The severely neglected Jewish cemetery in the town of Revere, in northern Italy, recently “reappeared” after the factory that absorbed it into its grounds in the 1970s was demolished. Now the Jewish community of Mantova, in association with civic and heritage authorities, is looking for funds to restore it and include it in a tourist route of the province’s Jewish sites.
“If we don’t intervene soon, the cemetery’s walls risk collapsing,” architect David Palterer, speaking on behalf of the Mantova Jewish community, which owns the Revere cemetery, told JHE.
In order to start restoration works, we need about €25,000, which would give us the opportunity to restore the walls and replace the wooden gate with a new one made out of steel, that will allow people to look inside.
The small square shaped cemetery, established in 1809 and located in the town’s outskirts, is surrounded by red-brick walls, and contains 23 matzevot. The first burial took place in 1831, and the latest in 1906. The Jewish community had already almost completely vanished from the town by the 1920s, and the last Jewish family was murdered during the Holocaust.
In the mid-1970s, the Jewish community of Mantova reached an agreement with a local glass-making company, whose factory bordered the cemetery, so that the cemetery was absorbed in newly enlarged industrial premises, without being destroyed. In the 1990s, the factory closed and remained abandoned.
In 2020, the factory was finally demolished, and the cemetery “reappeared” in the town’s landscape, after being hidden and inaccessible for almost 50 years.
Palterer told JHE that in addition to plans to restore the cemetery, “we are drawing up plans to include some artworks made of glass to be mounted in the walls, so as to recall the factory that for 50 years surrounded the cemetery.”
At the same time, the municipality, which owns the area that surrounds the cemetery, wants to create a public park all around it.
“There’s a synergy between the Jewish community, the municipality and the local heritage authority, to make the cemetery visible again, and include it in the town’s heritage landmarks,” Palterer said. “Moreover, we are also planning to include the restored cemetery in a tourist itinerary of Jewish heritage sites together with other nearby towns, whose rich Jewish past is still witnessed by several Jewish cemeteries and surviving synagogues.”
“To do so, we need to find the funds as soon as possible, otherwise the cemetery risks to disappear forever,” he said.
Revere, a town of 2,500 inhabitants in the province of Mantova, 100 km north of Bologna and 200 km southeast of Milan, was home to an active Jewish community that never exceeded 100 members. Many members of the community were involved in the silk industry.
In 1808, Revere Jews received authorization to establish a Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of town, and the following year they finalized its construction. Until that time, they used the cemetery of nearby Sermide.
In the 1940s and the early 1970s, the Jewish community of Mantova rejected several requests to demolish the cemetery and transfer its burials to the Mantova Jewish cemetery.
A book in Italian published in 2008 and entitled Il “giardino” degli ebrei : cimiteri ebraici del Mantovano (The “Garden” of the Jews: Jewish cemeteries of the Mantova area), describes in detail the history of the cemetery and provides a full documentation of its matzevot.