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Tullia Zevi, leader in Italy’s Jewish community, dies at 91

January 22, 2011 | 12:34 pm

Zevi Tullia Zevi, a pillar of Italy's Jewish community and an ardent anti-fascist who spent the war years in exile in Switzerland, France and the U.S., died Saturday. She was 91.

Zevi, the only female president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, died in Rome, current union president Renzo Gattegna said.

One of four children of a bourgeois Jewish family, Zevi was vacationing with her parents in Switzerland in 1938 when Italy passed its racial laws. The family, known for her father's anti-fascist beliefs, moved to France and later the United States.

She returned to Italy in 1946 and worked as a journalist as well as with various center-left political parties.

In a biographical article she wrote in 1999, Zevi said she returned because she wanted to help Italy and its Jews rebuild after the war.

"The horrors of the war had just been discovered; the mass extermination of the Jews, the gypsies and political opponents, the devastation of Jewish communities," she wrote.

"It seemed right, having had the fortune of having survived, to return and participate in the reconstruction of this traumatized community in chaos, and also to participate in the rebirth of democracy in Italy following the defeat of fascism."

She headed the Union of Italian Jewish Communities from 1983 to 1998, and even after remained active in the Jewish community, frequently commenting in the media about Jewish-Vatican relations in particular.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Tullia Zevi in 1996