by Paolo Castellano
Great success for the morning events of the European Day of Jewish Culture (GECE) which took place on Sunday 10 October at the Central Synagogue of Milan. From 9 in the morning, the participants were able to attend the guided tour of the synagogue curated by Esther Nissim Abdollahi through which they have known and deepened the history of the religious building and the general principles of the Jewish religion.
At the end of Nissim Abdollahi’s speech, the representatives of the Jewish Community of Milan (CEM) took the floor to welcome the participants and guests of the cultural event. The Councilor for Culture Gadi Schoenheit, the president of the CEM Milo Hasbani and the chief rabbi of the Jewish community Rav Alfonso Arbib.
Before the institutional greetings, a virtual connection took place with the Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv, Yael Dayan, to discuss the value of dialogue, the central theme of GECE 2021. Dayan highlighted how Tel Aviv is a progressive and liberal metropolis, underlining how brotherhood is an “essential fact” to create dignity among Israelis.
«One of Tel Aviv’s core values is belonging. A fundamental value for creating a pluralist city that creates solidarity among citizens. Connecting authorities and civil society to reduce feelings of distrust and create strong solidarity, ”Dayan said. The other basic values for promoting dialogue are equality and intersectionality. By the term intersectionality, the Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv meant the effort to guarantee the rights of the majority and minorities, offering involvement and equal opportunities to all Israeli citizens.
Dayan then underlined how much the Tel Aviv municipality is trying to build a dialogue with its residents, to create targeted services with the aim of solving people’s problems. Therefore, it is a form of active citizenship in which you want to build a communication channel with those who make the laws and administer the city. “I myself meet the citizens, and I have a close relationship with the people to understand their problems,” commented the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv.
With the outbreak of the pandemic, digital tools have been implemented to interact with citizens. Due to past health restrictions, the Tel Aviv municipality has organized meetings on Zoom every month to collect requests from Israelis, especially older ones. A real example of “accessibility” and inclusion to be closer to people.
After Dayan’s speech, he took the floor Gadi Schoenheit, Councilor for Culture of the CEM. Schoenheit stressed that “when words run out, violence comes”, quoting the essay Argue in the name of heaven (Guerini and Associates) of Vittorio Robiati Bendaud e Ugo Volli, and specifying the utmost importance of promoting dialogue between different religions and cultures. However, Schoenheit stated that it is not possible to dialogue with everyone. In fact, it is not feasible to try to interact with those who want the destruction of the Jewish people and Israel, as in the case of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas and the Iranian regime. Finally, the Councilor for Culture CEM invited the public not to underestimate recent anti-Semitic statements that have emerged in the Italian political world that deny and insult the memory of the Shoah.
After Schoenheit’s speech, the microphone passed to the Chief Rabbi of Milan, Rav Alfonso Arbib. “For the Jewish tradition, the principle of tolerance it is a fundamental principle. Determine survival. Let us think of the passage from the Torah in which the universal flood is described. In the end, the divine promise is manifested in a rainbow, made up of different colors, a symbol of the coexistence of diversities ». According to Rav Arbib, “the opposite of dialogue is chatter” and “having the right to say everything does not mean speaking necessarily”. Sometimes it is appropriate to remain silent. Speaking without reflecting produces superficiality, slogans and meaningless ideas. Small talk eliminates critical thinking and consequently does not allow you to know others. As the Chief Rabbi pointed out, the Talmud is a demonstration of tolerance and dialogue as it hosts discussions between men, presenting both majority and minority positions. «Dialogue does not mean that everyone agrees. Sometimes, dialogue means going beyond politically correct, to common thinking. It means having the courage to express one’s opinions because only in totalitarianisms do they all agree ”, commented Rav Arbib.
Also the president of the CEM Milo Hasbani he wanted to thank the public who flocked to the Central Synagogue of Milan to participate in the scheduled events. Hasbani recalled the twinning between the Lombard capital and Tel Aviv, and underlined the importance of the initiatives organized with COREIS for the promotion of dialogue between Islamic communities and Jewish communities.
The institutional greetings ended with thanks from Carlo Borghetti, Vice President of the Council of the Lombardy Region, Stefano Bolognini, regional councilor for Metropolitan City Development, Youth and Communication, and the new councilor of the municipal city Daniele Nahum. The latter celebrated the commitment of Roberto Jarach in the management of the Memorial of the Shoah in Milan.