Jews and the Vatican: Thoughts about Spirituality and Love

Inbal Freund-Novick is an organizational consultant and co-founder of The Unmasked Comics Project, a social change comics venture with comics artist Chari Pere. After spending a year as a visiting fellow at JPPPI (The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute), she currently serves in the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.

inbal freund-novickFreund-Novick is a participant in Discovering Common Values: The Catholic-Jewish Leadership Conference, hosted by the Vatican and held at the Pope’s summer palace of Castel Gandolfo. She’ll be blogging about it all week, only at MJL.

Today, we were going through the streets of Rome trying to learn together about Jews and Christians who lived and still live in this city (and yes, the Christians’ museum is bigger than ours…). Did you know that the tiny Jewish quarter of Rome was surrounded by about 15 churches from all sides serving as a very sophisticated way of trying to convert Jews? If Jews wanted to go out of that tiny crowded ghetto that was situated at the worst part of town back then -– the first thing people saw upon entering was a church with inscriptions in Hebrew calling them to repent and convert. An ongoing reminder to their status as the others in Rome — and the Christian plan to wait patiently or not (depending on who ruled) until they convert, which they hardly did.

During today we got some massive “corridor time†to just talk and try understanding together what we are doing here. At the end of the day a group of us went to eat some authentic (and kosher) pasta, pizza and, most importantly, fried artichoke -– the culinary symbol of Jews in this city. The origin of this fried dish contains the same reason for the creation of many Jewish foods — poverty, probably. Apparently, fried artichoke became popular when artichokes were lying loose in the fields, unwanted, and therefore free. Poor Jews fried them — a technique that can also make a shoe taste well (according to our tour guide, at least). Well, this was far from a fried shoe — and that nice restaurant and Italian scenery we sat in provided the best background to talk about love.

Posted on June 24, 2009

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