Sunday, January 23, 2011



Tullia Zevi, prominent Italian leader and Jewish journalist, dies

January 23, 2011

(JTA) -- Tullia Zevi, longtime Jewish leader and one of the most prominent women in post-war Italy, died in Rome.

Zevi, who would have celebrated her 92nd birthday on Feb. 2, died Jan. 22.

Italian politicians joined Jewish leaders in paying tribute to Zevi, a journalist who served as president of the umbrella Union of Italian Jewish Communities from 1983 to 1998.

"She was a distinguished intellectual and untiring promoter of the culture of peace, who worked against any form of social discrimination," said President of the Chamber of Deputies Gianfranco Fini. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano praised her "deep civic commitment and exquisite humanity and culture." She was, said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, "a personality of great human and intellectual dimensions."

Born Tullia Calabi in Milan, Zevi and her family were vacationing in Switzerland when Italy's Fascist government imposed anti-Semitic racial laws in 1938. She spent World War II in exile in France and the United States. She worked with anti-fascist groups and studied at Radcliffe University and the Julliard School of Music, becoming an accomplished harpist.

After the war she returned to Italy and became a journalist, serving as a correspondent for Israel's Ma'ariv daily newspaper from 1960 to 1993. She also wrote for JTA from 1948 to 1963 and for London's Jewish Chronicle. Among her assignments were covering the Nuremberg trials and the trial of Adolf Eichman in Jerusalem in 1961.

Her husband, Bruno Zevi, was an anti-fascist activist and noted architect who died in 2000.

Zevi was the first, and to date only, woman to serve as president of the UCEI. During her tenure Pope John Paul II made his historic first visit to the Rome Synagogue in 1986, and the Italian state signed a landmark accord governing its official relations with the Jewish community.

Zevi, meanwhile, became a national figure of moral authority, speaking out frequently against all forms of prejudice and discrimination. In 1992 she was named Knight of the Grand Cross, Italy's highest civilian honor.

"She leaves a vacuum that will be difficult to fill," said Rome Jewish community president Riccardo Pacifici.

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