Assisi’s Jewish Rescue Efforts: Reciprocity
In early February, 1998 I headed to the U.S. to lecture coast-to-coast on Assisi’s 1997 earthquake. My objective? To tell the world, that yes, two vaults of the Upper Basilica di San Francesco had collapsed but our glorious Basilica di San Francesco had survived. The video showing the crashing vaults had devastated tourism.
I set out hoping to restore tourism, not just to Assisi, but to Umbria. Alitalia paid my international airfare and the local Chamber of Commerce picked up all my internal flights. I was allowed inside the heavily-scaffolded Upper Basilica with the fire department to photograph the damage for the slide show I’d be presenting. All of Assisi was behind me with countless merchants and artisans sending mille grazie gifts – no room in my suitcase for many clothes! – to those sponsoring my talks.
I traveled 18, 439 miles across the US, lecturing east to west. Some of the venues? Vassar, Smith College, NYU, Syracuse University, Trinity College (CT), American University, Loyola University (Chicago), University of Texas – Austin, USC, UCLA, Portland Fine Arts Museum, Museo Italo-Americano (San Francisco), Elvehjem Art Museum (Madison, WI), University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco co-sponsored my talk with the San Francisco Archdiocese. and the Jewish community of the Bay Area also funded the post-earthquake restoration of the Istituto Serafico of Assisi: a thanks for the saving of over two hundred Jewish refugees hidden in Assisi in 1943 -1944.
When I had directed the Assisi Elderhostel programs in Assisi in the 1980’s, I often invited Graziella Viterbi – saved here with her Padua family, thanks to the “Assisi underground” – to speak to our groups, answer their questions. No one ever forgot her tales. When the earthquake hit Assisi in 1997, my Elderhostel “students,” Paul and Lois Levine, knew it was time to give back to Assisi – and they mobilized the San Francisco Jewish community, promoting my lecture, initiating the restoration fund.
Alas, I have no photos of my U.S. tour but I do have a hefty folder of newspaper clippings….a few mementos below.
I am remembering that trip today, January 27th, “il Giorno della Memoria”, reflecting on interlinking rescue efforts: of Assisi for the Jewish refugees and then that of the Jewish Community of San Francisco for Assisi.
Reciprocity. Che bello.
Note: Many venues sponsoring my US earthquake lectures initiated funds for restoration here. I often reflect on the solidarity of so many as I walk our stunningly-restored Assisi….
Notes from a U.S. lecture tour….
Read about the Assisi earthquake restoration here
Read about the “hero of Assisi, “ Don Aldo Brunacci, instrumental in rescuing Jewish refugees here in World War II
Click here to read about Don Aldo Brunacci, Graziella Viterbi and aid to Assisi by San Francisco Jewish organization
Read about Graziella’s encounter in Assisi with Pope Francis 2013
Read here about Assisi’s Museo della Memoria
Read more about the Assisi, Museum of Memory
Read about the Yad Veshem tribute to Don Aldo Brunacci and four others from Assisi
Graziella Viterbi and family were saved thanks to the “Assisi Underground” – read about her here
More on Graziella’s story here
Click here for a video on Don Aldo’s testimony
Read more on Assisi’s help to the Jewish refugees in World War II