Rome Travelogue2

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7 Responses

  1. David Havin says:

    I led a group of Jews on a tour of Italy in May 2014, including Rome.

    We davened in the Great Synagogue of Rome on a Monday morning.  The first minyan was held downstairs at 7.00 and the second minyan, in which we davenend, was upstairs.  It started at 7.45 and finished at 9.05 and the nusach was definitely Minhag Bnei Roma.

    [YA – You could be right. I davened exclusively at the 7AM minyan, and was told by people in the community that the later minyan was Nusach Ari!!!!]

  2. David Ohsie says:

    The story of Roman Jewry is a microcosm of what happened to Jews in general. Jews remained committed while they were persecuted, but threw in the towel when the pressure waned.

    Which is a greater level of commitment to Judaism?  A) When you are stuck in a ghetto with little knowledge of or opportunity for other possible paths (at least without completely breaking with and being disowned by your own community, and sometimes not even then).  B) When you have full freedom of choice and you choose a traditional/Orthodox path out of the many possibilities.   It can certainly be argued both ways.

    I would also point out that the trend toward “secularism” (broadly defined) is not only a phenomena in the Jewish world.  It was not only Jews who were exposed to the Enlightenment (Haskalah, if you will), and not only Jews who have changed their attitude toward religion.   If so, persecution, while a factor, is not the complete answer.

    Bottom line being, IMO, let’s not pine for the good old days.  They were actually bad old days, and the practice of Judaism today, while perhaps not as universal among Jews, is at a much higher level in many ways than at any time in the past among those who embrace it.  The people who fought to maintain their Judaism in the face of persecution and even death were greater people than I will ever be, but the overall result for everyone is better, IMO, when we don’t have to face those tests.  By way of analogy, we all admire the greatest generation, but we don’t want to fight WWII all over again.

    To put it another way, let’s not be like those whose Judaism is centered on the Holocaust because they have no other foundation on which to base their commitment.   (If anyone has seen the play “Bad Jews”, it is the ultimate expression of that viewpoint).

    • mycroft says:

      “The story of Roman Jewry is a microcosm of what happened to Jews in general. Jews remained committed while they were persecuted, but threw in the towel when the pressure waned”

      It is a statement used homiletically but not sure it is entirely accurate. Jews in Spain went to the baptismal font during the period 1391-1492 even before expulsion. More Jews converted to other religions under pressure during the past couple of thousand years than when no pressure.. The Holocaust caused many survivors to throw away their Judaism-only the establishment of the State of Israel helped lessen the turning away-BTW I believe R Yaacov Kamenetzky made a similar point about the holocaust and Israel. Jewish population in the world went down about 90% in the half millennium after Churban Bayis Sheni-how much of it due to people wanting to escape persecution and how much due to factors such as the increasing demands on Jews-requirement of education which caused a financial disincentive to remain Jewish is an open question.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote in part:

        “Jewish population in the world went down about 90% in the half millennium after Churban Bayis Sheni-how much of it due to people wanting to escape persecution and how much due to factors such as the increasing demands on Jews-requirement of education which caused a financial disincentive to remain Jewish is an open question.”

        This statement might be correct if it traced the downward spiral of the Jewish population after the aftermath of the Bar Kochba revolt. Isn’t there much evidence that Rome feared the portability of Judaism of post Churban Bayis Sheni Judaism in the years after the Churban Bayis Sheni and the outbreak of the Bar Kochba revolt.

        Education was and always an individual obligation which became a communal obligation as institiuted by Yehoshua Ben Gamla. The notion that excessive costs of a Jewish education in ancient times caused defections from Judaism requires proof, not speculating and imposing today’s legitimate concerns about such costs into the historical record.

  3. Weaver says:

    Ironically, though, I have heard that Jews in Rome historically suffered relatively little of the severe persecutions (pogroms, massacres, etc.) that Jews in other areas of Europe experienced.

  4. Nachum says:

    It’s not quite correct to say that the Italian nusach is not like Sephard or Ashkenaz because it pre-dates the churban. According to the standard theory (which, granted, has been questioned by many), in the Middle Ages, the Eretz Yisrael Nusach spread throughout the Eastern Roman Empire, which included Italy at the time, and then moved northward and led, with many variants, to Ashkenaz.

    Sephard, on the other hand, started in Bavel and then spread (with many variants) throughout the Muslim world, which at the time included Spain.

    When Spanish Jewry was expelled, they not only overwhelmed the similar nuschaot of North Africa, but also the different ones of Provence, the Balkans, and Israel and its neighbors. The only holdouts were the tiny Romaniot community in Greece and the larger Italian communities.

    As I said, this is somewhat simplistic- for example, all communities, even Yemen, read the Torah once  a year, Bavel-style, and have “Et Tzemach” as a separate bracha. (Eretz Yisrael had it together with “Ve-Yerushalayim.”) But they all generally seem to post-date the Churban, at least in what makes them different. What unites them would seem to pre-date the Churban, of course.

    By the way, most Roman Jews moved away from the ghetto to northern neighborhoods, where you will find various nuschaot, including Italian. The main synagogue by the ghetto doesn’t have that many Jews, period, because they don’t live there. In addition, many Italian communities- Florence, for example, and to a certain extent Venice- faced with the expulsion of 1492, the Jews of Libya arriving in the 1960’s, and the same diminishing of the community as the rest of Europe (at least part of which is, of course, due to assimilation), adapted the Italian nusach with some Sephardi and Ashkenazi elements.

    By the way, I think you mean “god” where you wrote “G-d”.

  5. Ben P says:

    I was in the Great Synagogue for both minyanim during my multi-day stay. The downstairs / seven minyan is sefard and the upstairs at 8 was definitely Bnei Roma. Also mincha / maariv which is each night was upstairs and Bnei Roma.

    Venice was Bnei Italky (not the chabad obviously) as was Florence.

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