Renaissance Man is Elected to Serve As Chief Rabbi of Rome

A Jewish scholar who is also a medical doctor has been elected the new chief rabbi here.

Dr. Riccardo Di Segni, 52, who was elected to the post last week, will succeed 86-year-old Elio Toaff. Di Segni has served as director of Italy’s rabbinical college since 1999.

Toaff retired after 50 years in Italy’s most prominent Jewish religious post. With some 15,000 Jews, Rome’s Jewish community is the largest in Italy.

Married with three children, he serves as chief radiologist at a major Rome hospital.

A native of Rome, he studied medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Di Segni has long been involved in interfaith relations. He has written or edited numerous scholarly works and liturgical texts, including three editions of a guide to Jewish dietary laws.

Di Segni said he aims to be the guardian of the memory of a Jewish community that dates back more than 2,000 years.

“The choice of a chief rabbi for the Rome community is a guarantee for our traditions,” Di Segni, who formally takes office in February, told a Jewish club after his election.

“It is certain that I will need everyone’s help, because I can’t accomplish anything on my own.”

He said he hoped he would be able to continue his medical career as well as carry out his responsibilities as chief rabbi.

“In doing so he will resume an old Sephardic tradition according to which a rabbi should also work” outside of his rabbinic duties, said Tullia Zevi, past president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.

“He is the best person for this post,” said Amos Luzzatto, current president of the Union.

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