Professor Vincenzo Villella – Champion of Calabria’s Jewish Roots
Born in the tiny Calabrian village of Conflenti that, centuries ago was exclusively Jewish, Professor Vincenzo Villella has not only discovered his own deep Jewish roots, but Villella has been influential in helping many others do the same.
Professor Villella combines his formal education in Italian history with his skill as an archivist for the Italian Jewish Cultural Center of Calabria (IjCCC) to assist those who want to understand the connection between their personal family heritage and the rich Jewish traditions found throughout Calabria.
Vincenzo Villella is a gifted author, lecturer and poet whose recent publication, “Camminare Pregando (“Praying While Walking”) offers Villella’s spiritual insights gleaned from long walks in the solitude of the Calabrian mountains.
Villella is an expert in the history of the “Lamentino,” the area that comprises Lamezia Terme where Villella lives with his wife, children and grandchildren. In fact, it is Villella’s love of and respect for the town’s historical Jewish presence that has led him to organize dozens of personalized tours of “Timpone,” Lamezia’s historical Jewish Quarter. Thanks to Professor Villella’s tenacity and personal dedication, “Timpone” has become a historical point of reference for the Jewish history of our area.
Villella is the author of the first book written about the Jews of Calabria (Gli Ebrei della Giudecca di Nicastro 2003) – which was later expanded to include documentation of the rich Jewish heritage hidden in hundreds of mountain villages in the area. The text, “Giudecche di Calabria,“ (The Jewish Quarters of Calabria) was published in 2014 and has been lauded as the most complete and
historically accurate book to document the ancient presence of the Jews who lived, worked and observed their traditions in secret throughout Calabria.
Deeply committed to promoting the Jewish presence in Calabria, Prof. Villella has organized annual events that observe Europe’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. The commemoration is held each year on January 27, the day that marks the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Over the years Villella has worked with local schools and organizations throughout Calabria to not only highlight Calabrian Jewish history but also to “Never Forget.”
Thanks to the perseverance and dedication of Professor Vincenzo Villella, the Italian Jewish Cultural Center of Calabria (I jCCC) continues its mission – helping southern Italian discover and embrace their Jewish roots.