No chapter on the Italian Ottolenghi families would be complete without mention of the Ottolenghi family that I have been closely associated with since the early 21st century.
Riccardo Ottolenghi was born in Acqui in 1885. During his military service he served under General Vittorio Ottolenghi (they were not related as far as we know). The general was a keen artist and carried a sketchbook with him everywhere later painted portraits of his parents and others.
The young Riccardo went out of his way to meet the general’s daughter Ada, at a regimental function and asked her to dance. She politely refused the young officer until he explained that his name was also Ottolenghi. He got her to dance and they eventually married. The family lived in Turin(Torino) where their first son Aldo Vittorio was born in 1918. Riccardo by this time was a successful timber merchant importing from Argentina and Brazil, but Aldo was not interested in the business and enrolled in the university of the Sorbonne in Paris where he studied history, literature and philosophy. With the enactment of Mussolini’s fascist racial laws in 1938, the family fled Italy for south America and settled in Argentina where Riccardo continued the timber business. Aldo was forced to leave his studies in Paris and joined his parents and two younger brothers, Piero and Franco in Buenos Aires.
After the war Riccardo returned to Italy followed by Piero and Franco who were still single.
Aldo who had married Rebecca Schatzky from the Jewish community of Entre Rios in the Argentinian interior, remained in Buenos Aires to manage the family business. But his passion was for ancient history, philosophy, the connection between the cultures of Israel and the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas about which he wrote many academic papers and books. He also wrote many novels and plays which were published in Buenos Aires. These are a few of his published works…..
Aldo and Rebecca had 3 children.
Jorge born 1947, suffered ill health all his life until he died in 1986.
Claudia, born 1952 attended the Cristoforo Colon Italian School and later studied and practiced criminal law. At the time of the rule of the Junta and the Generals, she left for Europe, where she specialized in international and human rights law. She worked for the European Council in Brussels and later for the International Organization for Migration in Geneva, was chief of the IOM mission in Nicaragua after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, served as Senior Legal Adviser in Rome, and as Head of Mission in the Dominican Republic until she retired in 2006.
Claudia spent her later years living part of the year in Argentina and part in Florida, France, Switzerland and Italy before she died in Buenos Aires 2013.
Claudia’s younger brother, Riccardo Ugo (named for his paternal grandfather) left Buenos Aires and eventually settled in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Aldo died in 2000 and Rebecca died in 2006 after suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Franco who had settled in Milan became director of a large furniture making factory and later dealt in woodworking machinery, rising to an executive position in the professional association. Franco was responsible for the registration at Yad Vashem of his grandmother Annetta Pugliese who perished in the Holocaust. He also took to writing, publishing a book of aphorisms and this poem on reaching his 70th birthday:
Franco Ottolenghi – Settant’anni
Settant’anni, guardare avanti o indietro?
vale solo il presente che vive
dentro di sé il passato e che vorrebbe
fabbricare il futuro
fanciullo ero già vecchio,
nutrito d’idee altrui rispettoso e devoto,
addio agli allineamenti,sono ringiovanito
So che non so, che ai perché si renuncia
e servendo l’amore si risveglia
la responsabilità, più nulla è certo
ma intenso è il canto della vita
Basta sostare, attoniti ascoltare e incantati
proseguire il cammino sempre ringiovanendo
fino alla gran chiamata