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US rabbi honors household promise in Italy, affirms Jewish heritage


Serrastretta, Italy

From a rustic, tiny synagogue she fashioned from her family’s ancestral home in this mountain village, an American rabbi is keeping a promise made to her Italian-born father: reconnect people in this southern region of Calabria to their Jewish roots, links nearly severed five centuries ago when the Inquisition forced Jews to convert to Christianity.

In the process, Rabbi Barbara Aiello is also helping to revive Serrastretta, one of many small southern towns struggling with dwindling population, as young people leave in droves to find work and where each year deaths far outnumber births.

Besides the chatter of visitors who come to her synagogue, curious to learn about Judaism in predominantly Catholic Italy, the laughter of newly arrived children resounds in the town. This spring, the rabbi helped bring Ukrainian refugees, including some with

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