Dozens From Italy Arrived for Inauguration of The Italian Jewish Cultural Center in Jerusalem's City Center

חנוכת בית יהודי איטליה 1
The Jerusalem Foundation inaugurated the Italian Jewish Cultural Center, housed in a charming structure built in 1887 that was declared an historic monument on Hillel Street in Jerusalem's City Center. Dozens of guests from Italy attendant for the ceremony, namely Solo Dwek and the directors of his companies which contributed over $1.5 to save the building from private development and maintain it as a public facility.

 

The building was built in the 19th century by the German Catholics as an inn for Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem alongside a school for girls, which continued to function until the end of the British Mandate period. With the establishment of the State of Israel, it housed the Ma'aleh School and in the 1960s was rented by the Jerusalem Municipality to Hevrat Yehudé Italia (the Italian Jewish Society).

 

The Conegliano Veneto Synagogue was relocated to the site in its entirety and serves as an active synagogue in the heart of the Dr. U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art and the Arbib Educational Center, depicting the full community life of the Italian Jews. Thanks to the activities of the Hevràt Yehudè Italia Lif'ulà Ruhanìt organization, the building is today an active spiritual center for the religious and secular life of Jews of Italian origin and a cultural landmark for tourists, locals and dignitaries, symbolizing the close ties with Italy. Tamar Millo, Director of the Italian Desk at the Jerusalem Foundation, stressed that thanks to the generosity of the donors, Italian Jewry can finally call it home.

 

About two years ago, the Development Authority through the Amidar Company which owned the building, decided to liquidate the asset and informed Hevràt Yehudè Italia of the possibility to purchase the building or otherwise vacate the premises. Developers immediately began expressing interest in the asset and the adjacent buildings. Funds collected from members of the Italian Jewish community in Israel were insufficient to cover even half the sum required and time was running out. In a bid to help the historic museum, the Jerusalem Foundation harnessed the support of its long-time and loyal friends, Jewish Italian donors Solo Dwek and his brother Maurice Dwek who has since passed away, owners of a successful financial company who had contributed privately to important causes in Israel and Jerusalem. The brothers were this time joined by the partners in their companies and by the family's younger generation, thus passing on their love for Jerusalem and the family tradition of giving to Israel. The Jerusalem Municipality also joined the effort to save the building and assisted in the purchase.

 

All the donors and their guests, who travelled especially from Italy for the inauguration ceremony, were joined by Italian Ambassador to Israel Francesco Maria Talò, the Chief Rabbi of Rome Professor Riccardo Di Segni, the Chairman of the Board of Bank Leumi in his capacity of Chairman of the Board of the Jerusalem Foundation David Brodet and distinguished members of the Italian Jewish community in Israel. 

 

In honor of the event, the Italian Jewish Museum prepared an exhibit on the building's history, including a model of the original structure, which will be open to the public at large.

חנוכת בית יהודי איטליה 3