Italian pundit calls to ban Hebrew in synagogues

November 25, 2015  

An Italian media pundit has sparked controversy after suggesting that Hebrew, Arabic and other foreign languages should be banned from synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship. 

Alessandro Sallusti, editor-in-chief of the conservative daily il Giornale, is an ally of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the ex-leader’s choice candidate for Milan’s mayoral elections next year.

He made the questionable comments Tuesday during a talk show broadcast on Italy’s RAI state TV.

“Unfortunately Italy doesn’t have a law demanding that sermons be held only in Italian. But I hope we will get one,” Sallusti was quoted as saying. 

A representative of the Muslim community in Milan, Davide Piccardo, challenged the pundit on the talk show, asking, “would you also ban Hebrew from services in synagogues?”

Sallusti responded that he would support a law forbidding rabbis from giving sermons in Hebrew, though he noted he had no problem with prayers continuing to be recited in their original language. 

Emanuele Fiano, a Jewish lawmaker for the center-left Democratic Party, blasted Sallusti’s “ignorant” remarks, telling Haaretz that through them the pundit had “tried to erase millennia of integration of Jews in Italy.” 

The Union of Italian Jewish Communities did not not officially comment on the controversy, but mocked Sallusti’s statement in its daily newsletter, calling them “bizarre” in light of the fact most local rabbis already give sermons in Italian. 

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