Family Matters

Greetings from Modena!

As many of you know, CBI’s Sally Gooze and Richard Nielsen are in Italy for a three-month stay. Recently, Sally wrote to all us working stiffs back in Asheville, describing their time in Modena (home of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and balsamic vinegar).  Read on. hopefully, we’ll be able to add to this travelblog as we get more updates.

Richard and I have been in Bologna for nearly three weeks. We have seen over a dozen museums including the lovely Hebrew Museum here in Bologna. We have taken side trips from Bologna to Verona, Padua, Ravenna, Parma, and yesterday to Modena. While we have attempted to visit Jewish Museums in various cities, we were not always successful in our timing as some places were closed.

However, we hit the jackpot yesterday. We easily found the synagogue in Modena only to find the front area fenced off with workers laying a new brick entrance walkway in front of the synagogue. We searched for another entrance with no luck.

Finally, I motioned to one of the workers who granted my request to move the barrier and we rang the front door bell. A voice inside responded, electronically  unlocked the door, and soon we were greeted by the orthodox synagogue’s secretary.

This young Jewish man spent several hours with us sharing the history of the 1870 synagogue.

Octavio was born in Modena. His mother was a landscape architect from London and travelled to Modena where she met a man with whom she married and they remained there. Now we understood Octavio’s British accent.

The synagogue was so beautiful as you can see from a few samples of the many photos we took. It was very special for me to finally view a Jewish place of worship. Last year we did see two synagogues in the Jewish ghetto in Venice.  The majority of places of worship in Italy are of course gorgeous Catholic churches, cathedrals, and Duomos with ancient histories, ornately designed, statues galore, frescoes, and active members praying during mass.  True works of art.

Currently, as an aging congregation, there are only 60 Jewish members in Modena who are alive. They attempt to hold services every Shabbat, however, sometimes they do not have a minion. Ironically, their Rabbi is also Rabbi Goldstein (pronounced Gold-stine). This rabbi has three sons all of whom moved to Israel.

The synagogue’s pews all have lift up seats and snoopy Gooze started lifting some only to find boxes brochures, books, and even a carton of CDs. Octavio was surprised to realize some of these treasures and gifted us some books and a CD. Richard hopes to return someday and read Torah on Shabbat. He said he needs to learn the Italian trope.

We were so grateful that this 31 year old man chose to spend his morning talking about life in Italy during the war and now. He was most intelligent. We encouraged him to write a history of his family. He has distant cousins in New York and Florida. We exchanged hope to meet again someday if he comes to the US (or if Richard and I return for a Shabbat weekend in Modena). One never knows when new acquaintances may meet again.


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