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Conversions, Spurred by Racial Laws, Rise in Italy

August 12, 1940
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A wave of conversions to Catholicism from Judaism since Italy’s adoption of racialism is giving rise to fears that Italian Jewry will not long survive as an organized community.

Figures available today reveal that 5,500 Jews have either been converted or have withdrawn from the Jewish Community, which is a preliminary step to conversion. This figure represents 18 per cent of the total Jewish population in Italy.

The current epidemic of conversions is generally attributed to international developments and the desire of those seeing no other possibilities to secure the protection of the Church. Most of the converts hope that membership in the Church will exempt them from the racial laws, but actually the Vatican has not yet succeeded in persuading Fascism to recognize the Church creed of brotherhood in Catholicism despite racial origin. This is still a point of major divergence between the Church and the State.

One result of the situation is that a number of full-blooded Jewish Catholics are considered “Aryans” while members of their families are regarded under the laws as Jews.

One of the racial decrees specifies that “Aryanization” may be achieved by proving illegitimacy as a consequence of a mother’s relations with an “Aryan.” Since no one wants to reflect against his mother’s morality, there have been many cases of unearthing transgressions on the part of long-buried grandmothers.

Italian Jewish communities have been severely affected by the present situation. Under a Government decree all Jews are compelled to give a proportion of their income to the Jewish Community. The numerous withdrawals, therefore, have severely affected the Community’s income at a time when relief demands have become most urgent.

There has also been a wave of conversions among foreign Jews here, one reason being that conversion often means a possibility to escape overseas through the help of the Church. The Vatican has received 3,000 immigration visas to Brazil, many of which will be allotted to converts. The Church also frequently aids those awaiting visas.

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