Rome is the city of churches. There are 900, including the world’s most celebrated – St Peter’s Cathedral.
So why am I here in the Italian capital’s Grand Synagogue by the banks of the Tiber, doing a guided tour of Jewish Rome? Because there were Jews in Rome long before the Christians arrived.
Rome has one of the oldest, continually surviving Jewish communities outside the Holy Land. In fact, our guide tells us, Roman Jews are neither Ashkenazi nor Shepardic since they were here before the Diaspora split the Jewish nation into two main camps.
So why do we rarely read about the Roman Jews? There are 14,000 living in Rome today – about a third of Italy’s total Jewish population and seven times the number who live in Venice, site of the world’s first ghetto.
Since this is my fourth trip to Rome in four years, so I’ve opted to shun the obvious tourist highlights and explore the “Jewish Quarter” – what remains of the original Roman ghetto.