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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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

Where was G-d during Purim (and the Holocaust)?

THE TIMES OF ISRAEL | http://www.timesofisrael.comshoah jews

Where was G-d during Purim (and the Holocaust)?

GHEULA CANARUTTO NEMNI

There has been no generation without its Haman. Without an individual eager to put an end to the Jewish nation.

Many have dreamt and still are dreaming to see Jews become an archeological find, a memory, a history lesson.

Every generation has seen its Haman rising and trying to eradicate any Jewish trace from our earth.

Even during those years in which it was hard to tell between Jews and others.

Even during those decades in which Judaism was relegated to some hours a year, to rare transmitted rites and liturgies.Even during those moments in which Jews were trying their best to become a king’s best friends, because that way, they were convinced, was the only way to go on with their destiny.

G-d is not mentioned in the Megillah, in Ester’s scroll, not even once.

You need to look for Him between the rows, in the acronyms of words, in allusions and expressions.

His name is not there, it has vanished into nowhere. As happened in the lives of Jews during that historical period.

G-d is pushed to the sidelines of the Megillah, as Jews have pushed Him to the sidelines of their own lives.

Then Haman arrives and everything drastically changes.

As Jews come to know his plot to exterminate them, they start sending delegations to the king, they start using all their diplomatic means, Queen Esther herself puts her own life at risk.

But at the same time she tells her brothers and sisters, look inside yourselves.

Why does the world consider us different, though we have tried again and again to meld with the surrounding society and make it forget our original identity?

And Jews reunited and prayed. They tore their clothes and fasted for three days. They reminded their own children who they really were, in that precise moment in wich they were threatened as never before.

When the Haman of the generation gets up and declares ‘let’s cleanse the world of this annoyingly different nation’ Jewish people, those people who a few minutes before were trying to hide who they were, find and affirm their identity, precisely then.

Where was G-d during Purim? Where was He during the tragedies that hit His nation again and again?

G-d is in the awakened faith of those who thought not to have any at all, He is in that Jew who suddenly feels like caring about his identity again.

G-d is in those Jews who risked their own lives to put on tefilin in Auschwitz, while in the comfort of their homes, they never put them on

G-d is in those last recommendations to sons before the train for a safe haven left, ‘Son, celebrate your bar mitzvah, do not forget’.

G-d is the son’s answer, made through the window of that train, ‘but father what does a bar mitzvah mean?’

G-d is the secret meetings to celebrate the seder, at risk of being sent to a gulag for the next fifty years.

G-d is in Daniel Pearls’ words ‘I am a Jew’ when the sword is already coming down on his head.

G-d is always with us though we hardly see Him. He is there, in the Jewish soul that shakes itself from the dust just in those periods in which it should try to hide itself even more.

When Haman rises more and more, when he becomes so important as to to sit unpunished in the U.N, when he can speak loudly and the world claps its hands to his anti-Semitic plans, when being Jewish is the most inconvenient and uncomfortable thing that can happen to you, there you can find G-d.

G-d is there, in the joy, in the proudness of belonging and declaring, despite all odds, ‘I am a Jew’.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni