The purpose of this project is to reconstruct the meaning of the concept of “nation” in contemporary Jewish Italian culture holding two different points of view and consequently two different methodological approaches: the history of the concept and its concrete fulfillment. That means firstly to draw the theoretical debate on the idea of “nation” that arose in the first decade of the twentieth century, then to follow its accomplishment by outlining Italian Jew’s contribution to the constitution of the state of Israel between 1938 and 1967. The research’s initial focus is the renew debate upon the concept of “nation” that spread out into Italian Zionist movement. The debate will be followed analyzing the precious source of the Jewish Italian press In the variety of voices and positions, a particular attention will be paid to the political reflection expressed by two Italian Zionist thinkers: Enzo Sereni and Alfonso Pacifici. My choice is based on two main reasons. First of all they embodied and represented opposite souls, although complementary, of the Italian Zionist movement. Sereni was a Socialist – Zionist, while Pacifici elaborated a sort of “cultural-religious” Zionism. It must be pointed out that, although their essential dissimilarity, these itineraries converged on their final decision to emigrate in Palestine between the Twenties and the Thirties. I maintain that their national choice reflected their understanding of the Nation as it has elaborated in Italy after the Unity. And as such Sereni and Pacifici were among the first pioneers  and the only  who attempted to put into practice the theory of nation conceived in their motherland. This first stage of research requires both an analytical and comparative approach. The point of departure for drawing Sereni and Pacifici’s political meaning of “nation” will be the reading and the interpretation of their bibliographical production, constituted by monographic studies and articles, but in order to achieve a deeper comprehension of their political and cultural profile a comparative effort is strictly entailed. The contents and especially the original traits of their reflection, in fact, will be contextualized in the wider horizon of the European and Italian political thought, searching for similarities, for common attributes with other “national theories” formulated in different political, national and religious contexts. So, from this point of view, the first part of the project acquires a further value and a further meaning in addition to the original one. Meditating on Sereni and Pacifici’s concept of nation and on their “theoretical debts” with Italian and European political thought, in fact, means also to reflect on the Italian Jewry’s broader experience of inheritance and reshaping of both national and international political categories and theories. Trough Enzo Sereni, in fact, we could perceive and test the contact between Jewish world and the ideological platform of Marxism, mainly in its socialist derivation; while through Alfonso Pacifici we could remark a range of resemblances between his cultural-religious declination of Zionism and a branch of the catholic political thought risen during the Italian Risorgimento, especially with the idea of “nation” formulated by Vincenzo Gioberti. The second stage of the project is dedicated to a case-study. In that phase, in fact, we will follow the conversion of the concept from theory to praxis, to national-building practice in particular, reconstructing the Jewish Italian contribution to the constitution of the state of Israel after the World War II. For this aspect too, as already anticipated, Sereni and Pacifici represent a great point of departure and an excellent focus because, respectively in 1927 and in 1934, they moved to Palestine and operated for the raising of a national state. The main source to reconstruct their activity is constituted by personal documents and memories, collected at the Central Archives for the History of Jewish People in Jerusalem. The aim of this documental work is to try to demonstrate how, from such different concepts of nation, developed a concrete action that converged on the result to guide Italian life in Israel and to enhance the Italian role in the social, cultural and political increase of the state. Moving from his socialist Zionism, Enzo Sereni concentrated his efforts in the organization and in the improvement of the kibbutz-system; Alfonso Pacifici, on the contrary, addressed his engagement in the field of culture, specially by promoting a sort of “jewish acculturation” of the Italian immigrants. To testify and evaluate the significance and the effects of that action of guidance, the research will be enlarged to the Italian settlement in Israel, analyzing it from several points of view: social composition, inner dynamics, evolution during decades. From 1938 Italian immigrants in Palestine gathered in “Irgun Olé Italia”, a legal association that promoted connection among the olim and provided them, despite the difficulties of that period, social assistance and support. Its entire activity is testified by a huge series of files collected in CAHJP that clearly represents the basic source to enlighten Italian life in Israel. The range of documentation for our purpose, however, is not completed: more aspects and more details could be drawn from papers stored at the Italian Foreign Ministery’s historical archives and, furthermore, from Jewish Italian press. In fact, with the goal to widen the idea of aliyà among Italian Jewry, after World War II a new kind of Zionist press flourished in Italy, a sort of “specialized press”, frequently drafted by immigrants themselves, whose aim was to bring Italian Jews more in touch with the concrete reality of Zion . From this point of view each article constitutes a genuine portrait of Jewish Italian life in Israel, a portrait that testifies the daily engagement for the unique challenge of building a nation.

Italian Jews and the concept of nation : from political thought to nation building practice / S. Airoldi. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Max and Hilde Kochmann Summer School in modern european jewish history and culture tenutosi a Brighton nel 2013.

Italian Jews and the concept of nation : from political thought to nation building practice

S. Airoldi
2013

Abstract

The purpose of this project is to reconstruct the meaning of the concept of “nation” in contemporary Jewish Italian culture holding two different points of view and consequently two different methodological approaches: the history of the concept and its concrete fulfillment. That means firstly to draw the theoretical debate on the idea of “nation” that arose in the first decade of the twentieth century, then to follow its accomplishment by outlining Italian Jew’s contribution to the constitution of the state of Israel between 1938 and 1967. The research’s initial focus is the renew debate upon the concept of “nation” that spread out into Italian Zionist movement. The debate will be followed analyzing the precious source of the Jewish Italian press In the variety of voices and positions, a particular attention will be paid to the political reflection expressed by two Italian Zionist thinkers: Enzo Sereni and Alfonso Pacifici. My choice is based on two main reasons. First of all they embodied and represented opposite souls, although complementary, of the Italian Zionist movement. Sereni was a Socialist – Zionist, while Pacifici elaborated a sort of “cultural-religious” Zionism. It must be pointed out that, although their essential dissimilarity, these itineraries converged on their final decision to emigrate in Palestine between the Twenties and the Thirties. I maintain that their national choice reflected their understanding of the Nation as it has elaborated in Italy after the Unity. And as such Sereni and Pacifici were among the first pioneers  and the only  who attempted to put into practice the theory of nation conceived in their motherland. This first stage of research requires both an analytical and comparative approach. The point of departure for drawing Sereni and Pacifici’s political meaning of “nation” will be the reading and the interpretation of their bibliographical production, constituted by monographic studies and articles, but in order to achieve a deeper comprehension of their political and cultural profile a comparative effort is strictly entailed. The contents and especially the original traits of their reflection, in fact, will be contextualized in the wider horizon of the European and Italian political thought, searching for similarities, for common attributes with other “national theories” formulated in different political, national and religious contexts. So, from this point of view, the first part of the project acquires a further value and a further meaning in addition to the original one. Meditating on Sereni and Pacifici’s concept of nation and on their “theoretical debts” with Italian and European political thought, in fact, means also to reflect on the Italian Jewry’s broader experience of inheritance and reshaping of both national and international political categories and theories. Trough Enzo Sereni, in fact, we could perceive and test the contact between Jewish world and the ideological platform of Marxism, mainly in its socialist derivation; while through Alfonso Pacifici we could remark a range of resemblances between his cultural-religious declination of Zionism and a branch of the catholic political thought risen during the Italian Risorgimento, especially with the idea of “nation” formulated by Vincenzo Gioberti. The second stage of the project is dedicated to a case-study. In that phase, in fact, we will follow the conversion of the concept from theory to praxis, to national-building practice in particular, reconstructing the Jewish Italian contribution to the constitution of the state of Israel after the World War II. For this aspect too, as already anticipated, Sereni and Pacifici represent a great point of departure and an excellent focus because, respectively in 1927 and in 1934, they moved to Palestine and operated for the raising of a national state. The main source to reconstruct their activity is constituted by personal documents and memories, collected at the Central Archives for the History of Jewish People in Jerusalem. The aim of this documental work is to try to demonstrate how, from such different concepts of nation, developed a concrete action that converged on the result to guide Italian life in Israel and to enhance the Italian role in the social, cultural and political increase of the state. Moving from his socialist Zionism, Enzo Sereni concentrated his efforts in the organization and in the improvement of the kibbutz-system; Alfonso Pacifici, on the contrary, addressed his engagement in the field of culture, specially by promoting a sort of “jewish acculturation” of the Italian immigrants. To testify and evaluate the significance and the effects of that action of guidance, the research will be enlarged to the Italian settlement in Israel, analyzing it from several points of view: social composition, inner dynamics, evolution during decades. From 1938 Italian immigrants in Palestine gathered in “Irgun Olé Italia”, a legal association that promoted connection among the olim and provided them, despite the difficulties of that period, social assistance and support. Its entire activity is testified by a huge series of files collected in CAHJP that clearly represents the basic source to enlighten Italian life in Israel. The range of documentation for our purpose, however, is not completed: more aspects and more details could be drawn from papers stored at the Italian Foreign Ministery’s historical archives and, furthermore, from Jewish Italian press. In fact, with the goal to widen the idea of aliyà among Italian Jewry, after World War II a new kind of Zionist press flourished in Italy, a sort of “specialized press”, frequently drafted by immigrants themselves, whose aim was to bring Italian Jews more in touch with the concrete reality of Zion . From this point of view each article constitutes a genuine portrait of Jewish Italian life in Israel, a portrait that testifies the daily engagement for the unique challenge of building a nation.
Nazionalismo; ebraismo italiano, Palestina; Enzo Sereni; Alfonso Pacifici; emigrazione
Settore M-STO/04 - Storia Contemporanea
Centre for German-Jewish Studies. University of Sussex
Italian Jews and the concept of nation : from political thought to nation building practice / S. Airoldi. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Max and Hilde Kochmann Summer School in modern european jewish history and culture tenutosi a Brighton nel 2013.
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