(This post also appears on my Jewish Heritage Travel blog.)
Thousands of people lined up to visit the Rome Jewish Museum, which was specially opened for free Monday night to show solidarity with the Jewish Museum in Brussels and honor the victims of Saturday's shooting attack, which left four dead.
Other Jewish institutions in Italy also opened Monday night -- including the Shoah Memorial in Milan.
“This is our response to the attack, a ‘white night’ against fear,” Rome Jewish community president Riccardo Pacifici told the Italian media.
In Rome, Jewish leaders and political figures including the presidents of the Lazio and Puglia regions addressed the crowd before they entered the museum. The ambassadors of Belgium and Israel also were in attendance at an opening ceremony broadcast live on Italian TV.
"The Brussels assassins wanted to strike in the heart of culture, in a place where one wants to learn," Pacifici said. "They wanted to intimidate the Jewish community and the general public. Tonight the museum opens its doors to whoever desires to get to know it."
"There is no choice more just than to find ourself in a place of culture in order to respond to hatred and ignorance," Nicola Zingaretti, president of Lazio region, said. "The act of us all being here sends out the message that whoever carries out an act of ignorance will always have the eyes of the world upon them."
Dario Disegni, the president of the Italian Jewish Cultural Heritage Foundation, issued a statement Monday urging the more than a dozen other Jewish museums in Italy to also open to the public for free one day this week. “We feel confident that civil society in our country will want to feel the moral imperative to bear witness, through solidarity with the victims of the crime, to a firm commitment to safeguarding democracy and to the construction of a future of peace, justice and liberty,” he said.
The Association of European Jewish Museums issued a statement about the Brussels attack:
A murderous attack has taken four lives in the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels on Saturday 24 May. The AEJM is deeply shocked by this atrocity directed against an institution that for many years stands for mutual understanding, tolerance and intercultural exchange - a symbol for the only possible future of Europe. We lack the words to describe our feelings of horror and we humbly want to express our solidarity with our friends. Hopefully the murderer will be identified and caught soon and it will be possible to shed light on this crime. We mourn with our colleagues of the Jewish Museum in Brussels and the families of those who lost their loved ones in this attack.