Rome (Feb. 14)
Dr. Israel Anton Zolli, for seven years Chief Rabbi of Rome, today announced that he has become converted to Catholicism. The announcement said that Dr. Zolli’s wife and daughter have also renounced Judaism and have been accepted as converts by the Catholic Church.
In recognition of the humanitarian work which the Pope did in behalf of Jews during the German occupation of Rome, Dr. Zolli, who resigned as Chief Rabbi on Febal, is taking the name of Eugenia Maria, which was the name of the Pope before he was elevated to his present office, the announcement, which appeared in the newspapers here, added. Dr. Zolli could not be reached for a statement.
The disclosure of their former Chief Rabbi’s conversion was received with astonishment by the Jewish community of Rome. Joseph Nathan, head of the Union of Italian Jews, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent that “we had no intimation of Zolli’s plans. All we know is what we have read in the newspapers. Naturally, we are sorry,” he continued, “but the less said about it the better.” A few days ago Dr. Zolli communicated with Mr. Nathan informing him that he could not accept appointment as head of the Rabbinical College here, which is to reopen soon, because of “personal reasons.”
Other members of the local Jewish community told the JTA correspondent that Dr. Zolli has for a long time been primarily concerned with scholarly studies and out of touch with his community. His recent resignation brought the gap between him and the community into the open. Zolli told the JTA a few days ago that he felt estranged from the Jewish community and expressed his unwillingness to accept any new responsibilities from it.
Born in Brody, Eastern Galicia; in 1881, Zolli studied for the rabbinate in Vienna. In 1918 he was appointed Chief Rabbi of Trieste, a post he held until he became Chief Rabbi of Rome in 1958. Dr. Stephen S. Wise Expresses Amazement at Conversion of Dr. Zolli