Thousands of people defiantly used culture against terror Monday night and visited the Rome Jewish Museum to show solidarity with the Jewish Museum in Brussels, where an attack Saturday left four dead.
“There is no choice more just than to find ourself in a place of culture in order to respond to hatred and ignorance,” Nicola Zingaretti, president of Lazio region, said at a televised opening ceremony before the doors were opened. “The act of us all being here sends out the message that whoever carries out an act of ignorance will always have the eyes of the world upon them.”
Meanwhile, the Association of European Jewish Museums (to which the Rome and Brussels museums both belong) 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.
The Rome Jewish community said “several thousand” people visited the Rome Jewish Museum, located in the complex of the city’s main synagogue, which was opened for free at 8:30 p.m. Pictures in the media showed long lines waiting to get in. Jewish leaders and political figures including Zingaretti and also the governor of the Puglia region addressed the crowd at the opening ceremony. The ambassadors of Belgium and Israel also were in attendance.
“The Brussels assassins wanted to strike in the heart of culture, in a place where one wants to learn,” said Rome Jewish Community President Riccardo Pacifici. “They wanted to intimidate the Jewish community and the general public. Tonight the museum opens its doors to whoever desires to get to know it.”
Other Italian Jewish institutions, including the Shoah Memorial in Milan, were also specially opened Monday evening, and others of the more than a dozen Jewish museums in Italy were expected to follow suit in the coming days.