At the core of Italian-Americans is the desire to talk to each other, share stories, eat, laugh, cry and reminisce. In every community, Italian-Americans create opportunities to do just that.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at one such club at the Four Seasons at Great Notch in Woodland Park Clifton, NJ. I was contacted in November by Carole Friedman, a member of the program committee, asking me to speak to the group about my story being a first generation Italian-American. Of course, I was honored to speak to the club.
I shared stories and experiences growing up in my family and then listened as others shared their stories. It is always so wonderful to sit and talk with other Italian-Americans who have shared the same experiences. The group welcomed me whole heartedly and was eager to speak about similar experiences.
Carole Friedman prepared a panel discussion, “From Italy with Love”. Other panel members included Roberta Smith who spoke of her experiences living in Rome and in the United States. In addition to Roberta, Nuccia Scapellato spoke about moving to America when she was a child and passing her Italian culture to her children while maintaining it.
The group shared stories, traditions, culture, social aspects and culture “shock”. The conversation was real, humble and humorous. Other discussion topics included statistics about Italian American Identity. For example, “According to the ACT (part of the U.S.Census Bureau): Between 2008-2012, there was an increase of 2 million people who described themselves as Italian American. Immigration was not a major factor which caused this increase since only 14,000 Italians immigrated to the U.S. after the year 2000.” Lastly, the group discussed what contributed to this sense of pride and identification such as new generations, greater use of the Italian language, foreign exchange programs, appreciation for ethnic food and admiration for culture.
This Italian-American club began the spring of 2012 and currently has 145 members. They meet every third Thursday of the month and the beauty is members do not have to be Italian to join! The group has had various events such as a Pasta Night in August which was catered by Forte Restaurant in West Caldwell.
The board members include chairwoman, Peggy Nicora who is constantly in contact with other Italian-Americans and continues to stay connected to her Italian heritage. The upcoming group events include the Coccia Foundation in February, St. Joseph’s Day feast in March, and in April, the group will be pursuing their Italian names together.
As always, I am proud to be an Italian-American and so touched that groups such as this one continue to meet and keep our culture going!
Anna Maria Gencarelli
Please contact me for a list of other ways to stay connected as Italian-Americans which I handed out at this group.