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Gheula Canarutto Nemni

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October 1943. When the Holocaust arrived to the Ghetto of Rome

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October 16th 1943

It was shabbat and the third day of sukkot.

The adults woke up in the middle of night at the noise of shotguns and shouts. The children ran into their parents bed. When everything became silent again, they finally  fell asleep.

In the courtyard of the synagogue the sukkah was waiting for the Jews of Rome to enter and pronounce a blessing.

The prayer shawls were bent the previous day and were waiting to be worn again.

The perfume of the cedar and of the myrtle wafted in the air of the dark synagogue.

It was October 16th, 1943

It was supposed to be another festival day.

Men, women and children were ready to wear their best outfits and walk in the ghetto streets wishing one to the other ‘shabbat shalom e chag sameach’.

The tables were still to be set with the little amount of food that you could buy  with the food ration cards.

A few days before that day, the Nazis had summoned up the chiefs of the Jewish community and threatened them to deport 200 Jews if they did not bring 50 kilos, 100 pounds, of pure gold, in thirty six hours.

The Jews of Rome showered in the office of the Jewish community and offered wedding rings, earrings received for the anniversary, necklaces belonged to the grandmother, until the amount of gold was reached. The gold was collected and brought to the SS col. Herbert Kappler. The Jews of the Ghetto thought this was the price they had to pay to survive the war.

But after a few days, the regular noises of via Portico d’Ottavia, via S. Ambrogio and via del Pianto, were interrupted by the strong noise of the trucks engines and motorbikes, of the soldier boots and of the barking dogs.

Orders shouted in German replaced the joyous festival songs, human beings were thrown into trucks as they were mere objects, mothers and fathers cried feeling on their own skin the imminent detachment from their children, babies were thrown into strangers arms with the hope to save them from deportation and death.

The square was full of people whose dreams, projects, thoughts, were so similar to those of their fellow citizens.

The Jews of Rome had woke up until the previous day, to go and work and earn their livelihood  as millions of other Italians.

But that day they have been reminded of their difference. They have been loaded on trucks and sealed trains which destination is written in giant characters: Auschwitz, a name they have never heard before. Their guilt is irreparable. They are the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

October 16th, 2018.

When you walk in the streets of the ghetto, if you turn down your eyes on the street, you can read the name, the date of birth and death, of the Italian Jews whose life was interrupted by a murderous hate.

In those same streets where trucks loaded Jews, you can see children coming out from the Jewish school and  walking with their kippah, their yarmulke, on their heads, while hundreds of tourists are eating in the kosher restaurants.

In the Tempio Centrale, the main synagogue, you can hear the same sounds that have been heard with almost no interruption for the last two thousand years.

Our brothers, who were deported and who never came back,

We will catch your prayers where they were interrupted,

We will open your prayer shawls that you have never opened again,

We will say the kiddush that you couldn’t recite anymore,

We will celebrate the festivals, pesach, Shavuot, that you could not share with your beloved and we will finish that sukkot that you were suddenly deprived from.

They have tried to annihilate our bodies in endless ways.

But our spirit, our soul, our attachment to G-d, are indestructible and above all.

Am Israel Chai.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

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Why Condé Nast and Vogue do not respect Jews

An open letter to Robert A. Sauerberg, president and CEO of Condé Nast.

On October 4, 2018, Vogue Arabia published a letter by Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian teenager who is becoming an icon, despite the culture she represents.

My name is Raya Schijveschuurder. Today I would be 31 years old.

I would be probably married and I would have my own children.

They would be the same age of my little brothers who were 2 and 4 years old when they were killed together with my parents and me, inside a pizza store in Jerusalem, seventeen years ago.

We were a happy family until 2 pm of August 9th 2001. We were eight children, four girls and four boys, the perfect balance. My parents were still young, 43 and 41 years old.

But that day we were hungry.

And we wished for a pizza and some Coke.

And my parents decided to take us to Sbarro, one of the most famous pizza stores of Jerusalem.

I chose a pizza with mushroom and olives topping.

And my mother asked me: are you sure you will like it?

These were the last words I heard from her.

A few minutes Ahlam Tamimi brought Izzadin al Masri until the entrance of Sbarro.

Tamimi knew perfectly the store would be packed at that hour. She had been studying that place for a long time.

Al Masri had a guitar with him, but from that guitar no music note would have been played.

As he entered the store that guitar played a death music, throwing 20 pounds of nails, screws and explosives in men, women and children bodies.

We have just washed our hands as Jews use to do before eating the bread.

But I never ate that pizza.

I was blown up and killed by nails that pierced my heart, my liver, my vital organs.

In a few seconds my parents, my brothers, Shoshana Greenbaum, a pregnant woman, other ten people and me, were transformed in shreds of meat.

My grandparents were Dutch.

During the war they were deported from Holland to concentration camps.

They survived to all their families and tried to build a normal life in that same country that offered them death.

They pushed their children to go and live in Israel, the only place in the world where Jews would never be discriminated for their religion.

My parents tried to build a new life in that tiny country.

But Ahlam Tamimi decided that even there Jews do not have the right to live.

When they announced in the radio there had been a martyrdom attack at the Sbarro restaurant and that three people were killed, I admit I was a little bit disappointed because I had hoped for a larger toll’, she tells in an interview.

‘Have you ever thought about the families, the children, who were victims of this attack?’ Tamimi smiles ‘No’.

Ahed Tamimi, the seventeen years old teenager who became the symbol of ‘Palestinian resistance’ was brought up in these values. Ahlam Tamimi is her aunt. Her family was defined by international media as an ‘activist family’

Vogue Arabia, a magazine that belongs to Conde Nast group, has just published Ahed Tamimi letter.

In this letter Tamimi writes: I wanted to become a football player but I don’t play here because there is no time. Instead, I have been involved in demonstrations and confrontations with the Israeli army since I was a child.

 

I went on Conde Nast code of Ethics, where you can find the following words:

Reaching more than 270 million consumers across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, we are committed to delivering beautiful, influential content and brand experiences for individuals who demand to be inspired.

And I asked myself:

Does Conde Nast think Ahed Tamimi words should inspire  its readers?

Does Conde Nast agree that children, instead of becoming football players, should be raised in the dream to become martyrs one day?

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result. Whether it is stabbings or martyrdom operations or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”

These are the words that Tamimi says on Facebook to her followers. 

We pride ourselves in respecting the individual no matter what gender, race, religion or orientation. We are committed to doing business in an ethical way, with honesty, integrity and humanity.

This is the message you can find on Conde Nast website.

Dear Conde Nast, mr. Robert A. Sauerberg,

you have proved to be committed to doing business.

But with this article that celebrates a teenager who was raised in death and martyrdom values, a girl whose aunt helped killing more than 15 human beings guilty of being Jews, you have not only lost many Jewish readers..

You have lost your commitment to integrity and humanity.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

Excuse me, but I am Jew

Excuse me, but I am a Jew.
This is why a few seconds ago you could see me concentrating and praying with the deepest intentions. And now I am dancing and singing with all my passion.
You can catch me while I am begging G-d and tears are flowing on my face. And in the same time I am shouting joyous words.
I beg you pardon, but I was planned to be an unstable creature.
For 48 hours I blow a horn which sound is similar to the cry of a son, I fast for 25 hours to get all my past mistakes erased and when I arrive to the maximum level of spirituality, when a new page is offered to my life, instead of keeping calm and thoughtful, I inject myself overdoses of joy.
What can I do? I was programmed in this way.
Go and complain with my Creator if you don’t like me as I am.
If you wish to have me more aligned, more balanced and controlled.
If you were looking for a nation that is always constant and the same during time, you arrived to the wrong address.
We Jews are like the moon. Every day we are different than the previous one.
We hope you will excuse us, but we are Jews.
And you can never see us stopping at a certain point or 100% satisfied of what we have reached.
You can never catch us with the ‘arrival’ sign in our hand, because for us every finishing line is a new starting point.
We beg your pardon but we are unable to stop.
And when G-d commands us to be happy, though He knows that happiness is a feeling and feelings are quite impossible to impose on someone, when He asks ‘let the joy enter in your hearts’ a few hours away from our Yom Kippur cries, we do our best to shift our state of mind according to His will.
Excusing us once again for our eclecticism, we beg your pardon already for the coming days, during which we will put aside our reason and logic, pilpul and discussion on the Torah.
We will be very busy celebrating the simple and above every logic fact, that we have been chosen to be part of this nation.
A nation that has never stopped during the last three thousand years,
moving from tears to smiles, from the deepest faith to the greatest discussion, at a dance pace.
Chag sameach!
Gheula Canarutto Nemni
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We are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants…

I’ve repeated many times in my life

Who am I to do this?

This message  is definitely not for me…

I’ve repeated these sentences many times in my life.

Until I’ve been invited as a speaker to Jli, the Jewish National Retreat.

And there 1200 people, from different cultural, religious and geographical backgrounds, made me change my mind.

I found Jews thirsty for their history, for their identity, for the next steps to undertake.

Jews who woke up so early every morning, in the few days they had of vacation. Every minute was an opportunity to absorb messages, values, lessons from a religion in which they are born but of which no one wanted to teach them anything about.

Jews eager to fill a void in their soul, to recover from years lived in a too similar way to the outer world.

Jews who wished to be Jewish again.

I was called to be a speaker, but I became a full time listener.

I heard so many stories about people whose parents were Holocaust survivor, I never imagined there were so many still.

I listened to their wish to get out from the safety bubble their parents tried to protect them in.

I sat beside people who grew up without Shabat, without a mezuzah on their door. And without Abraham’s, Isaac’s or Jacob’s G-d.

Jews who found out they belong to a chosen and persecuted nation a few minutes before their parents passed away.

And instead of running away from this uncomfortable identity, they jumped into it with all their mights.

I spent six days with these people and I understood that they were not simple people. But heroes.

A hero is not only a person who jumps into the water to save a drowning fellow.

A hero is a person who dares again and again, leaving its comfort zone, its habits, its safe areas and dares to face the unknown.

The word hero comes from Greek and it means ‘a person who is admired for its courage and outstanding achievments’.

The most outstanding achievement a human being can reach is to try and free himself from his habits, from his usual way and go further.

The couarge does not belong only to those who defeat their enemies.

The courage belongs to those who get up in the morning and challenge their status quo and their own certainties through new thoughts, words and actions,

It’s easy to walk in a path where you’ve already walked in before.

It is much harder to undertake a new path in an unknown place, that has never belonged to us.

Our sages say that moshiach will come in our times beacuse we are dwarfs on the shoulders of our ancentors, who were giants,

But maybe moshiach will come in our days also because now more than ever before, our nation is being enriched by baalei tshuva, Jews who are leaving the void of their souls and coming back home.

In the place where a Baal Teshuva, a returnee to Judaism, stands, a completely righteous person cannot stand.

A giant is not a person who was born tall. A giant is a person who tries to surpass every day the level of the prevoious day.

Thank you to all my new Jli teachers.

And a special thank you to all the amazing staff of Jli who worked so hard for making that miracolous week come true.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

Have you ever been empowered? Lessons from Jli, the Jewish National Retreat

A call for the survival of the Jewish nation

Dear friends of the Left Wing,

Dear friends of the Right Wing,

What you are going to read is a call for survival.

Survival of a nation that was able to live up to day thanks to unending miracles. While today that same nation is at risk of implosion.

Our nation is famous for its different thoughts and approaches.

Mental maps so different, one from the other, that they helped us grow up.

The four sons of the Hagada have their own ways to interpret history; the 12 tribes each had its special way of serving G-d.

The Jewish nation nurtured itself on the diversity of opinions, of the different waves of thought.

Discussion, divergency of points of views is one of the holding columns that preserved our nation’s life.

One directional thoughts are not part of our Jewish DNA.

The prophets fearlessly opposed themselves to kings, Moses discussed with G-d.

The Talmud is but the result of unending discussions and dissertations.

However, during the last few months, a part of this equilibrium broke. Discussions are not simple exchanges anymore, but poisoned arrows. Different opinions have become like stones that contribute to the building of walls to separate people who see the world in different ways.

To save with words migrants, we are destroying our nation.

By deciding Israeli policy sitting around a coffee table and tapping on Facebook, we are dividing Jews into bad and good.

To comment on the policy of an American president, we throw away 3300 years of survival.

Something is wrong here.

G-d didn’t make us survive until today to be like this.

He doesn’t want to see his nation nation falling out due to unuseful discussions that move only the keyboard keys and nothing more.

We didn’t survive until now to slay each other on social media and divide people into Right and Left, like they were road signs.

We are sinking our boat with our own hands, the same boat that miraculously resisted the worst storms.

If we Jews are still here today it’s because G-d knows we can contribute an added value.

He trusts that we won’t get lost in the waves of unuseful words directed at a policy that someone else is already deciding.

We are here to do, to help advance, to add more light and values.

We are here to unite people under the umbrella of universal rights, rights that we taught the world.

We are here to say what others are not brave enough to pronounce.

The Jewish soul, of every single Jew on earth, receives its vitality from the deepest level of G-d.

Two of us have three opinions, but what really counts is our essence. That is the same, undifferentiated, indistinct, soul. An essence that does not look leftwards or rightwards but only upwards, towards its Creator.

Our sanctuary was destroyed because Jews, instead of being one against their enemy, got divided internally.

And they didn’t realise that in this way, when everyone sits around his/her own table and refuses to hear what the other one is saying, when we shout on Facebook and Twitter, on mass media, we are playing into the favour of our enemies, helping them in their strategy of our destruction.

And our enemy just needs to sit there and watch and wait.

Hillel and Shamai wore different lenses through which they saw the world. One had lenses of pity, the other of rigor.

Each of them interpreted law in his own way. If they lived today there would be shirts with ‘I am with Hillel’ and ‘only Shamai is right’.

There would be meetings, public demonstrations, provocations. In their period diversity was an opportunity for growth. Today, we would not be same nation without their discussions, which G-d Himself as referee.

Who, at a certain point said: this and this are my living words.

What you read is an invitation.

To stay together, and to discuss in a respectful and civil way.

We are surrounded on the right and on the left by enemies. Let’s not break into factions of right and left.

We are truly a small number of people, yet of we stay together we become many tiny surviving miracles.

Only together can the weak light of one become the brightest.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

Please do not celebrate the Holocaust Remembrance Day

We cannot define ourselves as the people of remeberance.

We are not a nation that stops and cries  in front of historical artifacts kept in a display case.

We are not the nation of museums, people who catch each other saying ‘once upon a time’…

The concept of memory in and of itself does not belong to us.

Memories that allow you to get up as the same person as the previous day are not part of our DNA.

We don’t love commemorations and cliches, we don’t scatter ashes or keep mourning for longer than the law requires.

Our calendar has special dates to remember the destroyed sanctuary of Jerusalem. Our year has special days dedicated for when we cry over the lost golden period of our history.

At the beginning of that day, we sit down on the floor, we say sad prayers, we tell stories about destruction and death. But in the afternoon we get up, we dry our eyes and we ask G-d to build something new on our tears. We ask Him to transform all the past heaps of rubble into a foundation superior to the old one.

In Hebrew, a cemetery is called a ‘house of life’. It is a place where people who left this world rest in peace. But it is even a place of warning, of reflection, where those who are alive recall the real goal they were created for and their moral duty to use, in a positive way, every minute of life they were granted.

Jewish memory is never only a simple memory for its own sake.

Jewish memory is a path that takes one on a journey to a better self.

During Passover, when we tell the miracolous escape from Egypt, we eat matzah to remember how hastily Jews ran away from their enslavement. We dip bitter herbs to recall the bitter taste of being subjugated to somebody else. But at the end we celebrate freedom, our ability to keep our values, traditions and thoughts free from any external influence.

Celebration focuses on the past, it helps to treasure and transmit its stories and lessons. But celebration means to become stronger, more aware, thanks to those mistakes, to those succeses and  those pains, that belong to the past.

Memory helps us walk the paths of tomorrow in a better way.

There is no instant of our life that cannot become a springboard. Even the most painful events can become the first of the next steps.

As runners on a historical course, we study the past match so we can be better runners in the next game.

The word zecher, memory, shares the same root with rakaz, to concentrate.

We remember our life and we concentrate on the past days so we are able to live our future in a better way.

When we commemorate our dead, we don’t only stop in front of their pictures and cry. We gather people to study, we offer food and drink in their memory,  trying to give continuity to those things death has stopped.

So…

If today you are heading to a Holocaust memorial, if you are going to listen to a survivor’s personal story, if you are opening the pages of Anne Frank’s diary, if you are crying for our dead, please do all these things in our way.

Listen and learn, read and reflect, process a personal change.

In Jewish history past tense always runs with present.

Past is suspended until the next breath.

Memory is when children finish what their fathers left incomplete.

Memory is the next generation that brings life again where is there is destructiion and death.

Memory for Jews is transforming a sigh into a better future day.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

Open letter to President Obama on climate change and it consequence on terrorism

Schermata 2017-05-11 alle 22.18.56Dear President Obama,

A few days ago your words filled the air of Milano, the town where I live.

You gave an interesting perspective about technology; about the impact it is having on our children’s future. You spoke about healthy food and waste.

And then you spoke about immigration, about refugees who suffer from food shortages because of the climate change and how this has an impact on unemployment.

“I am certain that this is part of the problem that instigates radicalization and terrorism in many countries of the Middle East and South Asia. If many young people are unemployed they will channel their energies in an unhealthy way.” These were your words. I read them three times. It was hard for me, as a parent and as an educator, to believe that unemployment can be claimed as one of the causes of terrorism. It was against the values I was raised in, against all my credos; to delude oneself into thinking that a person can arrive to the point of killing somebody else simply because he himself does not have a job.

Dear President Obama, we cannot encourage the future generations in the belief that everything revolves around a job, material needs, and money.

Yes, we need these things. Food and work should be universally granted rights.

But life is complicated, and sometimes you can be unemployed, and maybe even without any food in the fridge, due to an economic crisis period or a war.

But none of these conditions can be used as a justification for killing young people in a disco, putting a bomb in a bus or throwing an airplane into the Twin Towers.

Most of the terrorists who shook our world with their heinous crimes were not unemployed or hungry. In fact, some of them were educated people, educated under a Western point of view. And extremist Islam too.

In Middle East, South Asia and Europe, people channel their energies in unhealthy way, simply because no one is nourishing their souls in a positive way.

Our society is a big ideological vacuum, where violent ideologies are free to burrow their roots. We don’t provide young generations with real values. We are trying to nourish only their bodies, and maybe their culture, sometimes. Yet we are neglecting their souls. This is the reason why youngsters run towards harmful ideologies as they grow up. Human beings are made of flesh, and a soul. Of body and spirit. We need to nourish both of these dimensions.

New generations are hungry for values; they are thirsty for life’s principles and goals.

If you wish for real human progress, you cannot deal only with the material aspects of life. You can give a person millions of dollars, but if you deprive him of a goal, of an objective to run for, he will be the emptiest person in the world, ready to be filled with good or evil.

We should do our best to provide a healthy education to every individual. This goal, this directive, depends on you. It depends on all those who can change our world.

It is not climate change that makes people turn to terrorism. It is not dry fields. It is dryness in education, in values.

We must provide them with moral food too.

Sincerely,

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

P.S. You mentioned that activists need to propose pragmatic solutions. If you are interested, I have them ready for you.

 

 

Why the world is so afraid to use the word ‘terrorist’

Why the world is so afraid to use the word ‘terrorist’

By Gheula Canarutto Nemni

Dear world, did you really think pedestrians would be over run by cars only in Jerusalem’s streets?

Did you really hope knives would strike only those who walk on disputed sidewalks?

Dear world do you realize you let yourself be deceived by media headlines and geopolitical assumptions, which describe the Middle East as a very distant, universe?

You hid your head in the sand to avoid feeling the first signals of an internal war. You closed your eyes when faced with the 2017 Jewish European exodus, in front of the terror attacks that killed men, women and children at the Jewish school gates, at the cashiers of the Hyper Casher.

Europe was not born as a U.N resolution. It was not settled by nations which were coming back home. European legitimacy was never discussed by politicians, actors and boycott movements.

So why do car rampages and terror attacks happen in London, Nice, Paris, Berlin, and Bruxelles too?

Why does all this also happen so far from Israel?

What ideology do they share, those individuals who go around looking for a victim in Israeli streets and those who kill in front of the British Parliament?

Dear world, the time has come for you to open your eyes and understand who is standing in front of you. The time has come to wake up and shake yourself from your pacifist dullness nourished with free tolerance.

This is the only way you can say, one day, I really did something to save my children’s future.

They want to deprive you of those values you fought so hard for. They are using your efforts for integration to bring you towards disintegration.

They hate your culture, your democracy. They hate your dances, your music, your diversity.

Dear world, the time has come to be brave and define that person who runs into a crowd of people who are watching the fireworks on the Boulevard des Anglais as a terrorist. The individual who runs with his car into people who are looking for a Christmas present in Berlin is a terrorist.

They are not drunk, they are not lonely wolves. They don’t suffer from depression or behaviour issues. They are terrorists who are killing innocent people whether on British, French, German or Jewish soil.

They are not only fighting to bring the borders back to before ’67. They don’t want only a part of Israeli territory. They want all Israel. And Europe. They want the whole world.

Truth, honesty and consistency are powerful weapons. Please world, start to use them before it is too late.

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