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“C’era una volta il ghetto” event in Berlin

A Berlino l’evento “C’era una volta il ghetto”
A Berlino l’evento “C’era una volta il ghetto”

The Italian Embassy in Berlin hosted the event “C’era una volta il ghetto… itinerari musicali ebraici nell’isola della rugiada divina” (Once Upon a Time in the Ghetto… Jewish Musical Itineraries on the Island of Divine Dew) on the occasion of Remembrance Day. The title refers to the Hebrew “I-tal-yah” or “island of divine dew”, which is what the Jews used to call the Italian peninsula in ancient times.

During the event, singer, composer, psychoanalyst and ethnomusicologist Miriam Meghnagi, born in Tripoli to a family of Sephardic origin and internationally renowned as one of the greatest interpreters of the Jewish musical tradition, gave a performance. By way of a journey through the songs of Jewish tradition, Meghnagi – accompanied by pianist and composer Alessandro Gwis – retraced the centuries-long history of the Jewish community in Italy, offering a musical portrait of cities such as Venice and Rome, where for centuries Jewish communities have lived between integration and confinement – indeed, the “ghetto”, a place created to isolate and to divide, was born in Venice in the 16th century. The performance was also accompanied by an informative talk by Giulio Busi, Full Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at Freie Universität Berlin.

In an ideal change of perspective, this journey amid music and words thus transformed the role and perception of ghettos, which, from places of isolation, have now become the beating heart of many cities. Resorting to different languages and musical traditions, a snapshot of the past and present vitality of Jewish culture in Italy was rendered.

“Celebrating Italian Jewish culture on the occasion of the Day commemorating the extermination perpetrated in the past century is also a way of celebrating the failure of that project, which was put on paper just a few kilometres from this building,” said Ambassador Armando Varricchio in his opening speech. The Ambassador then emphasised the essential contribution made to Italian and German culture by Jewish civilisation: “It is impossible to think of Italian culture without the contribution that numerous Jewish intellectuals, scientists, artists and economists have made to it over the centuries. The same applies to Germany.”

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