Rome’s Jews celebrate rabbi’s birthday

ROME (JTA) — Jews in Rome are celebrating the 95th birthday of Rabbi Elio Toaff, who served as the eternal city’s chief rabbi for half a century.

Although Toaff retired in 2001, he remains one of Italy’s most prominent and respected Jewish figures. His birthday was on April 30.

Senior politicians also are scheduled to attend birthday festivities Monday and Tuesday. They include a gala Monday night, as well as a conference, the publication of a new biography of Toaff, and the opening of an exhibition on his life and work at the Rome Jewish Museum.

Toaff, a Livorno native, fought with the anti-fascist resistance during World War II and became chief rabbi of Rome in 1951. In 1986 he embraced Pope John Paul II at Rome’s main synagogue on the first visit to a synagogue by a pope.

Toaff also on hand at the synagogue last January to greet Pope Benedict XVI on his visit there.

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