A new association has been founded to promote and develop Jewish heritage in southern Italy’s Calabria region, the toe of the Italian boot, where Jews flourished in ancient times and in the middle ages but were ordered expelled in the first part of the 16th century.
The “Charta delle Judeche della Provincia di Reggio Calabria” (Charta of the Jewish Quarters of the Province of Reggio Calabria) was officially established at a conference last week. Sponsors and organizers include Reggio Calabria province; the already functioning Charta of the Jewish Quarters of Sicily association; the Catania, Sicily-based International Institute of Jewish Culture; and Shavei Israel, an Israel-based organization that seeks to bring back so-called “lost” or “hidden” Jews into the Jewish fold.
According to a news release, some 27 townships (comuni) in Reggio Calabria province and their mayors have signed on to the initiative, aimed at tracing Jewish history and heritage in Calabria and promoting Jewish tourism.
One-time Jewish quarters — Judeche (or Giudecche) — still exist in the historic centers of dozens of towns; many still called “Judeche” or exhibiting Hebrew inscriptions. Only in recent years, however, have Jews, some of them descended from families that had been forced to convert to Christianity, begun to claim a Jewish identity and forming religious groups and congregations.
The project entails cooperation among local authorities, universities in Sicily and Calabria and universities in Israel. Among the goals are the development of archaeological sites, the creation of Jewish tourist itineraries, and the establishment of kosher tourism infrastructure.
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