BOLOGNA, ITALY – More than 1,000 people joined together in Bologna on Sunday morning for a remembrance road race passing through Jewish historical sites, including those of Holocaust remembrance, as part of a series of events in Italy marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The event was hosted by the Italian Union of Jewish Communities, in partnership with the Jewish Community of Bologna, and the Italian Coordination Committee for Celebrations in Memory of the Shoah, and with the support of the World Jewish Congress and local organizations.
The debut Run for Mem (Run for Remembrance: Looking Ahead), was held in Rome in 2017, as the first sports race in Europe ever to commemorate the Holocaust. The Italian community brought the event to Bologna in 2018 to mark 80 years since the introduction of anti-Jewish legislation in the city and in memory of Árpád Weisz, the former coach of the Bologna national team, who was deported to Auschwitz along with thousands of Italian Jews and perished in the death camp.
The race took the form of two routes – 12 kilometers and 5 kilometers – passing through notable Jewish community and Holocaust memorial sites, including the Piazza del Memoriale, the Porta Lame monument in memory of the battle in Bologna, the Certosa monument dedicated to partisans and Holocaust victims, Árpád Weisz’s gravestone, the Via Mario Finzi gravestone for the deported Jews of Bologna, the Piazza Maggiore gravestone of the martyrs, and the Museo Ebraico (Jewish Museum), among others.
Bologna Mayor Virginio Merola welcomed the crowd in an opening address prior to the race, and stressed the significance of holding such an event 80 years after the racial laws were introduced against the Jewish community, adding that it was imperative to keep the memories of the past alive and move forward together.
Noemi Di Segni, the president of the Italian Union of Jewish Communities, who initiated both the debut Run for Remembrance in Rome in 2017 and the run in Bologna this year, remarked that even in the darkest moments of history, there has always been light. The significance of this event, she said, is to demonstrate that humanity is always searching for the light, and that despite the horrors of the Holocaust, the community is still strong. "We are running through the sites of the past, but toward the future," she said.
World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer, who took part in the race along with representatives of the organization including members of the WJC-Jewish Diplomatic Corps, praised the Italian Union of Jewish Communities and the Jewish community of Bologna for the initiative. Bringing greetings from WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, Singer said: "I salute the city of Bologna, not just for what you are doing today, but for what the citizens of this city did during World War II in fighting the Nazi occupation."
"It is nothing short of a victory that exactly 80 years after the campaign against the Jewish citizens in Bologna began, this community is still thriving, and that we are celebrating publicly by running through the streets with our heads held up proudly as Jews. I can imagine that Coach Weisz, who dedicated his life to sports and comradery before being brutally murdered just for being a Jew, would be proud of the efforts we are making today to ensure that the Holocaust never happens again," Singer said, adding: “It is in the memory of all the victims that the World Jewish Congress initiated the global We Remember campaign, the largest Holocaust commemoration event in the world. Together with millions around the world, including those of you standing here, we are making a real impact in raising awareness of the horrors Jews were forced to endure, and declaring loudly to the world that anti-Semitism and hatred have no place in our society."