Hearing the blast of a ram’s horn to usher in the month before Rosh Hashanah is a big deal in the Italian seaside resort of S. Marinella. Just ask Mino Zarfati, the 47-year-old lay leader of Rome’s Jewish community who organizes an annual summer event with the shofar as its centerpiece.

“It’s a very big tradition for Roman Jews to hear the shofar,” says Zarfati. “Everyone wants to be there.”

This year, the Aug. 31 blowing drew 200 men, women and children – most of them vacationers from Rome – who gathered on their last day of vacation at the seasonal Chabad-Lubavitch center operated by Rabbi Yitzchok and Sarah Hazan. The date marked the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul.

“At 8:30 in the morning, families, children, everyone came,” says Zarfati.

Besides hearing the blasts from the ram’s horn – which Jewish communities worldwide sound every day during the month preceding Rosh Hashanah – the participants took part in the traditional distribution of charity and ate a celebratory meal together.

For his part, Yitzchok Hazan – co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Rome – calls the custom a “beautiful tradition” apparently unique to Italian Jews. The community traces its origins back thousands of years to the time of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

“There is something special about the Jewish Romans,” he continues, pointing out that during the summer, more than 140 people turn out for a weekly choral service that ushers in the beginning of Shabbat. “They adhere strongly to their age-old traditions.”