By Nick Squires
Nathan Graff, 40, was stabbed seven times in the face, neck, back and arm by a man wearing a balaclava, as he stood outside a kosher pizzeria.
There were fears that the vicious assault was a copy-cat attack inspired by the recent spate of stabbings of Jews by Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank.
Mr Graff was wearing a kippah or skull cap and was clearly identifiable as Jewish at the time of the attack, which happened in the street in which he lives.
One of the stab wounds nearly severed his optic nerve.
His family insisted that he had no enemies and said the attack must have been religiously motivated.
“When the intifada of stabbings began, they promised to strike Jews in Israel and in every part of the world, and now they have done that,” said Riccardo Pacifici, the recently-retired president of the Jewish community in Rome.
It was the most serious anti-Semitic attack in Italy since an assault on Rome’s Great Synagogue in 1982 in which a two-year-old boy was killed and 34 people wounded by Palestinian gunmen throwing grenades and firing machine guns.
Ruth Dureghello, the newly-elected head of the Jewish community in the capital, said: “We have to recognise that the appeal by Isil to attack Jews everywhere is unfortunately finding followers.”
Jewish community leaders said there was a growing climate of anti-Semitism in Europe and that the attack was unnerving for Italy’s 35,000 Jews.
Mr Graff, believed to be an Israeli citizen, was the son-in-law of a rabbi, Hetzkia Levi.
“We have never had problems like this in Milan, let’s hope it was an isolated incident,” said Milo Hasbani, a Jewish community leader. “We will continue with life as normal.”
He said that “for now” there was no concrete evidence that the attack was inspired by the stabbings in Israel.
The assailant is being hunted and an investigation is being led by anti-terrorism police.
Across the country, security was increased around synagogues and Jewish schools and community centres.
The attack was condemned by Muslim leaders in Italy.