Plan to re­de­velop site where Ital­ian Kab­bal­ists buried

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY JULIE CAR­BONARA

PLANS BY the Ital­ian city of Man­tua to re­de­velop a site that con­tains the town’s Jewish ceme­tery have been met with fierce re­sis­tance af­ter a group of US and Is­raeli Ortho­dox rab­bis found proof that some of the most in­flu­en­tial fig­ures in Jewish cul­ture are buried there.

One of the group, Is­raeli pub­lisher Rabbi Sh­maya Lev, claims to have un­earthed in Budapest the reg­is­ter of the old ceme­tery’s buri­als — and it reads like a who’s who of 16th and 17th cen­tury Ital­ian Jewry. In­cluded are em­i­nent Kab­bal­ists such as Azariah da Fano, Moshe Za­cuto and Aviad Basilea and scholar Ye­hudà Briel.

Not­ing that the area had fallen into dis­re­pair, the rab­bis re-claimed own­er­ship of the ceme­tery and asked to be al­lowed to “map the buri­als, clean up and re­store the ceme­tery and build a mu­seum of re­mem­brance”.

The prob­lem is that the site, known as San Ni­colò, is cur­rently state prop­erty, hav­ing been sold by the community in 1852. Dur­ing the war it was taken over by the Nazis, who built on it and turned it into a con­cen­tra­tion camp.

To com­pli­cate mat­ters even more, the area has been ear­marked by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity as one of the sites to be re­de­vel­oped in the 18 mil­lion euro “Man­tova Hub” re­gen­er­a­tion project.

The project, as en­vis­aged by ar­chi­tect Ste­fano Bo­eri, is sketchy but in­volves re­fur­bish­ing the five Nazi-built struc­tures to cre­ate pub­lic cen­tres ded­i­cated to the en­vi­ron­ment, sus­tain­abil­ity, so­cial in­no­va­tion and lo­cal goods. The ar­moury will be con­verted into a “house of re­mem­brance” to inform vis­i­tors about the area’s his­tory and its use as a ceme­tery and con­cen­tra­tion camp.

Rabbi Levi and the Cen­tral Rab­bini­cal Congress (CRC) of the USA and Canada, met Man­tua mayor, Mat­tia Palazzi, to put for­ward their con­cerns. And in a let­ter to Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Paolo Gen­tiloni, CRC ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Issac Gluck asked for the plan to be can­celled.

An­drea Mu­rari, head of town plan­ning in Man­tua, said: “We will be work­ing with the [Ital­ian Jewish um­brella group, the UCEI] and their ex­perts on the fi­nal plan­ning phase which will start very soon. We are not building any­thing new, we are just re­de­vel­op­ing an area that had fallen into heavy de­cay… The idea is to leave the area of the old ceme­tery as undis­turbed as pos­si­ble.”

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