2) Marco, could you tell to our audience which may not know well Magen David Keshet Italia a little bit more about your organization? Tell us about its history and its mission?
Exactly one year ago I organized with the Reform Jewish community of Rome of which I am also co-founder, a conference on “The Jews and homosexuality” that achieved great success with critics and audiences. This exposure of the community on such a specific subject must have scared someone on the board, who decided that pushing too hard on these issues would alienate some members. In any case, they made it clear that for the community LGBT was not a priority. So I decided to continue by myself and with only my partner’s support, I created our Facebook group, and involved some friends in the project which immediately got a lot of interest.
We took part as a group in the Gay Pride of Rome, which has given us the opportunity to be known nationwide also thanks to the media, intrigued by our rainbow flags with the Magen David. Suddenly everyone in Rome knew about us. Our mission is to help Jewish homosexual people to live their lives with serenity without having to give up any part of their personality, especially for those who are religious. There is nothing wrong with being homosexual; all of us were created according to a divine plan.
I am also a founding member of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists and have served on the Board of the Washington Psychiatric Society. Currently I maintain a private clinical practice and teach at the Medical School on a voluntary basis. I have lived in Washington for forty years with a home in the historic Cleveland Park neighborhood. With my friends I actively enjoy the exciting cultural life of the city, its theater, music, art and restaurant scene, and, of course, the many activities of the Bet Mishpachah and wider Jewish community. I am also quite engaged with my extended family, some of whom live in Washington, and am grateful for my special relationship as uncle with my nephews and nieces.
3) Could you describe the main activities of your association?
I know that you are organizing a conference in the next few days on the occasion of Remembrance Day of Shoah entitled, “The reasons for the silence – the pink triangle in the Shoah.” Could you tell us a little bit more about this event in particular?
So far we have participated in an official way in all events organized by other LGBT organizations, especially those related to the demands of a Law on civil unions. We have successfully organized our first Seder of Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot and Hannukah. On January 28, we will be at the [Italian] Senate for the conference, “the reasons for the silence – the pink triangle in the Holocaust.” The conference commemorates the persecution of homosexuals under the Nazi and fascist regimes. Starting from an analysis of the different socio-historical contexts, the different specific pieces of legislation that were inevitably intertwined with the anti-Semitic laws, but especially from the testimonies of survivors (Jewish and non-Jewish homosexual), we will analyze the genesis, development and specificity of persecution in Germany and Italy. The event has already received the support of almost all the Italian Jewish institutions, LGBT associations and the Israeli embassy in Rome.
4) Could you describe to our readers the situation and the rights of LGBT people in Italy? What are the more recent evolutions? What are the remaining struggles that are still to come?
Italy is the only Western European country currently with no law allowing same sex unions. On January 28, the debate for a law will start in Parliament, which looks not simple at all because the Catholic MPs are strongly against it, and even the Catholic Church took to the field to stop the law.
Yesterday there were demonstrations in 100 Italian cities with over a million people calling for the rapid adoption of a law, and on January 31, Catholic associations have organized a “family day” in Rome in defense of the traditional family. As you can understand, we fell half a century behind the rest of democratic Europe.
5) Many people inside and outside the Jewish community are worried about the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe. Could you give us your feeling about the situation in Italy?
The situation in Italy is not as serious as in France or northern Europe, nonetheless everyone is very worried about the resurgence of anti-Semitic feeling in the world. Even in Italy there is more attention from the authorities to the protection and control of synagogues and Jewish institutions, for the threat coming from Islamist extremism, also considering that in Rome this year the Catholic Church celebrates the holy Year. The general sentiment of the Italian people for Jews is good, anti-Semitic incidents are very rare and not very effective.
6) As I said at the beginning of the interview, your organization,Magen David Keshet Italia joined the family of the World Congress recently. Could you tell us your motivations for joining us?
Is important for us to be part of Keshet Ga’avah, because this allows us to be more influential in the institutions, both the Jewish and the [national] ones, to contribute, to build up and be part of a network for exchanging information and ideas. We as a group in Italy are small and young and so we need an organization that has expertise and experience to help us and advise us in our choices.
7) As you know, the World Congress is organizing its annual Board Meeting in Washington in April. We look forward meeting you personally during this event. Would you have a last message you’d want to convey to our members?
I will come to Washington DC for the annual meeting of the Board, I will take part with pleasure to debate with other members of Congress. All of us at Magen David Keshet Italia are very pleased to be part of KeshetGa’avah [and] hoping to be supported in our first steps and work together for the future.
Magen David Keshet Italia
Magen David Keshet Italia