For all of us Jews it has been a horrific week. But alongside the tragedy of murdered children, parents and IDF soldiers, I have experienced an unprecedented demonstration of support among the residents not only of my little village of Serrastretta but among local officials who have pledged to increase security for me and for our synagogue, “Ner Tamid del Sud,” (The Eternal Light of South Italy).
In one week’s time the solidarity offered to us by our neighbors, Catholic and secular, has been remarkable.
The week began with an invitation extended by the Minister of Public Safety who asked that I join a specially convened meeting held by officials of the provincial government based in Catanzaro. Their concern was synagogue security and learning more about the Jewish religion so as to broaden their understanding of their Jewish neighbors.
Two days later the captains of the Carabinieri (Italian State Police) of three local jurisdictions asked to meet with me. In addition to noting the dates of our Shabbat services and Jewish festivals, these three military officers asked to tour the synagogue to learn more about the Jewish religion and the activities of our cultural center (IjCCC) as well.
A call from the Calabria Regional television station, Lacnews24 asked for an interview. I was happy to have the opportunity to explain my unequivocal support for Israel and my condemnation of Hamas as a terrorist organization. The link below will take you to the interview, in Italian (that follows 30 seconds of advertising).
When I returned home I found a beautiful letter, from Serrastretta’s soccer club, Club Roma. I was touched that the club officials translated their condolences and support into Hebrew. It has been gratifying to meet friends and neighbors who have taken the time to offer sympathy and solidarity with us, their Jewish neighbors.
The following message, from Judith Yitzach, who spent her first five years at the Ferramonti Camp (Cosenza) where Italian soldiers and local villagers saved the lives of 4,000 Jews. Judith is grateful to the Calabresi who saved her life. She writes:
Dear Rabbi Barbara,
Myself and my family are okay, unhurt, but grieving and deeply worried. This situation is just unbelievable, and who knows what still awaits us. In Israel, being a small country, everybody knows somebody who was personally involved, so the tragedies are widely shared. Thank you for standing with us, I can feel the support and care streaming from your heart directly into mine.
And then there was the young boy, our neighbor, who came to visit me last Sunday to say, “Rabbina, I know this is a very sad day for you.”
Thank you, Serrastretta. Thank you, Calabria.