Italian Jews launch crowdfunding campaign to save centuries-old books

Many of the books have survived Nazi raids and natural catastrophes. Some 2,000 of them are to be donated to those who pledge at least €200 to the campaign.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
August 19, 2019 16:43
1 minute read.
Books from the collection of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.

Books from the collection of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.. (photo credit: COURTESY OF PAGINE EBRAICHE)

In 1943, when the Nazi Germany occupied Italy and started deporting local Jews to concentration camps, it also plundered gold, art, and historic and cultural artifacts. Among the treasures, the library of the Italian Rabbinical School in Rome was sent to Germany. After the end of the war, the books were retrieved in Frankfurt and returned.

Today, 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 city’s Jewish community was 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 16th and 19th 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,” said Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni.

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

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


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