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Before the Dawn: Autobiographical Reflections by Eugenio Zolli, Former Chief Rabbi of Rome [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   213
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.28 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2008
Publisher   Ignatius Press
ISBN  1586172875  
EAN  9781586172879  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
This is the remarkable and inspiring story of how the famous and revered Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, became a Christian and entered the Catholic Church after World War II. Zolli was a world renowned Jewish leader and Scripture & Talmudic scholar, and an authority on Semitic philology. This classic work outlines the spiritual journey of Rabbi Zolli, through prayer, Scripture meditation and lived experience, from devout Judaism to Catholicism, and it stands as a wonderful testament to the spirit of man which is always restless until it rests fully in Christ Jesus. He did not abandon his Jewish heritage, but says he discovered the fullness of what God offered in Jesus and His Church. Zolli took the Christian name of Eugenio to honor Pope Pius XII (Eugenio was his baptismal name) for all he did to save Jews during WWII. The highlights of his spiritual journey are covered in this book along with some marvelous insights by Rabbi Zolli on Judaism, mysticism, the Law, and the Gospel. Zolli speaks of his journey not as a betrayal of the Synagogue but as a completion and fulfillment, describing himself as becoming a "completed Jew" by recognizing Jesus Christ ("Rabbi Yeshua") as the Messiah and joining His Church. Zolli offers unique insights on the continuity between the Synagogue and the Catholic Church and many interesting insights into the Scriptures-including the New Testament-from an Orthodox Jewish perspective.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Before the Dawn  Apr 14, 2010
This book opened a window through which I could capture a little of what Eugenio Zolli experienced.
I was surprised to discover the level of communication and co-operation already in existence, between the Jewish community and the Roman Catholic church, prior and during the war.
Zolli shares a good deal of his emotions and inner battles which might not appeal to readers that are not familiar with the Latin culture.
A Scholar's Spiritual Journey, Introspection, Etc.  Jan 24, 2010
Israel Zolli (1881-1956) wrote this book about his reflections of why he converted from Judaism to Catholicism. This book and the undersigned's review are not intended to convert religious Jews to Catholicism, and the review is not intended to convert devout Catholics to Judaism. The book is a profound and at times a mystical journey of the Chief Rabbi(Rabbi Israel Zolli) of Rome who converted to Catholicism after years of reflection. Readers may get the impression that Zolli's conversion was a gnawing interest in Catholicism based on intensive reading and the examples of compassion and kindness of many devout Catholics whom he met including Pope Pius XII (1939-1958).

Zolli began this book with childhood memories. He remembered his mother's kindness in helping less fortunate Catholics while Zolli's father was at the synagogue. Zolli relected upon the Crucifixes he saw and thought about why a kind innocent Man was put to death. Zolli also reflected the compassion Italian Catholics showed to his family when Zolli's family faced economic problems.

Zolli added humor to this book. Zolli wrote anecdotes re his childhood school days. He gave a couple of anecdotes of student pranks to reduce their work load. One example he gave was the use of deception when teachers assigned lessons. If the teacher assinged five lessons, the studentw would do three and insist in unison that the teacher had assinged only three. Zolli wrote about a deaf teacher whom the students could fool with their oral answers. However, one day the teacher's hearing was good enough to detect that a student had not studied much to the student's dismay.

Zolli wrote about his association with Catholic friends and how reading of the Gospels and other Catholic works sparked his interest. Zolli asked if God suffers, and if so, was Christ God who suffered. Zolli stated that he had a spiritual void which he thought the Gospels and other New Testament Literature helped to fill. Zolli's book could be compared to Martin Buber's book titled I AND THOU which deals with men's encounters with God. Zolli was clear that his spiritual journey was more intense during times of solitude.

Zolli's spiritual journey or introspection was further kindled by his vast learning. Zolli commented that the Ancient Greeks had spiritual deities who were close to men but whose nature had a "dark side." Zolli did not dismiss the Scholastic proofs of God, but he thought his taste for approaching God was more mystical. In fact, Zolli stated he had a brief mystical encounter with Christ which he (Zolli) could not explain. In fact, Zolli readily admitted this may have been subjective and a trick of his imagination. However, Zolli was clear about the experience regardless of what it was. Zolli was also impressed with Henri Bergon's (1859-1941)high praise for Catholicism.

Zolli's later sections of the book dealth with problems of Jewish people in Europe and especially in Italy where he lived. Zolli recounted that he convinced a Jesuit priest to change a lecture topic. The Jesuit priest was going to berate Jews until Zolli reminded the Jesuit priest that Christ emerged from a Hebrew/Jewish background and that the Jesuit priest would be demeaning both Christ and the Jesuit's status as a Catholic priest.

Zolli also devouted sections of the book of the heroic efforts of Italian Catholics (lay and clerical) who thwarted German efforts to arrest and Jewish people. Zolli commented on nuns and monks who opened their convents and monaastaries to harbor refugees including Jewish people. Zolli had high praise of Catholics and gave them credit for their heroic compassion.

Alone these lines, Zolli had a chapter dedicated to Eugenio Pacelli who was Pope Pius XII (1939-1958). Zolli re-enforced the documents and oral testimony of refugees including large numbers of Jews who were befrinded by Catholics who worked to save Jewish lives at the risk of their own. This section of the book completely undermined the anti-Catholics who have tried to smear Pope Pius XII.

Those who have deep seeded religious convictions would like this book. The book is intended for bona fide religious men and women and not for those who adhere to cheap religion and thin philosophy. The book will also appeal to those who have no religious convictions. Readers should note that this book was highly recommended to this reviewer by someone who was an atheist but who had high regard for Pope Pius XII and Israel Zolli.

James E. Egolf
January 24, 2010
Philosophically rich anatomy of conversion  Jan 1, 2010
Few can pinpoint the moment of conversion. Rabbi Zolli expounds on a lifetime of hearing Christ's call before realizing who it was that called him. It is at once philosophically rich and emotionally charged with the anatomy of conversion. With Rabbi Zolli, like so many, it was not a single event or moment in his life so much as a lifelong growing in awareness of that still small voice. No one seems to convey that sense of gentle guidance as does this moving tale of the chief Rabbi in Rome who came to understand and embrace the Roman Catholic tradition of Christianity. It was not an understanding that rejected his roots for something new - it was a growing sense of completeness in his faith. Very highly recommended for every seeker.
Fascinating autobiography of a Jew in Rome under the Nazis  Apr 6, 2009
Eugenio Zolli was the chief rabbi in Rome during the Nazi occupation of Rome. In this beautifully written and utterly absorbing autobiography Zolli captures the terror, the confusion, and even moments of spiritual grace during the era.

Zolli was born in 1881 in Austria to a devout and intellectual family. His gentle mother, a woman who never once raised her voice, died young. Zolli notes "All of her sons fell victim to the hatred of the Nazis" (p 27) except Zolli.

When Zolli was twelve, Zolli felt God "had begun to knock on the door of my soul" (p 35). His conversion deepened after the death of his first wife. As his interior life became intense, he plunged into studying the Torah and the meaning of Israel and the Jews for humanity.

World War II shattered the peace of the Jews of Italy. Stripped of his Italian citizenship, Zolli helped to form the Hebrew College of Rome. They sent out representatives to all the various Jewish communities in Italy, warning them of danger.

As the reality of the occupation sunk in, fear spread among the Jews. Soon, "The German police were going out every night in search of Jews" (p 159). Plus, the Germans demanded gold, and then further amounts of gold from the Jews.

It was during this time that Zolli came across a copy of the Didache, an early Christian document, which stunned him by its Jewish character. "The author of the ritual followed in his mind the Sabbatic Festival, the Hebrew Banquet" (p 135).

After the war ended, Zolli converted to the Catholic religion. "'Did you become a convert out of gratitude towards the Pope, who did so much for the Jews of Italy during the Nazi persecution'" was a question constantly asked of him by reporters.

The Pope did, indeed, protect the Jews of Italy, and Zolli, a friend, in particular, but Zolli denied that it was friendship or gratitude that started him on his conversion. Instead he always claimed it was sheer grace.

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