Palermo’s first synagogue in 500 years to be dedicated in Sicily
More than 500 years after the expulsion of the Jews from Sicily, the small Jewish community in Palermo is set to celebrate the opening of its first synagogue since the Spanish Inquisition.
At a ceremony set to take place on Thursday, January 12, 2017, Archbishop of Palermo Corrado Lorefice will officially transfer to the Jewish community a facility owned by the church and monastery of St. Nicolo Tolentino, which was was built atop the ruins of the Great Synagogue of Palermo.
The date for the handover is also significant: the deadline for the expulsion of Jews in Italy (by order of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon) was January 12, 1493.
“Ever since I learned about Sicily’s history, my goal has been to lay the groundwork for the establishment of the first Jewish community in Palermo in more than five centuries,” Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund said. “That is what makes this week’s ceremony so important: we will be establishing, together with the ISSE [Sicilian Institute of Jewish Studies], Palermo’s first synagogue and Jewish house of study since the expulsion. I am very moved that it will be located adjacent to where the Great Synagogue of Palermo once stood and I am grateful to the archbishop of Palermo for having the vision and courage to make such a grand gesture of reconciliation toward the Jewish people.”
The local Jewish community in Palermo is small, numbering only 60-7o people but it has a dynamic leader in Shavei Israel emissary Rabbi Pinhas Punturello, who will become the rabbi of the new synagogue.
“It is a miracle that after more than 500 years there are still people in Sicily who proudly cling to their Jewish roots and it is testimony to the fact that neither the expulsion nor the Inquisition was able to extinguish the eternal Jewish spark in their hearts,” Freund said. “With God’s help, the sounds of Sabbath hymns and Jewish prayers will once again be heard in the streets of Palermo.”
The new synagogue in Sicily has received wide coverage. Here are some of the articles:
In the picture above: Palermo Archbishop Corrado Lorefice (left) with Shavei Israel’s emissary to Sicily, Rabbi Pinhas Punturello (right).