My Jewish Experience in Rome

February 5, 2024
Avery Fox

Ashton, Maryland, United States

Class of 2025

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taly (or Italia) has a vibrant and diverse Jewish community with a rich history and cultural heritage. I experienced this firsthand when my family and I traveled to Rome for winter break. When in Rome, our first encounter with Jewish culture came on a walking tour of the city. We walked down the uneven cobblestone streets and crossed this wide bridge, over the river towards the Jewish Ghetto, standing next to an island. Little did we know, we were about to learn about an amazing story that occurred there on Tiber Island. 

Tiber Island doesn’t have much to it, just a church and a hospital, but it has a great deal of history. During WWII the Nazis rounded up all of the Jews in the Ghetto. The head of the hospital and the doctors hid many Jews inside the hospital saying that they had “K-syndrome”, a highly contagious disease. The doctors signed all of these “patients” in, with K-syndrome to refrain Nazis from checking the names of patients. But, on October 16th, 1943 the Nazis entered the hospital where they were immediately greeted by doctors explaining the severity of the disease. The Nazis feared the contagion and retreated. The doctors saved the lives of the many Jews in hiding. It’s such an inspiring story. 

This was my first Jewish history lesson in Rome but another one soon followed. That same night, we returned to the Jewish Ghetto for dinner where we enjoyed the most traditional Roman Jewish food, the fried artichoke. Around the time of the 1500s, the Ghettos were walled and gated to protect a huge 7-acre property under papal decree. The land often flooded because of its close vicinity to the Tiber River. Due to the wet climate, the Ghetto had many artichoke plants because they loved to eat artichokes to break fast. Kosher laws embraced the practice of frying food in oil and artichokes quickly became the most delicious dish. 

The first time we ate fried artichokes we instantly fell in love with the crunchy texture and the fun color. We even tried to recreate them at home but sadly we failed and spilled oil all over the kitchen. The rich Jewish history of Rome made me feel connected to my Jewish heritage in a foreign city. It made me inspired to learn more about Jewish food, art, and history. It was truly an eye-opening experience.

Avery Fox is a BBG of Ahavah BBG #2289 from Ashton, Maryland, and loves to dance.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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