The sudden death of Prof. Angelo Sacerdoti, Chief Rabbi of Rome, has brought about a crisis in the Italian Rabbinate. Prof. Sacerdoti was largely responsible for the union of Jewish communities into a national federation and had been one of the outstanding, if not the outstanding personality in Jewish life in Italy.
At the present time, there are four large Italian cities which have no rabbis. They are Rome, with a Jewish population of 12,000; Genoa, with 6,000; Firenze, with 3,500, and Padua, with 1,000. A number of smaller communities, such as Vercelli and Rechia, are similarly placed.
Since there are few qualified rabbis in Italy and there is no desire among the Italian Jews to invite rabbis from abroad, the question of qualified spiritual leaders for the Italian Jewish communities is, perforce, a serious one.
Chief Rabbi Sacerdoti died of influenza complicated with severe inflammation of the throat. He had been ill only a few days. On the day of his death, he had been feeling better, and at about six o’clock had dressed in order to go to the Prime Minister, Signor Mussolini, who had arranged to receive him in special audience, before his leaving for Paris to attend the meeting of the Executive Committee for the Jewish World Congress, which was to have opened on Feb. 23, and also a conference of the World Union of Sephardic Jews.
He suddenly felt unwell, and his family doctor was called, and Chief Rabbi Sacerdoti cried: “Save me! I have important work to do for the Jews!” Those were his last words.
At the funeral, the Municipal police and the Carabineri, in gala uniform, kept order along the route of the funeral. The procession was headed by students of the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano, the Rabbinical Seminary. The funeral procession passed through all the main streets of Rome, through Via dell’Impero to the Forum Romanum. After that only the mourners and friends followed to the cemetery.
The pupils of the Jewish elementary school Vittorio Polacco, the Jewish Orphanage in Rome, the Jewish Sports Socient Sinigaglia, and a deputation from the Jewish Section of the Government Marine School in Civita Vecchia, which Chief Rabbi Sacerdoti had opened a fortnight previously, were in the procession.
The Secretary of the Fascist Party sent a message of condolence in the name of the Party. Messages of condolence were also received from the King and from Signor Mussolini.
The centenary of the birth of Professor Senator Alessandro d’Ancona, who died in Florence in 1914, is being celebrated here this week.
O’Ancona, who was educated in Florence, is considered the greatest historian of Italian literature. His contributions to Dante literature marked a new era and are still indispensable works on the subject. He was the creator in Italy of a scientific school of literary history. He was also one of the greatest Italian philogolists. His work in modern literature is also of great importance.
D’Ancona was a great Italian patriot. He held many important public offices in Italy. He was a close friend of his fellow-Jew, Cesare Lombroso.
The historian and bibliographer, Dr. Isaiah Sonne, who is the authorized representative of the Jewish communities in Italy for arranging the libraries and archives of the Italian Jewish Communities, has discovered in the Jewish community library of Ferrara an unknown manuscript by the famous Rabbi Leone da Modena, of the year 1600-1601. It is a commentary on Proverbs, written in the form of lectures which he delivered to his pupils, and contains also the commentaries of his pupils, Rabbi Asariah Figo, Rabbi Abraham Lombroso and Rabbi Jacob Obadiah.