UGEI – Unione Giovani Ebrei d’Italia (Italian Union of Jewish Students and Young Professionals), UCRI – Unione Comunità Romanès in Italia (Italian Union of Roma Communities), SARAS Department of the Sapienza University of Rome and Association “Arte in Memoria” (Art in Remembrance) announced an important collaboration, aimed at the realization of a unique project, sponsored by the National Coordinator for the Fight against Antisemitism Milena Santerini. The initiative involves the realization, throughout 2022, of five educational seminars at Sapienza University of Rome, in which experts and esteemed artists from all over Italy will take part in sharing interesting insights of Roma and Jewish culture. The course began in March, reaching over 100 students in presence per seminar; the first meeting consisted of an opening press conference, culminating in an engaging moment of cross-cultural exchange. All meetings will be structured so that those who wish to participate can do so, both in presence and remotely; each seminar consists of a first part of an educational and pedagogical nature, dealing with crucial issues about the culture, history and traditions of the Roma people, ethnic pluralism and the formative value of Remembrance, antisemitism and antigypsyism. At the end of each lecture, an artistic, musical or figurative performance, poetry reading or testimony takes place, through which we intend to constitute a form of emotional involvement that complements and enriches the training experience. For example, in April we invited hosted a concert called Romanò Simchà by Enrico Fink, President of the Jewish community of Florence, and Alexian Spinelli, worldwide known Rom musician and composer, and the Multiethnic Orchestra of Arezzo, uniting traditional Jewish and Roma melodies and tempos.
After the seminars, the course will culminate with the laying of the first ever Stolpersteine in memory of Roma deportees in Italy in January 2023. At the same time, between January and February, a final concluding event will be held in Rome, in presence of all the main national institutions involved in the campaign and the National Coordinator for the Fight against Antisemitism Milena Santerini. For the occasion, coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat, the New Year of Trees, an olive tree, a universal symbol of peace and prosperity, will be planted, generously donated by the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Italia Onlus, which has always worked under the banner of social and environmental solidarity, protecting nature in all its forms.
The organizing committee includes, among others, two of Italy’s leading experts on the subject, prof. Luca Bravi of the University of Florence and prof. Stefano Pasta of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan. Thanks to them, we have been able to find the documented histories of the individuals to whom the Stolpersteine will be named, as well as the locations where to undertake the laying of these reknown “counter-monuments”. The latter concept well represents our policy, namely the common desire to revive Remembrance on a daily basis through simple and humble reminders.
“Voices of Remembrance” was born within the previous campaign “Restore the Remembrance”, launched by UGEI in Italy and reproposed in various European contexts, with the intention of restoring luster and thus meaning, in terms of impact and legibility, to the Stolpersteine present on our national territory, which are often in poor conditions.
Conceived in Maastricht, Netherlands, by StandWithUs Nederland under the name #MakeTheirMemoryShine, UGEI imported the initiative and adapted it to the local social and historical context. Each chapter was characterized by several volunteers reading aloud the personal stories of the deportees to whom the Stolpersteine are dedicated while cleaning them. The airing on national television of the project by TG1 (Main Italian TV News Outlet) and the program “Sorgente di vita”, on Rai 2, which narrated the Roman and Florentine chapters, respectively, assured further widespread dissemination of the campaign.
Likewise, the present collaboration traces what was proposed by UGEI and UCRI in November 2020, the broadcast “Train de vie: the Jewish and Romani cultures among anecdotes and prejudices”, a friendly and engaging discussion between the then Presidents of the two organizations, Simone Santoro and Gennaro Spinelli, who together retraced the history, culture and traditions of the two ancient communities. An initiative of great educational value, which has reached tens of thousands of viewers, especially thanks to the unprecedented format especially chosen by the protagonists, which was reproposed live as part of one of the seminars at Sapienza.
The setting chosen for this stimulating series of meetings is the Roman one, due to the tremendous vocation and awareness that distinguish our local partners: the Association “Art in Memory”, which in January organized, for the thirteenth time, the installation of 30 new Stolpersteine; the Department of History Anthropology Religions Arts Entertainment of Sapienza University of Rome, which during 2021, in collaboration with the Roma Sapienza Foundation, launched a series of meetings with representatives of Italian religious communities (“The paths of interreligious dialogue”), as part of the activities of the History of Religions course of Prof. Alessandro Saggioro, thus embarking on a fruitful relationship with, among others, UGEI, following the conference held there by then President Simone Santoro. The entire course was followed by Bernadette Fraioli, who moreover represents the Roman university within the organizing committee of the present initiative. Sapienza is also part of the Network of Italian Universities for Peace, which is among the sponsors of the project.
“Voices of Remembrance” is designed to be replicable in other contexts, as well as extendable to other institutions that wish to join in the future. With this campaign, we want to reaffirm our commitment to promote Remembrance as an active value of our society, in order to mature the awareness needed to weave the fabric of a more virtuous future.
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