As the oldest member of Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud — The Eternal Light of Southern Italy, Mario is known to everyone as Zio (Uncle) Mario.
At 84 years old Zio Mario has discovered and embraced his Jewish roots and is now a regular participant in his mountain top congregation made up primarily of B’nei Anusim, or Crypto-Jews who have returned to their ancient Jewish traditions.
Thanks to Kulanu’s efforts the Jewish communities in Italy have been able to receive three donated Torah scrolls – one for Ner Tamid del Sud in Serrastretta, Calabria, the first active synagogue in southern Italy in 500 years since Inquisition times.
Two additional scrolls, which were shipped to Italy thanks to Kulanu donations, will now serve a new chavurah on the island of Sardinia and another in the region of Puglia.
But those in Italy’s remote regions are most grateful for the siddurim (Shabbat prayer books) and machzorim (High Holy Day books) that Kulanu’s investigatore have found via donation and shipped to Italy as well.
Do the books make a difference? Zio Mario says it best when asked about his return to Judaism. “I’m just learning the AlefBet,” he says “but when I see the Hebrew words on the pages, I know I’ve come home.”