Rome's Jewish Museum expands exhibit

Rome's Jewish Museum reopens Tuesday with new and expanded exhibitions detailing the history and daily life of the oldest Jewish community in Europe. The museum traces the community's two millennia of history through funerary inscriptions of Roman times, precious texts and delicate fabrics from the Middle Ages, and religious artifacts used during the main Jewish festivities. "It's not just a museum of history, but a museum of life," said Roberto Steindler, culture councilman for Rome's Jewish Community. "The objects exhibited here don't stand idle in their glass casings, they are taken out during our holidays, to give more joy and solemnity to the occasion," he said during a presentation of the new museum. Housed on the premises of the main synagogue, the six new halls have more than tripled the space available in a previous exhibit in the same building. Last year the museum welcomed some 65,000 visitors, Director Daniela Di Castro said. "To know Rome you have to come to the Jewish Museum and see testimony of our uninterrupted presence in this city," she said. Jews first came to Rome in the second century B.C., before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The rituals of the local community, unique in the Jewish world, are thought to date back to those ancient days. On display at the museum are centuries-old silverware and textiles used to decorate the Torah scrolls, donated by members of the community despite the poverty of life in the Ghetto - the cramped quarter where Jews were obliged to live in Papal times. The exhibit then takes visitors through the modern tragedies of the community, from documents on the deportations suffered during World War II to the bullet-riddled prayer book that saved the life of its owner during a 1982 Palestinian attack on worshippers exiting the synagogue.
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