The Lost Ark

After being damaged by allied air raids during WWII, the synagogue of Reggio Emilia remained closed and abandoned for more than sixty years. The barred and dusty door stayed there, imposingly sad and very fascinating, for generations who just could not enter.

A few years ago the synagogue was reopened, and every year I visit it on the European Day of Jewish Culture, to see the new rooms as soon as they are progressively restored. First the door and the floors and the walls, than the vault, then came the two women’s galleries. Next year, or maybe in a couple of years, hopefully we will be able to see the ritual baths in the basement.

But the ark will remain in Haifa, where it was brought years ago. The wooden closet remains empty.

There are only two Jewish people left in Reggio Emilia, a woman and her daughter. This year they showed us around, and they talked about the history of Jewish families from Reggio Emilia, how they came and settles, how the ghetto was closed causing the houses to became taller and more complicated,  how people left the city during fascism because of the racial laws, how most of those who had remained tried to escape on the roofs, but were captured anyway and brought to the nearby Fossoli camp, and eventually to Auschwitz. They had familiar surnames.