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October 9, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 9, 2009 PAGE 17A By Hilary Larson New York Jewish Week Like many Americans, I had always associated Genoa, the capital of Italy's Ligurian region, with maritime seedP ness and urban decay. During a summer in Si- ena in the mid-1990s, one of my colleagues m a music festival made a daring day trip to Genoa. which then as nowhad something of a reputation for crime. He reported that there were knife shops everywhere. Everywhere! I shuddered. picturing dashing pirates and dark-alley muggings. So even though I'd read that crime was down and historic buildings restored, Genoa still came as a de- lightful surprise. I found a metropolis of stunning physical beauty and world- class culture. In fact, apart from a near- total absence of tourists. Genoa reminded me strongly of Barcelona--another Med- iterranean port city with elegant boulevards, a cap- tivating Gothic quarter and infectious modern energy. Genoa's strategic coastal "location has shaped its fate. A maritime power since an- cient times. Genoa enjoyed a golden age in the 13th century as a leading republic of Mediterranean commerce. The city flourished again during the Renaissance, when its wealth spawned a new class of aristocratic families. That storied legacy is amply on view in modern Genoa. The wealthy 16th- and 17th-century aristocrats amassed huge collections of artistic masterpieces, at- tracting painters like Rubens and Van Dyke to Genoa with their patronage; today their art is on display all over town inside the beautifully restored palazzos. The most impressive of these palazzos line the Strada Nuova. Italian for "New Street" and otherwise known as Via Garibaldi. Many of the buildings date to the Renaissance. but their newer facades give the street a rather 18th-century appearance. One inexpensive ticket buys access to the three palazzos that house the city's prime art collections: the Palazzos Rosso. Bianco and Tursi. The Palazzo Rosso, a cheery manse in what else? red. boasts the most lavish interior, with terrific city views from its top floor. Its collection includes works by Veronese, Durer and many excellent Ligurian painters of the 17th century. Across the street, the Pala- zzo Bianco feels aesthetically more minimalist (by palazzo standards, anyhow). But it arguably contains the city's finest collection: master- pieces by Italians such as Caravaggio and Lippi, Span- ish greats Zurburan and Mu- rillo. Flemish titans Rubens -and Van Dyck. and others from the 15th through 18th centuries. Cross an elegant courtyard to enter the Palazzo Tursi, which is oriented more to- ward historical artifacts than paintings. Its main The lavish fountain of the Piazza di Ferrari inthe heart of Genoa. thrill is the Sala Paganini, where the legendary Genoese violinist's Guarneri instru- ment. manuscripts and other memorabilia reside. In addition to Paganini and the city's favorite son. Christopher Columbus, Genoa has also served as home to Liguria's Jewish community. Jews have lived here since the Middle Ages, their fortunes rising and falling according to shifting political winds; Sephardic, Ladino-speaking Jewish merchants flourished during the Renaissance. But only 1,100 or so Jews remained in Liguria after World War If, and today that number is in the hundreds. While obviously a very tiny minority, Genoese Jewry maintains avisible presence. Contemporary life centers around the synagogue on Via Bertora 6. in a pretty residential zone north of the city center. A Jewish histori- cal museum opened several years ago on an upper floor of the circa-1935 Byzantine- style building, and the city was recently plastered with posters for local celebrations of the European Day of Jew- ish Culture, which took place on Sept. 6. Newer communities of immigrants from South America, Asia and Africa give Genoa an urbane vibrancy most visible in the ethnic neighborhoods around the Porto Antico. Here you'll find both the seediness and the color you'd expect from a teeming port town: fruit stands, phone-card stalls. street hustlers and beaded- jewelry stores (though nary a knife shop). The port is also where you'll find one of Genoa's top attractions: its Aquari- um, the largest jn Europe. In an imposing building resembling a ship are rec- reations of tropical, arctic and numerous other marine ecosystems, with vast tanks of strange-looking crea- tures and helpful English texts. They're guaranteed to delight any child seeking a break from Renaissance paintings. The city's medieval core. or "centro storico," lies just north of the port, a maze of darkly romantic alleys and Gothic arches. Out-of-date guidebooks warn tourists to avoid this area. but when I visited, the area had obvi- ously been the focus of a loving restoration effort; it was scrubbed of graffiti and well marked for visitors. You can still see bored-looking prostitutes loitering along the notorious Via Mad- dalena--but these days, they are outnumbered by sophis- ticated locals filling the wine bars, hip design stores and artisanai foccacerias. Modern Genoa is surpris- ingly pretty as well. Chic la- dies sip espresso in sunny pi- azzas, while shoppers throng pedestrian-only streets lined with ornate pastel buildings. Via XX Settembre is the main commercial thor- oughfare, where you can window-shop the latest from Zara and Benetton as you stroll along mosaic-tiled sidewalks. Before you know it you're spritzed by the lavish fountain of Piazza di Ferrari, and you're right in front of the spot where countless opera stars have made headlines: the Teatro Carlo Felice. Just as vibrant, but small- er-scale, is the university neighborhood around Via Balbi. You'll dodge students passing out communist propaganda and ~anarchist flyers as you make your way down narrow sidewalks. The reward is the Palazzo Reale, another of Genoa's many fab- ulous art collections.~More masterworks of Tintoretto.. Van Dyke and others await amid frescoed splendor and elegant courtyards. Best of all. though, is the rare experience of wandering through a fascinating Italian city untouched by tourism. With a modern sensibil- ity that sets it apart from preserved-in-time towns like Florence and Venice. Genoa might well be the next Barcelona. Until then, it's all yours. Hilary Larson is a travel writer for the New York Jewish Week from which this article was reprinted by permission. Resources: Genoa tourism, in- clude palazzo infor- mation: hHp:llwww.geno- php?lang=en Jewish Community of Genoa: genovaebraica Palazzo Reale (in Italian): http:/Iwunv.palaz- Aquarium of Genoa: unvw.acquariodig- By Debra Rubin Washington Jewish Week There was no "eureka" mo- ment. In fact, many researchers in the field were somewhat skeptical that the HIV vaccine combining two drugs that hadn't succeeded on their own would work at all. "The only thing I prayed for was that the vaccine didn't do harm." said Col. Nelson Michael. from Rockville, Md., a physician who directs the U.S. military HIV research program that ran "the study along with the National Insti- tutes of Health and Thailand's Ministry of Public Health. "Our expectation was not high, and certainly we were influenced by the skepticism in the field." So. when the results came in last month and found a 31 percent reduction in the incidence of HIV infection in those vaccinated in a trial study in Thailand. "I was stunned," Michael said about the findings, which were announced last week. "No one before had even demonstrated that a vaccine could ever work" Following an interim inde- pendent analysis two years ago, Michael said in an interview. "all of us thoughtwewould end up with bubkes. (nothing). We fully expected we would be told it would be useless t.o continue; no one was more delighted that we were when were told to continue," he said. Althoughavaccine to prevent AIDS, which is caused by HIV, is still a long way off ("Usually, youwant avaccine at80 percent or better" before you can get FDA approval for licensing, al- though Thai land might require 50 or 60 percent effectiveness for it to be licensed, Michael, 52. explained), "we kicked the door down" with the Thailand study, he said. noting that the findings are a "real pearl" that will allow researchers to get a better grasp of how lab results can predict the outcomes that will take place in humans "and we can make refinements to lead to the next ~accine." The study, which focused on heterosexuals with moderate risk, "tells us that yes. we can ... work collectively as a field." he said. Understanding HIV and preventing AIDS has been Mi- chael's focus since his days as a medical student at Stanford University. It was theearly 1980s~be- fore anyone had figured out what disease was spreading through San Francisco's gay community--"and I remember seeing the firstfew patients who came in with suppressed im- munological systems," he said. He never expected still to be searching for a cure more than two decades later. "In the early '80s. we were all pretty smug. We thought we would isolate the virus" and find a vaccine to prevent it," said Michael, who had lived in Kensington as a child and whose family had belonged to the Conserva- tive Congregation B'nai lsrael, then in D.C. When he was 14, his father took a job at the University of Hawaii and the family relocated to the Pacific islands, where there were only about 1,000 Jews in the state. "It was a culture shock," he remembers, saying that even the new syna- gogue his family attended--a Reform one where musical instruments were used on Shabbatandholidays--seemed alien to him. By the time he was 17, Michael knew he wanted to be a physician. Having been raised in a family where mili- tary service was important. he also knew he wanted to serve his country, so he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps as an undergraduate at the University of California at Los Angeles. At Stanford. he enrolled in a seven-year joint M.D.-Ph.D. program. "1 wanted to be as comfortable on wards as I was in the laboratory," he explained, and then trained in internal medical at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital. By the time he finished his residency, he still had to fulfill his three-year Army commit- ment. In 1989, he was assigned to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "I thought I'll serve my three years and I'll get out," he said, chuckling at having just passed his 20:year anniversary in the Army--all of them at Walter Reed. "I'm in a specialized com- mand in the Army that does research" that can't be done elsewhere, he said, explaining the rarity of an~rmy physician havingneverbeen reassigned or deployed overseas. Plus, he said, now that he's a colonel, ,there are few assignments requiring someone of his rank, With discussions of a troop surge in AfghaniStan, however, he anticipates that will change. "I fully expect to be called over soon." Michael said. Meanwhile, he is savoring the success of the HIV clinical trial. It is, said Michael. "the sweetest new year I ever had." Contact Kim Olson, (863) Vario*u Jewish services are offered at Savannah Court thanks to our Friends at The Jwa~h Pavilion. ~mm , FL 32751 407-545-3990 ALt~ License No. 8447, SNF 1635096