The hard part was getting to the actual synagogue. After the usual crazy drive into downtown Naples, we found parking and walked around the cobblestone crowded streets in the heat for at least 30 minutes. We showed people the address and they kept pointing us in the same direction, but we just couldn't find this place. One person told us it was in the parking garage and just as we were about to turn around and abandon our plans for the night, Moshe calls from above and says, "Hello!!" Three flights of stairs later and we found the front door. We finally made it!
We walked into the small chapel and we introduced ourselves to the other people there (about eight men and two women). We figured beforehand that this was going to be more religious than we are used to and that we wouldn't get to sit next to each other during the service, which we didn't. It was very interesting listening to a service that was mainly in Hebrew, but the rest in Italian. The tunes of the songs were sung differently as well. We tried to keep up as much as we could, but of course had some trouble. The service only lasted an hour so we didn't feel out of it for too long.
Afterwards, we all gathered in the kitchen for dinner. The dinner was delicious... it was a typical Italian meal minus the prosciutto, seafood, and other unkosher stuff. After the appetizers and fish course Jon and I felt incredibly full... but wait! Here comes the eggplant lasagna! I guess you can picture an Italian Jew pushing even more food on you than if he were just Italian or just Jewish :)
What Jon and I really liked about the whole experience was that almost everyone there was from somewhere else and had sought out a place in order to be connected to Judaism. The girl I sat next to during the service was from Paris and had just moved to Naples two days prior in order to study abroad for the semester. The other woman was from New Zealand who was married to a man from Naples. Two of the men were from Israel and they were studying in Naples. And then of course there was us, the Americans. Jews from all around the world gathering in the only synagogue in Naples, Italy... it was a pretty cool scene! Even though there were only eight of us at dinner, at any given time there were four languages being spoken (Hebrew, Italian, English, and French).
They invited us to come back the next day for services, but we declined. We may go there for Rosh Hashanah in a couple of weeks so that will be enough for us! All in all, we stayed for more than four hours and had a memorable time meeting new people!
|The synagogue, taken from here|
If you're interested, here is some information on the synagogue and a short history on the Jews in Naples, which I took from their website (with the help of google translate):
The synagogue today is testimony to the rebirth of Jewish life in nineteenth-century Naples, but one must remember that the Jewish presence in this city is much older and dates back to the first century.
In 1541 all Jews had to leave the kingdom of Naples as a result of the definitive decree of expulsion. We will come back for a few years from 1740 to 1747, attracted by the Bourbons, and finally and definitively from 1831 onwards.
The rebirth of the Community of Naples is tied to the family of German bankers named Rothschild, who conceded a huge loan to the Bourbons, which would allow the return of Ferdinand to the throne of Naples. In 1821, Adolph Carl Rothschild moved to town and opened the first branch of the Rothschild bank in Italy. He flourished and he resided in the current Villa Pignatelli. For several years a room in the house was home to a chapel where resident and visiting Jews had the opportunity to participate in religious services.
After the unification of Italy, a lot of Jewish families moved to Naples and the Jewish community was founded and rented the premises of the Old Chapel Street, for religious services. Baron Adolph Carl Rothschild was one of the most generous underwriters for the first five years of rent and for the restoration of the property. The Rothschild family has participated actively in the life of the community until 1900, the year of the death of Adolf Carl who made generous donations to the Community institutions and other philanthropic Naples. In 1910 Dario Ascarelli, then president, left a large sum of money to be used for the purchase of existing premises. These were purchased in 1927 with the help of other members.
At that time there were about a thousand Jews in Naples. Then slowly it began to decrease and during the Second World War, some Jews were deported to Naples, fled or displaced by reasons of war in central and northern Italy.
In addition to these, Neapolitan Jews of Greek origin who were expelled from the 'Italy as a result of the racial laws, were forced to go back to Greece and later deported from Athens and Thessaloniki. At the end of the conflict there remained only 534 people, now reduced to about 160, and they are added to these new members of the section of Trani, which since 2006 has joined the Community of Naples.
Today, the Synagogue of Naples is back to its former splendor with the restorations carried out with funding from the Ministry of Culture.