ROME (JTA) — Italian actor Moni Ovadia resigned from the Milan Jewish community with accusations that it is a “propaganda office” of the Israeli government.
The announcement by Ovadia, 67, in an interview published last week in the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano sparked a row in the Italian Jewish world.
“I don’t want to stay in a place that calls itself a Jewish community but is the propaganda office of a government,” he said. “I am against those who want to ‘Israelianize’ Judaism.”
A longtime left-wing critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy toward the Palestinians, Ovadia also said he had been barred from taking part in a major Jewish culture festival in Milan at the end of September because of his views.
Milan Jewish community spokesman Daniele Nahum said assertions by the well-known actor were “full of falsehoods.”
“We represent Milanese Jewry and are not the agency of anyone,” Nahum said in a statement.
Ovadia’s withdrawal comes approximately 10 months after the prominent journalist Gad Lerner also left the Milan Jewish community. Lerner was protesting what he regarded as the failure of the community’s leadership to take a firm position against former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who at the dedication of a Holocaust memorial in January had offered some praise for World War II fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Ovadia, who describes himself as Jewish but agnostic, has won a following in Italy for more than 20 years with performances based on Yiddish and Jewish themes. The Bulgaria native moved to Milan with his parents when he was a small child and attended the Italian city’s Jewish school.