By Melvyn Kohn
January 28, 2011
In yesterdays' New York Times there was an obituary for Tullia Zeli, 1919-2011.
She was a leader in the Italian Jewish community, who had international influence as well.
It was she who negotiated with the Italian governemnt to recognise Judaism and not just Catholicism
in Italy, but was supportive of the rights of all to practice the faith of their choice, calling on
support for the Moslem community as well.
She was one of four children born in an upper middle class family in Milan, on 2 Feb. 1919. Her family was
in Switzerland when Mussolini decreed that Jews could not own property or engage in certain businesses; they fled to France and then on to New York, where she got involved in political groups. She was also a musician, who played the harp for such such luminaries as Frank Sinatra. Another hat she wore was that of journalist, under which she covered the Nuremberg trials. In the 1960s she worked for President John F. Kennedy.
Her politics may be described as left-of-centre, and she did not always have the support of the conservative
community among her fellow Jews. Her support of Israel, she once told the press, was "total but critical."
She married architect Bruno Zevi in 1940; he passed away in 2000. She is survived by a son, Luca, and a daughter, Adachiara, both of Rome; a brother, Eugenio, of Philadelphia; and a grandson, Tobia, of Rome.