PALERMO, ITALY - 22 MARCH 2017: (L-R) Maria Antonietta Ancona, Evelyne Aouate, Eliana Calandra and Luciana Pepi, who spearheaded the efforts to get a new synagogue in Palermo, pose for a portrait in the Municipal Archive of Palermo, Italy, on March 22nd 2017. Palermo’s municipal archives – whose late 19th century grand hall may have been inspired by the Great Synagogue - recently exhibited the 1492 edict that banned jews from the island and mementos of more recent affronts, including documents from the years following Mussolini’s 1938 racial laws.
In 1492, Sicily’s Jews were banished from the island, the victims of a Spanish edict that forced thousands to leave and others to convert to Roman Catholicism. On Jan. 12, exactly 524 years to the day that the edict gave as a deadline for Sicily’s Jews to depart, Palermo’s archbishop, Corrado Lorefice, granted the emerging community the use of a deconsacrated oratory, to be transformed into Palermo’s first stable synagogue in five centuries. The synagogue will be located in what once was known as the Giudecca, Palermo’s ancient Jewish quarter