Kulanu’s engagement in Italy is concentrated in the country’s South, where we work with Rabbi Barbara Aiello. Rabbi Barbara has taken it upon herself to educate about the persecution of Jews in Italy’s history, and to try and revitalize Jewish practice there. She compares the historical experiences of some Jewish Italian communities to Anousim or Crypto-Jews (who had to worship in secret) and the Holocaust (persecution).
Who supports the work of Rabbi Aiello in Southern Italy? Support comes largely from donations, the translation of documents, genealogical research for those seeking information on their Sephardic Jewish heritage, historic tours of Sephardic sites in Southern Italy and Bar/Bat Mitzvah and wedding celebrations.
While Italian law stipulates that the government fund all houses of worship, for Jewish communities, this applies ONLY to Orthodox synagogues. For synagogues’ like ours (recognized by the Reconstructionist movement) along with the three Reform communities in Italy, they are totally dependent upon donations for maintenance and support.
What would Rabbi Aiello do with more funds? She would translate Reform Jewish prayer books into Italian. She has permission to do so, but lacks the funds. She would translate study guides and teaching materials into Italian for the teaching and learning of Hebrew. She would rent buses to bring individuals interested in attending her weekend Shabbatons from other villages up the mountain to Serrastretta.
Where does Rabbi Aiello’s greatest support come from? According to Rabbi Aiello, support comes from local Crypto-Jewish individuals and from families who often tiptoe into the synagogue and want to know who they are and where they come from. In addition, it comes from Italian-Americans whose families immigrated to the United States from Calabria and Sicily. These areas were (and still are) the poorest regions of Italy. As a result, the majority of Italian-Americans in the US trace their heritage to Southern Italy. Since both Sicily and Calabria once had a high percentage of Jews, there is a great possibility that many Italian-Americans have Jewish roots.
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- Rabbi Barabara Aiello interviewed on the Sunday Simcha 88.5 WMNF radio show (2019)
- Italian Jewish Diversity: Ruth’s Cup at the Seder Table Rabbi Barbara Aiello (2017)
- Rabbi Barbara Aiello and Southern Italy – A Story of Persistence and Faith Judy Manelis (2013)
- Rabbi Aiello Making a Difference in Italy’s South Karen Primack (2008)
- Sicilian Anous Travels to America Rabbi Barbara Aiello (2007)
- A Time of “Firsts” for South Italy (2007)
Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud “The Eternal Light of the South” Synagogue
village of Serrastretta, region of Calabria
Official language: Italian and English
Local language: Italian
Rabbi Barbara Aiello email Rabbi@RabbiBarbara.com
local telephone: +39 0968 81302
Skype id: rbaiello