Italy's first woman rabbi conducted the first Jewish wedding and Bar Mitzvah in Calabria, Italy, since the Inquisition.
Calabria is in the country's deep south, at the foot of the boot.
Local Calabrian historian Professor Vincenzo Villella has been instrumental in documenting the area's Jewish presence since ancient times. Prior to the Jews’ expulsion from Spain and subsequent forced conversions, Jews made up nearly 50 percent of Calabria's total population.
In 2004, Rabbi Barbara Aiello, whose Jewish ancestors were once 'crypto' or secret Italian Jews during times when it was dangerous to be overtly Jewish, became the first woman and first Progressive rabbi in Italy, based in Lamezia Terme.
In 2007, with the help of a grant from the Vuolo-Bernstein Family Foundation (U.S.), Rabbi Aiello established the Italian Jewish Cultural Center of Calabria (IJCCC) along with the first operational synagogue since Inquisition times.
On May 5, 2007, Synagoga Ner Tamid del Sud (The Eternal Light of the South) hosted the first Jewish wedding to take place in Calabria since Torquemada reached into Sicily and Calabria, forcing Jews to convert or be killed.
Andrew Ewart and Lupe Torres were married under the chuppa in the ancient Nicastro fort overlooking the Timpone (the Jewish Quarter), which dates back to the 9th century.
In mid-June, the Waldman family of New York City arrived in Calabria to celebrate son Tyler's becoming a Bar Mitzvah. It is the first held at the synagogue, which will include Progressive Jewish families from Turin and Naples.
With the IJCCC, Synagoga Ner Tamid and a rabbi living and working locally, the Jews of the region have the opportunity to reconnect with roots and traditions that characterize them as among the oldest Jews in the Diaspora.
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