Margherita Felicia Scalise was born in Serrastretta, Italy in 1881. Her parents observed Jewish traditions in secret, and her father is believed to have led Hebrew prayers in his home.
Rabbi Barbara's father, Antonio Aiello, was born in Serrastretta. He was a military trumpet player in the American Army and liberator of the Buchenwald concentration camp, before moving to Pittsburgh with his wife.
Their daughter, Barbara, was born in the United States. Barbara was ordained as a Reform rabbi at 47, and now divides her time between congregations in Florida and Calabria where she founded her synagogue in her family's ancestral home. She is the first woman Rabbi in Italy.
Antonina was born in 1923, in Vita, Sicily to a Catholic family.
In 1946 she gave birth to a daughter, Pietra Erina, before immigrating to Toronto ten years later.
Pietra Erina's daughter, Laura, was born in Canada. In 2003, after several years of religious soul-searching, Laura discovered that her family's roots were actually Jewish, and identifying with those roots, converted to Judaism.
Dina was born to a Catholic family in San Nicandro. For decades she worked as Donato Manduzio’s assistant, and formally converted to Judiasm in 1949.
In 1936 Dina gave birth to Lea. After the family emigrated to Israel, Lea gave birth to a son, Eli, in 1967.
Today, Eli lives with his wife and daughters in Netanya. Eli changed his last name to Nof, which is the Hebrew translation of his Italian surname, Bonfitto, meaning "a beautiful view".
In the 1920s and 30s Donato Manduzio germinated a seed that had long been dormant in Southern Italy, and from it grew the first generation of Italian Jews the region had seen in many years. Unfortunately those communities were born into a world stricken by war, poverty and terrible religious intolerance.
Most often born in Italy and raised abroad, much of this generation was torn between two cultures. The second generation was traumatized by the horrors of World War II and the harsh difficulties of starting a new life in a foreign country. Fearing their children risked a similar fate, the second generation hid from them the details of its suffering — for the Jews of San Nicandro living in Israel this often meant concealing the fact that they had all been converted in Italy; for those in North America it often meant concealing the fact that they had ever been Jewish.
Captivated by the secrets of its Jewish past, the third generation is the one leading the renaissance of Southern Italian Judaism. Many describe their fervor to connect with their Italian Jewish roots as a calling to come home. Raised in Canada, the United States and Israel, the third generation enthusiastically bears Manduzio's torch, which war, poverty and migration threatened to snuff out. Many are returning not only to Judaism, but back to Southern Italy, to find a personal connection and to help foster again the rich Jewish culture that once flourished there.