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Catholic Church to finance the first new synagogue in Palermo, Sicily

By l0da_ralta CC BY 2.0. via Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Esparza - published on 02/14/17

Five centuries after the expulsion of the Jews from Sicily, the small Jewish community of Palermo begins to be reborn

Last month, the Jewish community of Palermo, Sicily, became the owner of a part of a church attached to a small monastic complex, thanks to a donation made directly by the Roman Catholic Church, Tablet reported.

Soon, these facilities will house a synagogue and a Jewish heritage and cultural center. The building is located on top of the ruins of a medieval synagogue that once was the Great Synagogue of Palermo.

All the renovations and reconstruction necessary to house the synagogue and the center will be financed by the Catholic Church, looking towards the opening of what would be the first synagogue in Palermo in more than 500 years. Jews were expelled from Sicily, which was then under the rule of the Spanish kingdom of Aragon, in 1493, as part of Ferdinand and Isabella’s expulsion of Jews from their reign.

The rabbi of Palermo, Pinhas Punturello, is leading the transition, serving as an emissary between Sicily and Shavei Israel, a non-profit organization that helps “lost” Jews reconnect with larger, better established Jewish communities. In fact, Punturello, who for the time being travels from Israel to Sicily once a month, will eventually settle on the Italian island to serve as rabbi of a community that, today, is made up of at least 100 people.

This initiative has been described by Jonathan Zalman, columnist for the online Jewish magazine Tablet, as “an excellent development in this here world.”

To read the original note published by Zalman in Tablet, click here.

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