Memories of Jewish Life: From Italy to Jerusalem, 1918-1960

By Augusto Segre; Steve Siporin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Community and Family Life

OUR SMALL COMMUNITY had a cultural center that sometimes was frequented by non-Jews—when the speaker was well-known and the president was eager to highlight the value and level of our learning through carefully considered invitations to teachers. I vaguely recall speeches given by Umberto Nahon, an activist in the Zionist movement and a contributor to the weekly Israel. These were the first opportunities for us to learn from Felice Ravenna, the president of the Union of the Communities; from Salvatore Foa, a historian specializing in the Piedmontese Communities; and, of course, from fellow townsman Raffaele Foa, always for the French Revolution and a Mazzinian, whatever his subject was; and from my father, mainly on biblical topics and Jewish mysticism. But the monopoly over these gatherings—three or four in the course of a year—was held, naturally, by the president/principal. One year he gave a complete course on Jewish history, organized in a number of lectures. It was a true triumph—according to the opinion the speaker himself expressed to my father. And undoubtedly on that occasion he was able to show off a great deal of learning and a style that was refined and, by and large because of the accent, even Tuscan. It is easy to understand his satisfaction in performing before the entire Community, of giving a demonstration to show that he knew how to give a lecture in a liceo. And that, in fact, was his approach—to consider everyone present as simple students, the head rabbi included.

Once a speaker came to us, and the only thing I remember about him is that he repeatedly interspersed his speech with the words “God wills it!” like a leitmotif. By the third or fourth time we boys began to try to

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