional Jewish recipes, including some left by deported women. A dinner of great importance and impossible to forget, as pointed out by President of MEIS, Dario Disegni, who attended the gala event together with Prefect Michele Campanaro and other authorities.

During the closing plenary meeting at the Theater there has been an ovation to the host city and to the MEIS, and two important announcements: the EU has become a permanent partner of the IHRA, officially adhering to its mission, and Bulgaria has been accepted as full member of the Alliance, becoming the thirty second country engaged in fighting anti semitism within IHRA.

During the year of the Italian presidency, the city of Ferrara is hosting the second annual plenary assembly of the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), from the 27 to the 29 of November.

The intergovernmental organization is formed by the delegation of 31 member countries as well as several observers and international partners. IHRA’s purpose is to transmit the remembrance of the Shoah, particularly through the encouragement of historical research, preservation of testimonies and sites at risk, and the education of younger generations, in compliance with the Stockholm Declaration.

The main targets of the plenary assembly are diplomacy, education, remembrance and study of the holocaust, to tackle the comeback of anti-Semitism and racism.

About 250 delegates are going to take part in the three-day event. They are appointed by their respective governments and come from 43 countries. The assembly is going to take place in the historical halls provided by the municipality of Ferrara.

The event will be behind closed doors and is managed by IHRA’s Permanent Office, situated in Berlin, and by the Italian Ministry of Education, in cooperation with the municipality of Ferrara and the coordination of the MEIS (National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah).

Before the assembly the Memorial Museums working group is supposed to visit the Fossoli concentration camp and the Carpi Museum of Deportation. Between the events in honor of the delegates is the Italian Jewish choir Ha-Kol’s concert (with the support of the Jewish Community of Ferrara), the world premiere screening of the documentary film “Eravamo italiani” by Ruggero Gabbai, which includes the Italian survivors’ testimonies in the concentration camps, and the visit to the MEIS.

As a homage to the plenary assembly’s delegates, their meals are completely kosher thanks to an unexpected “brigade de cuisine” handled by the MEIS. Mashgiach Rabbi Tomer Corinaldi verifies the observance of the Jewish dietary rules (the kashrut), with the supervision of Rav Luciano Meir Caro, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Ferrara. The cooks are going to be Chef Laura Ravaioli, who has been the face of the Gambero Rosso Channel for twenty years and is one of the most beloved chefs of the small screen, and Chef Liborio Trotta, from the “Orio Vergani” High School in Ferrara, offering the kitchens and the help of nearly 500 students.

Sunday, 25 November, MEIS and the Teatro Comunale organize a talk with Roberto Casarotto on “Dance in Jewish Culture“, taking advantage of the presence in Ferrara of the Batsheva Dance Company, and within this year’s dance season. 

Casarotto has been project director for the Center for Contemporary Scene in Bassano del Grappa and for Operaestate Festival Veneto. He is involved in several international projects, developing initiatives that support artistic research, mobility and development in the field of dance. From 2015 to 2017 Casarotto has been artistic director for the Ballet of Rome.

Simonetta Della Seta, MEIS Director, will be in conversation with him at 11.00 am, in the MEISHOP of Via Piangipane 81. Free entry.

On the very same day at 6.00 pm at the Teatro Comunale “Claudio Abbado” (Corso Martiri della Libertà 5), the Batsheva Dance Company, the company founded by Martha Graham and Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild in 1964 and today considered one of the most important contemporary dance ensembles in the world, will be on stage with “Last Work” to mark its debut in Ferrara.

Ohad Naharin creation, with the original music by Grischa Lichtenberger, will be presented as a national exclusive, with the support of MEIS and “Israel 70. Celebrating innovation”. 

The pièce is precise, delicate, calligraphic. In a crescendo without interruptions, it explores movement as the most human and moving performing art. In the distance, a woman runs on a treadmill and her non-stop run traces the timeline of the repeating story. The images generated by the eighteen dancers are powerful and destined to remain etched forever in the public’s memory.

For information on tickets, click here.

Saturday 3 November, at 9.00 pm, at Cinema Santo Spirito (Via della Resistenza 7, Ferrara), screening of “1938 – When we discovered we were no longer Italian”, the documentary film by Pietro Suber that MEIS presents and sponsors on the occasion of 80th anniversary of the promulgation of the racial laws.

The event is organized in collaboration with Istituto Luce, producer of the film, and with the Institute of Contemporary History of Ferrara (ISCO).

Dialogue with the director and Cesare Finzi, from Ferrara, one of the witnesses who appear in the film, presented by Anna Maria Quarzi, ISCO Director.

The documentary goes through the events that led from the anti-Jewish laws to the deportation (1943-1945) through five stories told largely by their direct protagonists. Thus we meet a family of fascist Jews (the Ovazza), massacred on Lake Maggiore in the autumn of 1943, a Jew from the ghetto of Rome, ‘Moretto’, who decided to fight against the persecution and managed to save himself by flirting with the niece of a fascist collaborator. Then Franco Schonheit and his parents, from Ferrara, all survivors of the Nazi death camps, a Jew from Fiume who escaped death by hiding in the home of a Vatican engraver, up to a family of alleged fascist delactors.

Therefore, it is not just the victims and those who have been persecuted who speak, but also the persecutors. With them other witnesses: that overwhelming majority of Italians who did not adhere to the racial laws but did not oppose them either.

The story proceeds also through archival images and public and private period documents, to end on what remains today of one of the most obscure periods in recent Italian history.

Pietro Suber

Journalist and documentary maker. After working for many years at “Matrix” (Mediaset), he is currently the author and editor-in-chief of “Viva l’Italia” (Mediaset), conducted by Gerardo Greco. He began his career with Rai Tre (“Un giorno in pretura” and “Samarcanda”), Rai Uno (for the programs by Sergio Zavoli) and writing for la Repubblica and Il Messaggero. Within Rai and Mediaset he has been involved in judicial and mafia news for many years. For “Moby Dick” (Mediaset), by Michele Santoro, he’s followed the conflict in Kosovo in ’99. Later he’s been on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Ukraine (for Tg5). In 2004 he published Inviato di guerra. Verità e menzogne for Laterza on the manipulation of information during war times. In 2007 he won the Saint Vincent award with a report on sex change in Iran.

He has won the Ilaria Alpi award three times, the last in 2008 with a documentary on the economic crisis and the boom of psychoanalysis in Argentina. The latest documentaries (“Meditate that this has been”, “1938 – When we discovered we were no longer Italian”) are about the Shoah and the racial laws. Since 2013 he is vice-president of the Carta di Roma Association, which deals with the relationship between Italian media and immigration.

“Excuse me, could you tell us where the Finzi-Contini garden is?”. This is perhaps the question most frequently asked by tourists wandering around Ferrara. And it is always regrettable to answer that such a fascinating and enigmatic place, so lively in the novel by Giorgio Bassani and in the Oscar-winning film by Vittorio De Sica does not really exist. Nor were real the voices, tennis games, bike rides, rare trees and flowers, impossible loves and lives interrupted by the racial laws.

A casual meeting with a group of tourists, in fact, inspired the world-famous artist Dani Karavan to give the consistency to a garden living only in literary and film fiction. His project is at the center of the exhibition “The Garden that doesn’t exist” opening at the National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah – MEIS in Via Piangipane 81, in Ferrara, on October 31st.

“I first came to Ferrara in 1956 to see the frescoes by Francesco del Cossa and Cosmé Tura – says Karavan – and I fell in love with the city. I have been back many times and in the ’80s I met Paolo Ravenna with whom there has been an immediate friendship. Thanks to him I discovered Jewish Ferrara and Giorgio Bassani. The idea of “The Garden that doesn’t exist” came when I saw a group of Americans looking for the Finzi-Contini garden behind a wall in Corso Ercole I d’Este, without finding anything. I asked Paolo and he told me that the garden was the result of the writer’s imagination”.

“Why, then, not to create just in that wall an entrance into the void, into the garden that is not there? A suggestion, gradually clarified, outlined, populated with objects in my mind. So the railway has the dual function of physically accessing that place, now no longer just mental, and to remind the tragic fate of the many Italian Jewish families who by train where deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. There will be a bicycle“, a reference to Bassani and his friends – explains Karavan – going around Ferrara on their bikes, just like his alter ego Giorgio and the other boys and girls in the book. A ladder alludes to Giorgio’s desire to climb beyond the wall of the Finzi-Contini property to meet with Micol, the young and elegant woman he had fallen in love with when he was still a child. Facing it, a glass wall will show several extracts from the pages in which Bassani describes the garden, in all the languages in which his novel has been translated.

In the layout designed by Noa Karavan, alongside the model and various installation materials designed by her father Dani for Corso Ercole I d’Este, there are the original manuscript of “Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini” (courtesy of the Municipality of Ferrara) and an itinerary through some of the more than fifty site specific works signed by the Israeli sculptor around the world: the Sinti and Roma memorial in Berlin, the walk about human rights in Nuremberg, the homage to Walter Benjamin in Portbou and the monument to the desert in the Negev.

“I am happy and honored to present “The Garden that doesn’t exist” along with my other works at MEIS – concludes the eighty-eight years old Karavan – I find it very appropriate to illustrate my project here, in the building where Bassani was detained under the Fascist regime. I feel this work as an authentic need that comes from the depths of myself and I can not wait to see it in Ferrara”.

The exhibition is open until February 10, 2019, from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

For information about the ticketsplease click here.

“The Garden that doesn’t exist” is sponsored by the Emilia-Romagna Region and the Municipality of Ferrara, with the support of “BASSANI 1916-2016” National Committee for the celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Giorgio Bassani, Coop Alleanza 3.0Ferrara ArteFER and Italia Nostra – Section of Ferrara. Thanks to the Centro Studi Bassaniani and the Fondazione Giorgio Bassani.

Bilingual catalog, in Italian and English. 

“Ad Alta Voce”,the festival organized by Coop Alleanza 3.0, takes place every year in symbolic places, urban spaces to meet and confront the voices and thoughts of contemporary authors.

The theme of the 2018 edition is “Origins”. Friday, October 26, at 10.30, the theologian Vito Mancuso, the physicist Alessandro Treves and the psychologist and scholar of Cabalà Daniela Abravanel will dialogue on “The origins of life. Meeting between science and religious cultures“, introduced by Simonetta Della Seta, Director of the Museum. Lia Levi will read some passages taken from the “Genesis” and from her latest book “Questa sera è già domani”, winner of the V Premio Strega Giovani. Musical accompaniment by the Organic Trio (Massimo Mantovani on keyboards, Roberto Formignani on guitar and Roberto Poltronieri on drums).

Admission is free, but places are limited: to reserve yours, please click here.

Since 2001 “Ad Alta Voce” has involved about seven hundred authors and witnesses of civil commitment. It was born to take the reading outside the houses and propose it in the streets, in the squares, in the soup kitchens, in laundries and fish shops, in the places of solidarity and debate, in prisons and supermarkets, in theaters and in large arenas. Because a thinking community is an incubator of ideas, which confronts and enriches the ever-changing society.

“Fascism can still return, in disguise. Our duty is to unmask it and to single out every new form. Every day, everywhere in the world” (Umberto Eco)

On the 75th anniversary of the raid of Roman Jews and 80 years after the promulgation of the racial laws, the National Museum of Italian Judaism and Shoah – MEIS, in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary History of Ferrara, presents the documentary “1938 DIVERSI” directed by Giorgio Treves.

Monday, October 15 it will be screened for schools and on Tuesday 16 in the evening at 9.00 pm another screening has been organized for the general public at the presence of the director. Both events will take place at Cinema Boldini (Via Previati 18, Ferrara). 

The film has been presented in the Official Selection – Out of Competition at the 75th Venice Film Festival, where it obtained a Special Mention at the HRNs Award – Special Award for Human Rights.

Eighty years ago, Italians have been pushed by fascist propaganda and with the promulgation of anti-Semitic laws to persecute of a minority attested in the country for centuries. Five years later, on Saturday, October 16th, 1943, the SS Captain Theodor Dannecker led the raid of 365 German soldiers into Jewish homes in Rome, which the racial laws had had helped to identify. 1,259 people have been arrested. 237 have been released while the other 1,022 have been deported to Auschwitz in cattle wagons. Only 16 returned home.

How was this possible? And how much do we know about it today? The documentary by Giorgio Treves, as the director himself will explain during both events in Ferrara, describes what impact the implementation of those laws had on the daily life of Italian Jews. A shameful page in our recent history in the voice of some direct witnesses and in the reconstruction, in animation, of several episodes of discrimination and humiliation that really happened.

The film focuses on the subtle mechanisms of persuasion put in place by fascism thanks to the effective and pervasive action of the Ministry of Popular Culture (MinCulPop). It shows the articles, cartoons, comics and movies with which, within a few months, the label stuck to the Jews changed from ‘different’ to ‘enemies of the nation’, and thanks to the contribution of historians, sociologists and communication experts it re-reads those events in the light of the decisive role played by mass media.

In both events, MEIS Director Simonetta della Seta and ISCO Director Anna Maria Quarzi will introduce Treves’ work.


“1938 DIVERSI” is produced by Tangram Film of Roberto and Carolina Levi in collaboration with Sky Arte, AB thémateques pour toute l’histoire, with the support of Film Commission Torino Piemonte – Piedmont Doc Film Fund, MiBACT, in collaboration with AAMOD.

Distribution: Cinematographic Mariposa.

Directed by Giorgio Treves, from an idea by Roberto Levi and Giorgio Treves, written by Luca Scivoletto and Giorgio Treves.

With Roberto Herlitzka, Stefania Rocca, Alessandro Federico. And with Mario Avagliano, Roberto Bassi, Luciana Castellina, Alberto Cavaglion, Rosetta Loy, Sergio Luzzatto, Edoardo Novelli, Marcello Pezzetti, Liliana Picciotto, Michele Sarfatti, Bruno Segre, Liliana Segre, Alessandro Treves, Walter Veltroni and Aldo Zargani.

The trailer is available at this link: https://vimeo.com/287428178.


Giorgio Treves was born on May 3, 1945 in New York, where his family had to escape from racial persecution. After graduating in Economics and Businnes at the University of Turin, he moved to Rome to begin his cinematographic activity. Assistant director with Vittorio De Sica, Francesco Rosi and Luchino Visconti, he has written screenplays and a book and he works both in cinema and with tv and theatre. His debut was in 1972 with the short film K-Z. The first feature “La coda del diavolo” (The Devil’s Tail) earned him a David di Donatello award in 1987 as best debut director. Based on screenplay “L’attesa” – written with Remo Binosi and winner of the Performing Arts Award – in 2000 he directed “Rosa e Cornelia”, starring Chiara Muti, Stefania Rocca and Athina Cenci, that won him two Grolle d’Oro. In 1999 he was Artistic Director of the Asti Teatro 21 Festival and has been invited to be in the juries of international film and television festivals.

Monday, October 15, at 17.30, the National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah – MEIS welcomes the thirty-second edition of “Spirit of Assisi”, born in 1986 thanks to the Community of Sant’Egidio.

As part of the “Ponti di Pace” international event, the meeting “The new frontiers of Jewish-Christian dialogue” is held at MEISHOP (Via Piangipane 81, in Ferrara).

After a greeting speech by Simonetta Della Seta, MEIS Director, and by rav Luciano Meir Caro, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Ferrara, rabbi Avichai Apel (Germany) and rav Daniel Sperber (Bar Ilan University, Israel), the Lutheran Bishop Jürgen Johannesdotter (Germany), the Catholic Bishop Michel Santier (France) and Oded Wiener, former General Director of the Great Rabbinate of Israel. Chairperson will be Piero Stefani, President of the SAE – Ecumenical Activities Secretariat.

Free entry. For further information, please click here.

On Sunday, October 14, on the occasion of the 19th European Day of Jewish Culture, the Jewish Community of Ferrara, in collaboration with the MEIS, offers a rich program of initiatives inspired by the theme for 2018: “Storytelling“. A reference to the very origins of Judaism, that root into the ‘stories’ narrated in the Torah, the Hebrew Bible, heritage for the whole humankind.

The EDJC – born in 2000 to make known traditions and customs, synagogues, museums, historical, artistic and architectural heritage of European Jewry – is coordinated by the AEPJ, the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage. Twenty-eight countries will participate this year and for Italy the promoter is the Union of Italian Jewish Communities – UCEI, with the aim to spred the knowledge of history, traditions and culture of the Jewish minority, attested in the Peninsula for over two thousand years. Eighty-seven locations have answered the call, involving fifteen regions, with Genoa as leader city.

In Ferrara, the events will take place at the MEISHOP in Via Piangipane 81, with an interweaving of brief narrations on some central figures of Ferrarese Judaism, followed by a concert and a conference. Free guided tours to the Ghetto and the Jewish Cemetery are also scheduled, in the afternoon.


9.30 am – The authorities will welcome the public, followed by an introduction by Marcella Hannà Ravenna, coordinator of the event.

10 am until 1 pm – Dona Gracia Mendes (Lisbon 1510-Constantinople 1569), influential and enterprising business woman, in the portrait of Luciana RoccasIsaac Lampronti (Ferrara 1679-1756), doctor and talmudist, author of the monumental talmudic encyclopedia “Il Timore di Isacco”, outlined by Massimo Acanfora Torrefranca, while Andrea Pesaro will focus on the eclectic figure of Abraham Colorni, military engineer, architect and inventor in the Renaissance courts of Mantua and Ferrara in the XVI century.

Felice Ravenna (Ferrara 1869-1937), lawyer, founder of the Italian Zionist Federation, former President of the Jewish Community of Ferrara and of the UCEI, is the center of the intervention of Jardena Tedeschi, while Marco Contini will narrate the personality of his ancestor Ciro Contini (Ferrara 1873-Los Angeles 1952), engineer and town planner, author of the Town Plan and of extension of the Este of the years 1911/1915. Jose Romano Levy will talk about Vittore Veneziani (Ferrara 1878-1958), the most important Italian choir director between the two world wars, Michelle Nahum Sembira will retraces the life of Silvio Magrini (Ferrara 1881-Auschwitz 1944) between science, social interest, agriculture and judaism. Roberta Anau will browse through the pages of her family album focusing on her mother Fernanda, on his uncle Giacomino the poet, and on the many animals that lived in the Anau household.

Ida Ascoli Magrini in Bonfiglioli(Graz 1906-Ferrara 2011), an energetic and cultured woman who passed courage and political passion challenges and storms of the ‘900, will relive in the words of Sabina Fedeli, before a minimalist closing of the morning on Gianfranco Rossi (Ferrara 1931-2000), writer and poet of small things, in the words of Marcella Hannà Ravenna.

2.30 pm – A guided tour of the Ghetto and of the Jewish Cemetery will begin at the MEIS – forty people maximum.

MEISHOP, 5 pm – Popular music and the works by Italian Jewish composers Salomone Rossi and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco performed by soprano Ahava Noham Katzin, accompanied with the guitar by Massimiliano Filippini.

MEISHOP, 6.30 pm – “The Midrash: a Jewish narrative mode” by Luciano Meir Caro, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Ferrara, introduced by Simonetta Della Seta, MEIS Director.

The European Day of Jewish Culture is sponsored by the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities, the Ministry of Education, University and Research, the Department for European Policies of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the National Association Italian Municipalities. It is also recognized by the Council of Europe.

Further materials and information are available on: jewisheritage.orgucei.itfacebook and twitter.

This year the event is devoted to the Twentieth century in Ferrara. For two days – on Saturday 13 from 10:00 am to 6:00 and on Sunday 14 from 2:00 to 6:00 pm – the students from the classes 2D e 2Y of the local “G. Perlasca Comprehensive School” will guide the pubblic to the discovery of the former prison in Via Piangipane. From the history of the building to its transformation into a museum.

“Monumenti Aperti” is organized by the Cultural Association Ferrara Off, in collaboration with Ferrara Arte Foundation, and is part of “EnERgie Diffuse. Emilia-Romagna heritage of culture and humanity“,Regional initiative to celebrate the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018, and part of the week of culture promotion in Emilia-Romagna.

Admission is free. For more information, click here.

“And in the succoth (huts) you will reside for seven days” (Leviticus, 23:42).

Succot, Feast of Tabernacles or Huts, marks a week of pure joy in the Jewish calendar. It begins on the 15th of the month of Tishri, 5 days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and belongs to the Cycle of Solemn Festivals with which the Hebrew year begins. Chag HaSuccot, which began this year on the evening of Sunday 23rd September, together with Pesach (Easter) and Shavuot (Pentecost) is one of the three holidays of pilgrimage.

Succot is also called Zman Simchatenu, or ‘the Time of our Joy’: the joy of not having anything else apart the warmth of friendship, the smile of hospitality, the trust in a higher protection. Joy of living in a precarious and temporary home, as is our life. A time of year in which the past is welcomed (according to tradition, every day you are visited in the hut by a different character in Jewish history: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David and Solomon) and are celebrated with confidence the future.

A festival in which different plant species are tossed – palm, myrtle, willow and cedar – to symbolize unity, lightheartedness and bond with nature and the Earth.

The party in which, since biblical times and as told in the Torah, all the nations of the world are protagonists.

MEIS wishes you Chag Succot Sameach, happy Feast of Huts!