Finally Blows Some Cheerful Breeze

—–A Walking Tour of Jewish Community in Milan

—– by: lunaviola

A race of people that never has their own piece of dwelling land with a continuous wondering gypsy life….. All scenes sound perfect for a romantic film, but a real life without root like this could not be so romantic, at all…… but rather, is destined and doomed to be drifting, unstable, and sorrowful.

Jewish is an unexplainably mysterious existence, in a way that, when you wonder and sympathize where they may put their feet to survive, this intrepid people already stands on the top in every possibly imaginable section with spectacular achievements. 22% of the Nobel Prize winners are from this 0.2% obviously elite Jewish people, Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Haym Solomon, Nathan Mayer Rothschild, George Jacob Gershwin, Isaac Stern, Marc Chagall…. Numerous Jewish names with no need of introduction shined the history of humankinds. It’s just incredible to imagine that in Italy, 7 out of 22 national level banks are founded by Jewish, and don’t forget also Borsa Italiana, the only stock exchange in Italy.

With all this curiosity, shall we start a walking tour? So, where is the ghetto in Milan? Here’s the surprise: There’s simply no such ghetto that would be surely the first word you may associate when coming in mind Jewish community. Jewish arrived in Italy dating back from year 130 with their first trace in Rome. In fact, we may still see today a grandeur synagogue alongside the Tiber River in Rome, with a visitable ghetto area behind.

In 1801, Napoleon conquered northern Italy and triumphed over the Italian Republic with the capital in Milan. “From tomorrow, liberty is for everyone”. Jewish then flocked from every part of Italy and landed in Milan respiring the air of freedom. From the very first day, Jewish in Milano knew no boundary but only integration. Unlike Milan of today that Area 1 outlines the circle of bourgeois, the metropolitan Milan in early 19th century embraced every race and color with ultimate tolerance and welcome. Racism doesn’t exist in the dictionary of the French emperor Napoleon who advocated the flag of democracy. The whole story of Jewish history is full of confinement and expel, but finally here in Milan, we could feel blowing some cheerful breeze…..

A walking tour of Jewish community in Milan could initiate from the Catholic Ambrosiana Library. It was here that the Chief Rabbi of Milan Alessandro da Fano taught the future Pope Pius XI Hebrew language (at that time the pre-pope still used his secular name Achille Ratti as the director of the library).

Via Nerino 10, Milano. Tullo Massarani, founder of Italian Society of Authors and Publishers, President of Expo of Paris and the first senator in Italian Republic, founded the first Institute of Jewish Alphabet here in 1872.

The first synagogue, rather, a small oratory of an apartment of 100 square meters, in Via Stampa 4 of Milan, was owned by Rabbi Prospero Moise Ariani.

Palazzo Sfondrati in Piazza Erculea 11, damaged in the bombardment in 1943, once lived the Jewish family of Guido Valerio, founder of Milan Football, who also set up the first public tennis camp in Milan, even before Necchi Campiglio.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Jewish community of Milan had expanded to reach 2,000 people. It was therefore necessary of a new site for the religious ceremonies of the Jewish tradition, since the previous one had become completely inadequate for the needs of such a large community. Saturday Christians and Sunday Jewish.

Thus, in 1890, the young architect Luca Beltrami, already known for his work in Piazza della Scala and for the Castello Sforzesco, was commissioned to design a temple perfectly in tune with the demands of the Milanese Jewish community. On 29 September 1892, a new Central Synagogue of Milan situated in Via Guastalla 19 was inaugurated, and witnessed by the presence of a large crowd, including Giuseppe Verdi. In fact, the opera aria “Va pensiero” in Nabucco, considered as the unofficial national anthem, sings out the Italians’ yearning for independence but carrying on the missing thoughts of Jewish for their homeland.

Another incredible witness how Milan embraced and integrated all religions is that here in Saturdays Jewish worship their god in this synagogue and in Sundays Christians will also enter as a church to pray, but just by chance a different god.

In 1869, the closing of Suez Canal project strategically favorited the transportation among the continents. The smart business-oriented Jewish Prospero Moisè Loria smelled the commercial potential and gained the trust from the viceroy Mehmet Ali to take over the construction works of the state railways in Egypt.

Returning back to Italy, Prospero M. L. bequeathed his fortune made from Egypt to found in 1893 the philanthropic institute Humanitarian Society situated in Via F. Daverio 7 in Milan.


credit: Città nascosta Milano