Jews launch pa­per for gen­tiles

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY RUTH ELLEN GRUBER ROME

ITALY’S FIRST EVER na­tional Jewish news­pa­per hits the news­stands this month — with a twist.

While other Jewish pa­pers across the world, such as the JC and Ger­many’s Juedis­che All­ge­meine — on which it is ex­plic­itly mod­elled — are writ­ten for the Jewish pop­u­la­tion, Pagine Ebraiche ( Jewish Pages) is be­ing writ­ten for non-Jews.

“In Bri­tain and in Ger­many there are big enough Jewish pop­u­la­tions to give the JC and Juedis­che All­ge­meine anam­ple base of read­ers within the Jewish com­mu­nity,” said Emanuele As­carelli, who di­rects a Jewish tele­vi­sion pro­gramme on state-run RAI tele­vi­sion. “In Italy, though, there are very few Jews, so the tar­get au­di­ence is the main­stream.”

Pagine Ebraiche will be pub­lished monthly by the um­brella Union of Ital­ian Jewish Com­mu­ni­ties (UCEI) and will be sold at se­lected news­stands in ma­jor cities around the coun­try and by sub­scrip­tion.

Its con­tents will i nclude news re­ports, es­says, com­men­taries, his­tor­i­cal ar­ti­cles, cul­tural pieces and other ma­te­rial, all writ­ten to be ac­ces­si­ble to the gen­eral pub­lic. It is not meant to re­place Italy’s lo­cal Jewish pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing glossy com­mu­nity month­lies in Rome and Mi­lan, which have small press runs and are di­rected at Jewish read­ers.

“Its role will be to speak to the ex­ter­nal world, not the in­ter­nal Jewish world,” said the pa­per’s ed­i­tor, Guido Vi­tale. “Ital­ian Jews are very rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Ital­ian so­ci­ety in gen­eral. I want to con­struct a pi­azza, an agora, where they can in­ter­act with each other and with Ital­ian so­ci­ety.”

The new pa­per is part of a mul­ti­fac­eted me­dia of­fen­sive aimed at both bol­ster­ing the Jewish voice in main­stream so­ci­ety and cre­at­ing a constructive di­a­logue be­tween Jews and their fel­low Ital­ians.

Last year, the UCEI launched a Jewish in­for­ma­tion in­ter­net por­tal, www. moked.it, which runs orig­i­nal ar­ti­cles and com­men­tary. It also pub­lishes a daily press re­view with links to ar­ti­cles on Jewish themes in the Ital­ian and in­ter­na­tional me­dia.

The im­pe­tus for th­ese ini­tia­tives stems from the de­sire to con­front a seem­ing para­dox: an ex­traor­di­nary pub­lic in­ter­est in Jews, Jewish is­sues and Jewish cul­ture in a coun­try where Jews make up on a tiny mi­nor­ity. Pagine Ebraiche’s ini­tial press run of 30,000 copies is more or less the to­tal num­ber of Jews who live in this coun­try of 60 mil­lion peo­ple.

“There is a huge in­ter­est in Jews and Jewish cul­ture in Italy,” said Mr As­carelli, whose tele­vi­sion pro­gramme reg­u­larly draws be­tween 200,000 and 400,000 view­ers. “Some 90 or 95 per­cent of our au­di­ence is not Jewish.”

In one year, Mr Vi­tale said, the press re­view on Moked in­cluded more than 100,000 ar­ti­cles, most of them in the Ital­ian press. Many, of course, are on Is­rael and the Mid­dle East. But even Jewish com­mu­nity elec­tions are apt to make head­lines.

“Ev­ery­thing that Jews do has a sym­bol­ism,” said Mr As­carelli. “What Jews say counts on is­sues such as im­mi­gra­tion, mi­nor­ity rights, the Shoah, the cul­ture of mem­ory.”

Still, ig­no­rance about Jewish be­liefs, tra­di­tions and val­ues — and ig­no­rance about Is­rael — is wide­spread.

“There is an in­cred­i­ble over-ex­po­sure, but the ca­pac­ity for un­der­stand­ing is gen­er­ally low,” Mr Vi­tale said. “In the Ital­ian main­stream me­dia, Jews are usu­ally the ob­jects of news, of some­thing hap­pen­ing. In Pagine Ebraiche Jews will make their own voices heard.”

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