The European Jewish Congress reports that the Italian government approved a request made nearly a year ago by Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau demanding that efforts be made to prevent the destruction of the Jewish cemetery in Mantova by a construction project.
The graveyard, in which hundreds of year old graves are located, was at the danger of being destroyed due to something called the “Mantova Hub construction plan.” In light of the danger, Lau sent a letter to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte nearly a year ago.
The chief rabbi of Israel congratulated the prime minister in his letter for the effort to save the Jewish cemetery in a letter to Italian government officials following the approval.
“I congratulate you, Mr. Prime Minister, on the determination and effort to prevent any harm to the sacred deceased buried in the cemetery and to maintain character of this holy place of the Jewish people,” Rabbi Lau wrote.
Though the timing was unintentional, the request was approved earlier this month on the four hundred year anniversary of the death of Rabbi Menahem Azariah da Fano. In addition to the request, the government allocated a special budget to change construction plans to prevent damage to the ancient cemetery.
“It is with great appreciation and pleasure that I received the news that the government is currently working on making changes to the Mantova Hub construction plan,” Rabbi Lau wrote.
“We also received with great satisfaction the news that the solution was found to protect the deceased and prevent any damage to them as the mass grave – graves from ancient times that were discovered near the Jewish cemetery in Mantova,” Lau continued.
Last year, Paul Packer, Chairman of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, visited the site, met with the mayor and planing committee and worked with the US embassy and local Jewish leaders to help reach a successful resolution.
“In this day and age when many are destroying and erasing heritage it is very nice to see that the Government of Italy and the local municipality realize that preserving history is the right thing to do,” he said.
As mentioned above, one of the ancient graves found to be buried in the cemetery was that of Rabbi Menahem Azariah da Fano, a Talmudist who was buried in 1620. Da Fano was a disciple of Rabbi Moses ben Jacob Cordevo, and was known for his workings in Talmudic and Kabbalistic studies.
The approval was made with contribution by Italian Rabbis Association president Rabbi Alfonso Arbib; Chief Rabbi Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Shmuel Di Segni; as well as EJC’s country’s affiliate, the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities president Noemi Di Segni in addition to the renowned international organization Athra Kadisha, an organization dedicated to saving and preserving cemeteries both in Israel and around the globe.