ROME — Tullia Zevi, a pillar of Italy's Jewish community and an ardent
anti-fascist who spent the war years in exile in Switzerland, France and the
US, died Saturday. She was 91.
Zevi, the only female president of the
Union of Italian Jewish Communities, died in Rome, current union president Renzo
One of four children of a bourgeois Jewish family, Zevi
was vacationing with her parents in Switzerland in 1938 when Italy passed its
racial laws. The family, known for her father's anti-fascist beliefs, moved to
France and later the US as World War II raged.
She returned to Italy in
1946 and worked as a journalist as well as with various center-left political
In a biographical article she wrote in 1999, Zevi said she
returned because she wanted to help Italy and its Jews rebuild after the
"The horrors of the war had just been discovered; the mass
extermination of the Jews, the gypsies and political opponents, the devastation
of Jewish communities," she wrote.
"It seemed right, having had the
fortune of having survived, to return and participate in the reconstruction of
this traumatized community in chaos, and also to participate in the rebirth of
democracy in Italy following the defeat of fascism." She headed the Union of
Italian Jewish Communities from 1983-1998, and even after that remained active
in the Jewish community, frequently commenting in the media about Jewish-Vatican
relations in particular.
In 1992, she was awarded Italy's highest
civilian honor, news reports said.
"We recall her profound and dignified
interventions that she made in defense of the Jews and all minorities," Gattegna
said in a statement.
Her husband Bruno Zevi, an architect, Jewish leader
and member of Italy's clandestine Justice and Liberty movement while fascists
held power, died in 2000. They had two children.