The Cat That Ate the Cannoli: Tales of the Hidden Jews of Southern Italy

by Rabbi Barbara Aiello

A tabby cat, an Italian confection, and a young girl on the threshold of adulthood… A family gathers atop a mountain in Calabria, Italy where hidden Jews have practiced in secret for 500 years. As a rabbi unrolls a Torah scroll, inscribed in Hebrew in 1783, the ancient words illuminate the restored sanctuary, once a hidden prayer room, now brought to life in worship and song. The Italian-American rabbi is determined to uncover the Jewish roots buried in these hills, lost through centuries of persecution and obscured by decades of misunderstanding. Faced with more questions than answers, the tenacious rabbi overcomes the obstacles thrown her way by traditional colleagues to uncover the Jewish heritage that many believe had been lost forever. Rabbi Barbara Aiello is founder of the B’nei Anusim movement in Southern Italy and director of the IjCCC (The Italian Jewish Cultural Center of Calabria) which helps those with Italian heritage discover and embrace their Jewish roots. Aiello is rabbi of Ner Tamid del Sud, the first active synagogue in Calabria in 500 years since Inquisition times.