As the Jewish New Year of Rosh HaShanah approaches, two synagogues—Ner Tamid in Bradenton, Florida and Ner Tamid del Sud in the southern Italian region of Calabria—continue to expand their unique 12-year relationship that has included shared festivals, lectures and ecumenical outreach to the Italian-American community.
Along with Rena Morano, the Rabbinic Associate for Congregation Ner Tamid, Rabbi Barbara Aiello, rabbinical advisor to Bradenton’s Congregation Ner Tamid and rabbi of the Reconstructionist synagogue, Ner Tamid del Sud in southern Italy, was instrumental in the establishment of the Bradenton Jewish group. Through the years, Rabbi Barbara worked with Bradenton’s Rabbinic Associate, Rena Morano to bring both groups of Jews together for their mutual benefit.
“Our sister relationship began back in 2005 when Joseph (Giuseppe) Capriotti and his family, members of Ner Tamid Bradenton, decided to come to Italy for Joseph’s Bar Mitzvah ceremony.,” says Rabbi Barbara Aiello, who divides her time between Sarasota, Florida and Serrastretta, Italy where she is based. “Rena Morano provided Joey’s preparation, and our synagogue in Italy hosted the entire extended family along with Board members from the Bradenton congregation for the Bar Mitzvah. Thanks to the congregations’ sister relationship, the Capriotti interfaith family celebrated both their Italian roots and their Jewish heritage.”
Over the years, the two congregations deepened their joint commitment to Jewish pluralism as each extended the hand of welcome to Jews of all backgrounds. In Italy, Rabbi Barbara organized a joint Sukkot festival with the local priest while in Bradenton, Rena Morano and the Ner Tamid Board created an annual dinner and lecture experience with the local Italian American community as guests of honor.
Both congregations are aware of current research that indicates that many southern Italians and Italian-Americans have a hidden Jewish heritage that dates back to the forced conversions of Inquisition times, and leadership of both synagogues work together to respond to this unique aspect of Jewish cultural diversity.
“Rosh HaShanah marks the beginning of the Jewish new year,” says Rena Morano, “And this year we hope to work with Rabbi Barbara on a special lecture series on Jewish life in Italy and Anti-semitism in Europe.”