Big crowds turned out at the Jewish museums in Florence, Siena, Bologna, Livorno, Milan, Ferrara and Venice, which opened specially Thursday night to show solidarity with the Jewish museum in Brussels and the victims of last Saturday’s attack there that left four dead.
The initiative followed the example of the Rome Jewish Museum and the Holocaust memorial complex in Milan, which already staged special nighttime opening hours Monday. Several thousand people visited the Rome museum alone.
Thursday’s initiative around the country was carried out under the slogan La Cultura Non Si Ferma, or “Culture Doesn’t Stop.” Word was spread through social media, including a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #LaCulturaNonSiFerma.
As of Friday no precise figures were available, but Jewish community representatives said thousands of people, among them local political and other figures, including the mayor of Venice Giorgio Orsoni, visited the seven museums.
“We are here to bear witness to the solidarity of the city of Venice to the Jewish community, which is Venice, is an important part of our city and our history,” said Orsoni.
The Florence Jewish museum said 200 people came in the first hour alone.
“We state loudly that culture doesn’t stop,” Florence Jewish community president Sara Cividali said when doors opened. “Museums are places to spread culture and knowledge and thus are points of dialogue and growth.” She said that she hoped the evening would send a “strong message against the cowardly attacks and whoever wants to cancel the memory and history of the Jews as testimony of a minority, together with the other minorities in Europe.”
The Association of European Jewish Museums issued a statement about the Brussels attack:
A murderous attack has taken four lives in the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels on Saturday 24 May. The AEJM is deeply shocked by this atrocity directed against an institution that for many years stands for mutual understanding, tolerance and intercultural exchange – a symbol for the only possible future of Europe. We lack the words to describe our feelings of horror and we humbly want to express our solidarity with our friends. Hopefully the murderer will be identified and caught soon and it will be possible to shed light on this crime. We mourn with our colleagues of the Jewish Museum in Brussels and the families of those who lost their loved ones in this attack.