The intervention of the UCEI President: “The common challenge is to renew oneself, preserving roots and values”

We are in the twenty-third year of the Day dedicated to Jewish culture and we are renewing a special event that we care a lot about.
The theme chosen this year, which guides and inspires the events throughout Italy, is that of “renewal”, a word full of meanings that represents a real challenge in this historical period, but also in these specific days. In the programs developed by all the communities and by many associations and adhering bodies it will be declined in all the dimensions of Jewish existence, reflecting our way of placing ourselves as individuals, as a community, as a community. Let’s listen to the words of Naomi Shemer, written in ’84 for the day of the independence of the state of Israel, for the singer Ofra Chaza, which still represent that concept of renewal which they bear the title (Hitchadshut in Hebrew).
After the holidays everything will be renewed,
they will be renewed and will return on weekdays
air, dust, rain and fire,
you too – you will renew yourself

In your garden it blooms suddenly,
in total confusion,
the tree of dreams
the tree of knowledge of good and evil
look at your tools, left in the courtyard,
the hammer, the ladder, the spade

(….)

On a journey that never ends
Between the fields of darkness and the fields of light
There is a path in which you have not passed, and which you will cross
The hourglass, the clock of your life
Report you now
34, 35, 36 …

We are just before the Jewish holidays, in a few days we will celebrate the Jewish New Year and to follow Kippur, sukkot, Simchàt torà… and then? And then what is the long-awaited renewal? That renewal that implies banality of ordinary days not at all obvious? That strength to live everyday life after the protective intensity of the celebrations? That return to the previous life, or that innovation and moral care of which we are called to be architects? Which? And maybe it is the whole of it all?
Ben tells us the other Naomi (who is well acquainted with her hymn for Jerusalem), through the magnificent voice of Ofra Chaza, that renewal is something that requires the ability to discern between good and evil, that it is necessary to do – even material , which indispensably presupposes a median path between darkness and light along a path that is there waiting, that must not be invented, that everything is subject to a passing time, that renewal is anchored to tradition – to our celebrations high and to the period of maximum introspection and responsibility towards the other.
Never as in this period have we realized that humanity is one, fragile and ephemeral, and that every human being is interconnected with the other, living in a world in which the destiny of nations, territories, laboriously constructed unions , of renewable resources, does not depend only on a small circle of people, a single leader in the spaces in which we live together, or invade, but also depending on what any subject says or does, even remotely, on individuals who become significant masses or obedient masses, by the processes through which the rule of law becomes the rule of life. But obviously also from what we do, each of us.
To be able to innovate for good, to renew our relationship lives, even without uttering that ideal and unattainable word “peace”, but to find that path that generates coexistence, it is necessary that our energies are not dedicated to conflict. Because in times of such dramatic events, after more than two years of pandemic and a new war and millions of victims and displaced persons, the boundary between a very strenuous government and management of the complexity of the systems for the benefit of many, and anarchy that at the convenience of few dominate that complexity that has become chaos, it is really very fine. This border is drawn by responsibility and solidarity. Institutional and generational responsibility. In recent years, conflicts and wars have only increased, the economic polarization has increased, the oppositional rather than collaborative dialectic or constructive criticism between political groups devours every means of communication and moment, the recourse to conspiracy theories and anti-scientific impose themselves as determinants of decision-making processes with respect to scientific authority, the blind is faced with the obstacle, international resolutions increasingly selective and inclined, border regimes between democracy and sovereignty have been clearly strengthened. That border line then got even closer. And U.S?
For our part, as a Jewish component of Italian society, we have always given our contribution – in millennia of historical stratification – to renewal understood as requests and cultural contents, elaborating them on the basis of a millenary tradition, principles of sound governance and management of public affairs, respect of the body and life, scientific research in response to the ailments and discomforts of every living being. Defense of the homeland and reconstruction after the rubble. Start of the constitutional project and then convinced participation in the European one.
The challenge of renewal is equally a challenge within our communities and in Italian Judaism. Keep in mind the founding path of the Jewish people – a path that was physically one of renewal with the exit from Egypt and the land of Israel as well as of identity renewal with the bestowal of the commandments and of the entire body of precepts. With the consolidation of the concept of a people called to an existential mission. Accept this role of people who, among the nations of that time – and of today – chose the one Gd and faith. Good and evil, life and blessing, devastation and curse as we have read the long and poetic (or Dante’s to put it in another language) detail just yesterday in Ki Tavò’s parashà, it depends on our choice and will . Free but that does not happen in a vacuum – it takes place in an educational, cultural, religious and leadership context that transmit values ​​- first of all I would like to emphasize those of life and solidarity, hospitality, care for natural resources and a social welfare that does not forget the orphan, the widow and the foreigner. For our communities it is a challenge to restart the cycle of the year marked by anniversaries and celebrations, I also remember wars and exterminations, affirming the life that we have been able to revive despite everything. Renewal that in the last century has involved the reception of new Jewish migrations in Italy (in Rome and Milan in particular), as well as the Zionist movement within our communities with the different phases of alyot. The redefinition of the statutes and the relationship with the Italian institutions through the understanding and role of a party and institutional interlocutor today. To continue that commitment that also concerns the identity that is built through linguistics and the knowledge of Hebrew which over the centuries has been renewed and continues to be so in the forge of the Hebrew language academy and gives us new fruit every day. The new in this whole context of choices indispensably presupposes knowing how to preserve the ancient root, the ancient promise to our patriarchs, the old testament and rabbinic (halachic) ​​references as a reference for every necessary modern construction and solution that the new context poses as ethical and social challenges.
We are also facing an expected renewal of the Italian institutions – parliament and government – which will see the date coincide with the eve of the Jewish New Year. Precisely because of the centuries-old presence of our communities in the Italian reality, we feel all the weight and tension of this upcoming election day. And I also add the grave concern for what we read and hear in these weeks of agreement on the electoral campaign. To the elected officials who will go to govern Italy – the country in which we have millenary roots, of which we proudly sing the anthem and respect its flag – we firmly ask for consistency. Not only the most careful and scrupulous care of the structural and current needs in relation to the economic-financial dimension for the relaunch of the country, energy sustainability and social well-being after years of crisis, but the defense of the founding values. Protection of constitutional structures, strengthening of space and European unity as a path to strengthen Italy itself, addressing the issue of hatred and anti-Semitism in particular in a unitary way. We ask to maintain the Coordination Committee for the fight against anti-Semitism, and to accept and implement the definition of the IHRA, which includes all the dark souls through which anti-Semitism has been renewed.
You do not choose a piece and defend it with a flag of political skill – Israel as a state that has the right to exist, defend itself and generate innovation, religious freedoms, Judaism as an integral part of Italian culture, memory, responsibility of fascism and anti-Jewish persecution are a whole and are not single issues that are proposed as if the rest were superfluous or denied.
As we read the deposited programs and listen to the electoral slogans we realize that this is by no means taken for granted and that political renewal – if based on this isolationist and reductionist approach – risks becoming an abyss. If the value dimension is neglected in the lack of interest or in the consideration of the purely individual good of one or another promise, the renewal runs the risk of rediscovering the horror of which we still bear the indelible mark. The opposite of the word “renewal – Hitchadshu in Hebrew” is “Hityashnut” – literally it means prescription – in an ideal sense also in this today’s reflection that loss of the right, of the opportunity to act in defense of the system that depends precisely on inertia and failure to act.
In the greeting of the new year in Hebrew it is customary to say “shetitchadesh alynu shanà tova umetukà” – that a new and sweet year is renewed for us (literally “about us”), a wish in a reflexive form as if it were the year true protagonist personified in this becoming and we are waiting to receive it. The hope of renewal as a result of the whole year, of the “after the holidays” is a prayer and a wish, making it possible with our actions depends on us already today, already now.
From the Italian Jewish Communities, on the occasion of the European Day of Jewish Culture, just before the holidays, we therefore launch the hope and hope that we can proceed in this direction with all possible determination. Every day an extra stretch of road, passing from the field of darkness to that of light, using our tools of knowledge and know-how, cultivating that tree of dreams and hopes that flourishes alongside that of knowledge with its biblical warning of untouchability and awareness of one’s limit, to pass on to the younger generations the right and necessary witness of life and values, accompanied and supported by a millenary tradition.

Noemi Di Segni, President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities

The intervention of the UCEI President: “The common challenge is to renew oneself, preserving roots and values” – Moked