Rome names central street after community rabbi

In historic ceremony, Rome names street after Rabbi Eliyahu Toaff, Holocaust survivor and chief rabbi of Rome for 50 years.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Naming the street after Rabbi Toaff
Naming the street after Rabbi Toaff
Courtesy of the Jewish community in Rome

The main street near the Grand Synagogue in Rome, Italy, was named after Rabbi Elio (Eliyahu) Toaff, who served as the city's rabbi for 51 years, from 1951 to 2002.

Born April 30, 1915, in Livorno, Italy, Rabbi Toaff died just shy of his hundredth birthday, on April 19, 2015, in Rome.

During his tenure as Rome's rabbi, he was considered Italy's most important Jewish leader.

During the street-naming ceremony, Rome Rabbi Shmuel Di Segni, who serves as Vice President of the Conference of European Rabbis, said: "It is symbolic and honorable it is to call the path which leads to the house of G-d by the name of the one who rehabilitated the ancient Jewish community and paved the way for founding an educational system and the war against assimilation."

"His unique way of running this ancient community and bringing people closer is our straight path throughout the generations, and it has a far-reaching effect. We appreciate this historic gesture, that is, naming the street the synagogue is on after the rabbi, but what is most important is the way to the synagogue, which we work hard to ensure that many people will take three times a day.

"For a thousand years, the streets of Rome were named after the various popes and many public figures. This step, of naming a central street in the city after a rabbi, will be understood by the entire world as an attempt to create, and the creation of, a different atmosphere in the streets of Rome, with a widescale effect on Rome and on Europe in general."

Rome Mayor Virginia Elena Raggi said: "This is a historical day, not only for the Jewish community but for the entire city. Rabbi Toaff left an indelible mark on our history. He was a sterling example who influenced all of us. This symbolic gesture of naming a street after the rabbi is intended to emphasize the connection between Rome and its Jewish community."

Rabbi Eliyahu Toaff was the son of Rabbi Shabtai Toaff, who served as the chief rabbi of Livorno until the 1960s. He studied in the rabbinic yeshiva in Livorno, and was the rabbi of Ancona and Venice. From 1951, he served as the chief rabbi of Rome, revitalizing the Jewish community in the city after the Holocaust and fighting the growing assimilation. He was also a well-known, respected, and admired figure in the general population and among the religious and political leadership.

During the German occupation, he took part in the partisans' activities near the Versilia mountains, saving the Jewish community. Rabbi Toaff was caught by the Nazis, and said later that they had sentenced him to death by a firing squad. He was required to dig his own grave before being brought out to be executed, but in the end succeeded in escaping.

After the war ended, Rabbi Toaff became the rabbi of the ancient Jewish community in Rome, and was responsible for rehabilitating and strengthening those in Italy's Jewish community who survived the Holocaust, including by founding a Jewish educational system. Rabbi Toaff was admired by Jews and non-Jews alike, and was buried in Livorno next to his father. Among those eulogizing him was Italy's then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.