Italian town’s Arab Street decked with menorahs for Xmas

Legend has it the Second Temple’s golden menorah was lost by Visigoth invaders in Cosenza in 410 CE

On a sunny mild early December morning, Antonio Calabrese, 49, was on his way to his upholstery workshop in southern Italy’s Cosenza, when he received an unexpected phone call from a friend

“Tonight, come to Via Arabia, you’re not going to believe how they’ve decorated it for the holidays,” his friend said.

store-window-2_Antonio-CalabreseAntonio Calabrese’s upholstery shop is adorned by a Star of David on its sign. He added the Israeli flag after the three murdered Israeli teens’ bodies were discovered last summer.

When Calabrese eventually got to the elegant pedestrian boulevard in the city center, the view was indeed beyond his expectations: Two long rows of glittering menorah-shaped lights are displayed on both sides of the street.

“I was completely enthralled. The menorah lights are huge, and seeing them shining in the dark is just amazing,” Calabrese told the Times of Israel.

Calabrese discovered his family’s Jewish origins as an adult.

“I started to identify myself as Jewish about 25 years ago, when I found out that since my surname contains a geographical reference [Calabrese means “someone from Calabria”], it is probably of Jewish origin. About two years ago my wife and I began the formal process of conversion,” he said.

Having Hanukkah references among Christmas celebrations may be not that big of a deal in places where large and prominent Jewish communities live and thrive, but for a city like Cosenza, where only a handful of its 70,000 residents identify as Jewish — not more seven or eight, according to Calabrese — it is remarkable. There is no official Jewish community, nor synagogue or minyan in the town…