Italian Jews launch crowdfunding campaign to save centuries-old books – Diaspora


Books from the collection of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.

Books from the collection of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities..

In 1943, when the Nazis invaded Italy and started to deport local Jews to the death camps, they also confiscated a large amount of gold, artifacts, and artwork. Among other things, the book collection of the Italian Rabbinical School was sent to Germany. After the end of the war, the books were retrieved in Frankfurt and returned to Rome.

A few decades later, many of those volumes are in desperate need of restoration. For this purpose, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI) has launched a crowdfunding campaign to restore its collection of over 8,000 centuries-old Jewish books.

The collection also includes tomes that were saved during the 1966 flood of Florence. The Jewish community of the city was also profoundly affected by the flood: among others, about 100 Torah scrolls, some of them centuries old, were damaged beyond repair.

“We are speaking about books that date back to a period between the sixteenth and the nineteenth century,” UCEI head librarian Gisèle Lévy told the Italian Jewish newspaper Pagine Ebraiche.

“This collection features many different kinds of books, including books that are absolutely unique such as responsa by Italian Jews, popular editions such as Torah books for students, prayer books and rabbinic literature,” the Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni told Pagine Ebraiche.

The books will be dried, cleaned and dusted and placed back.

Some 2,000 of them are to be donated to those who pledge at least €200 to the campaign.

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