161BCE — Two envoys of Judah Maccabee
are the first Jews to travel to Rome
66BCE Israel conquered by Rome,
under Pompeii; continued Jewish migration to Rome
70 Second Temple in Jerusalem
destroyed by Titus, Menorah is taken back to Rome
80 Colosseum is opened in Rome
90 Early Christian Gospel of Matthew
blames the destruction of the Temple on the Jews rejection of the
Torah, as embodied in Jesus, and of biblical prophets before him
100Oldest known synagogue in Western
Europe is established in Ostia,, the port of Rome. It
serves the resident Jewish community, as well as transient sailors.
It is excavated in 1961.
161-180 Emperor Marcus Aurelius (of
Gladiator fame) builds up roads and cities throughout the Empire
212 Emperor Caracalla extends Roman
citizenship to all sectors of the Empire, subject peoples. He grants
benefits to property owners and makes them responsible for imperial
taxes and services. Jews share in the newly granted citizenship.
312 Constantine conquers Italy and secures
his regime as Emperor, begins promoting Christianity
313 Roman Church proselytizes and
derogates Jews, but tolerates them so they may witness the return
of the Messiah
315 Constantine begins edits against
the Jews and denounces them as Christ killers
337 Constantius, his son, expands
anti-Jewish legislation; Jews are labeled "a pernicious
425 Theodosius IIs Code of Law outlines
social restrictions against the Jews: limitations placed on where
they could live, what they could wear; Jews may neither hold public
office, build synagogues, hold slaves (=no agriculture) and are
subject to extraordinary taxation
489-526 Germanic Goths take
over Italy. In 519 synagogues in Ravenna are torched by
Christians; Theodric, ruler of Italy, compels the Christians to pay
534 Justinian completes codification of
Roman law, expanding the limitations on Jews, which serves as
the basis of later European codes; new construction of buildings
defines the Byzantine style
537 Justinian decrees that Jews must
maintain (pay for) municipal government, even though they are
forbidden to hold office
568 Lombards takeover Northern Italy
600 Under Pope Gregory I the papacy
becomes the supreme authority of the Western Church; establishment of
the doctrine, "religio illigitimo," the policy by
which Jews were converted through restriction of Jewish religious
activity and proffering political and economic inducements to
converts. Jews were to be protected from violence, allowed to
survive, but were forbidden to attain equal status to Christians
825 Holy Roman Emperor Louis (son of
Charlemagne) issues a Charter of Protection to Jews,
encouraging Jewish trade (including slave trade) and relaxing
political restrictions, allowing some juridical autonomy-action was
due to his needs for Jewish money, which in turn, makes him beholden
to Jewish merchants
900 Jewish slave merchants lose trade to
Italian Christians. During this century, Jews from N. France and N.
Italy, speaking a language called Laaz, begin speaking earliest
Yiddish, as a result of contact with German speakers
920 R. Moses of Lucca, of N. Italy and son
Kalonymus, move to Mainz–becoming forefathers of German Jewish
culture. Kalonymus Responsa c. 940, are the oldest native products
of Ashkenazi Jewry.
1033 A Jew Taranto, Italy, buys land for
vineyards; in contrast to W. Christendom, Byzantine law does
allows Jews to own land and engage in agriculture
1054 Pope Leo IX causes schism in Church,
dividing into East and West, affecting the Jews
1095 Pope Urban II proclaims the First
Crusade, to assert papal supremacy in East as well as West.
France and Germany join, Italy does not.
1144 Second Crusade
1177 Treaty of Venice leaves Italy in the
hands of local rulers and the Pope, not the Emperor
1179 Third Lateran Council adopts new
canon: Jews prohibited from having Christian servants; testimony
of Christians to be accepted against Jews in suits; Jews who convert
permitted to keep their possessions
1215 Fourth Lateran Council issues canons: 1)Jews to wear a distinguishing mark on clothing and live in
segregated quarters; 2)Jews may not exact interest on loans to
Christians, Christians may not do business with Jews who dont obey
Church rules; 3)Jews may not hold public office; 4)converts to
Christianity must stop Jewish observances 5) Jews prohibited from
hiring Christian women of child bearing age as servants
1236 Pope Gregory IX condemns excesses of
the fifth Crusade, in its violence against Jews
1240 Italian Talmudist, Zedekiah ben
Abraham Anav, writes a major halachic compendium on the liturgy and
holiday customs of Roman Jews, who have developed their own distinct
brand of Judaism, different from Ashkenazic and Sephardic Judaism
1288 Naples issues first expulsion of
Jews in S. Italy
1293 Destruction of most Jewish
communities in the Kingdom of Naples, cradle of Ashkenazi culture
in S. Italy, accompanied by conversions of Jews
1300 Population of Italy:11,000,000; Jews:
1305 Pope Clement V is first pope to
threaten Jews with an economic boycott in an attempt to force
them to stop charging Christians interest on loans
1325 Writer Samuel ben Solomon of Rome
leaves Rome for N. Italy, due to papal expulsion. Most important work
is a collection of poems, which is a fusion of Italian, Latin and
Jewish cultures, the last of which, "Tofet and Eden," is
modeled on Dantes "Divine Comedy."
1348 The Black Plague–Jews are
accused of poisoning the wells
1353 Boccaccio completes "Decameron,"
which acknowledges mans power and limitations, setting the stage
for the humanism of the Renaissance
1397 Jewish moneylenders are encouraged to
settle in Florence
1399 Anti-Jewish measures in Italy lead
to establishment of Italian Jewish synods to ensure centralized
leadership of community; synods are convened throughout 15th and 16th centuries to solve special problems
1416 Anti-Jewish preaching of
Franciscans prompts delegates from Jewish communities to meet in
Bologna and Forli to respond. Meeting result in pro-Jewish bulls by
Pope Martin (1417-1431 ), who tries to control the
1429 Pope Martin enacts bull providing a sweeping
measure of protection of the Jews, which remains largely
1437 Cosimo de Medici, the Elder, grants
the first formal charter to the Jews of Florence for moneylending
1442 Pope Eugenius IV issues an edict prohibiting:
building of synagogues, money-lending for interest, holding public
office, testifying against Christians. Jews respond by meeting in
Tivoli and Ravenna, with no success; causes them to move to other
areas of Italy
1459 Fra Mauro (a converted Jew) prepares a
map placing Jerusalem at the center of the world, a practice which
was discontinued by the late Renaissance
1462 Establishment of "Monti di
pieta," pity funds, by Franciscans to offer interest-free
loans in direct competition with Jewish money-lenders; Jews lose
business, and are therefore subject to expulsion
1464 -92 Lorenzo Il Magnifico,
becomes the protector of Florentine Jews, supporting Jewish
scholarship, Talmudic studies and medicine, and guaranteeing
favorable living conditions to the Jewish community. Oversees the "Golden
Age of Florence," in which there is much interaction between
Christians and Jews.
Chair of Hebrew established at the University of
Bologna; revival of Hebrew study for theological considerations and
secular interest in antiquity become characteristics of the Italian
1468 Joseph ben Meshullam writes a satire
which supports rationalism over mysticism, supertitious customs and
pilpul, the method of Talmudic study gaining popularity
1471 Secularization of papacy leaves Jews
in central and northern Italy free of persecution. Protection of
Jewish life, property and business affairs also guaranteed
1473 First two Hebrew presses established
in Calabria and Pieva da Saca. Others founded in Mantua and Naples
1475 Judah Messer Leon--rabbi, scholar,
man of letters, writes book on Hebrew style applying rhetoric derived
from Greek and Latin authors
1480 Soncino family begins establishing
Hebrew presses throughout Italy and in Constantinople and Salonika
1488 First complete edition of Hebrew
Bible printed I Soncino, Italy, by Abraham ben Hayyim
1491 Jews of Ravenna expelled,
synagogues destroyed; instigated by Franciscan and Dominican friars
whose goal was expulsion of all Jews from Italy – Perugia-1485,
Gubbio-1486. . .
R. Elijah Delmedigo holds chair in Philosophy at
University of Padua and is a major influence on Pico della Mirandola,
a Florentine philosopher/poet (1463-1494)
Population of Italy: 12,000,000; Jews: 80,000
(100% increase in 100 years)
1492 Sicily and Sardinia, as
territories ruled by Spain, expel their Jews. The majority of
refugees from the Spanish expulsion head for Portugal and Italy,
specifically Venice, Leghorn and Rome, where they are
protected by the pope
1494 France invades Italy; Jews of Florence and Tuscany expelled when the Medici fall from power; they
return in 1513 and bring the Jews back with them
1495 Charles VIII of France occupies
Kingdom of Naples, bringing new persecution against the Jews, many of
whom went there as refugees from Spain. Jews will be expelled from
Naples in 1510 and again in 1541
1496 Pico della Mirandola develops a
Christian notion of Kabbalah, based on his interaction with Jewish
contemporaries and Jewish texts. He attempts to confirm the truth of
the Christian religion from the foundations of Jewish Kabbalah
1500 Disputation in Ferrara between Christians and Abraham Farrisol of Avignon. R. Asher
Lemlein, a false messiah, preaches in N. Italy on repentence and
messiah. Of Ashkenazic origin, his ideas travel to Germany. Even
among Christians, 1500 is a ‘year of repentance"
1510 King Ferdinand of Spain defeats the
French I Naples and establishes it as the largest principality in
Italy; expels majority of Jews living south of Rome; expelled
again in 1541
1513 Machiavelli writes "The
1515 Edict of expulsion in Naples
extends to ‘New Christians
1516 Establishment of ghetto (foundry) in Venice as a place of confinement for Jews, whose goal is to gain maximum
economic advantage from the Jews presence (including taxes), while
ensuring minimal social contact with population. Generalization of
term to include all enclosed quarters of Jews in Europe
1517 Daniel Bomberg, first Christian
merchant to found a Hebrew printing press, prints Hebrew Bible with
commentaries by Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Kimchi, Geronides and Babylonian and
Palestinian Talmuds for the first time
1524 The old established Jewish families
of Rome come to terms with the trasmontani- newcomers from
France and Germany, who were previously not accepted into Jewish
leadership in Italy (see four synagogues in Venice). Roman Jewish
self-government is now shared by Italian, Sicilian, Spanish and
First Jewish cosmography written – charts
Biblical places ans well as new route to India and Islands of the New
David Ruveni, claiming to be a messenger of king
of the Lost Tribes, appears before Pope Clement VII and proposes a
treaty between Jews and Christians against Muslims; later dies as a
prisoner in Spain
1529 Scuola Grande Tedesca, oldest
synagogue in Venice opens-Ashkenazic
1531 Scuola Canton, also
1538 Scuola Levantina
1555 Scuola Spagnola, largest in Venice
1575 Scuola Italiana. All the
synagogues are unrecognizable from the outside, with magnificent
interiors. Q-Why four synagogues in one square in 45 years?
1531 Earliest Jewish play in Europe:
Italian historian mentions a Purim play he witnessed in the Venice ghetto. Plays with biblical themes are popular in Europe
1532 Jacob Azulai, Padua, is the first
known Jewish artist to make a majolica Seder Plate. Later displayed
in Jewish Museum in Vienna
1535 Judah Abrabanel writes
"Dialogues about Love," in Rome. This neoplatonic treatise
by a leading philosopher of the Renaissance becomes a classic
1537-70 The rule of Cosimo I of Florence
ushers in a renewed era of growth and prosperity for the Jews, with
restored Medici favor and protection
1541 Venetian Senate grants Levantine
Jews permission to reside in Venice, as a result of the increased
participation of Sephardic Jews in Balkan commerce; and is an attempt
by Italian princes to fill their coffers at the expense of local
interests (rights were granted for the financial benefit to Christian
rulers, not to improve Jews lot)
Elijah Levita publishes a Hebrew grammar book
explaining 712 Hebrew words; significant because it has Latin
translations, showing cross-cultural knowledge
Jews expelled from Naples; readmitted in 1735
1551 Grand Duke of Tuscany issues
charter to attract Sephardic Jewish merchants from Balkans to Pisa.
They trade using routes through Ancona and Pesaro
1553 Convinced that the Talmud attacks
Christianity, Pope Julius III burns thousands of volumes of Talmud
in Rome, Bologna, Ferrara,Venice and Mantua.
1554 A delegation of Italian Jews meets
in Ferrara to discuss the banning of the Talmud. They
adopt a rabbinic ordinance, recognized by the government, which
establishes an internal control over the printing of Hebrew books.
Similar rules are later adopted in Padua, Poland, Frankfurt and
1555 Pope Paul IV issues bull, cum
nimis absurdum, bringing religious and economic restrictions to
the papal lands, requiring all Jews to live in ghettos and
restricting economic relations with Christians to the selling of used
What is believed to be the first Hebrew play is
written by Judah Leone Sommo, an Italian Hebrew poet and dramatist.
The play is in the style of a Renaissance comedy.
1556 Responding to persecutions by Pope
Paul IV against the Jews of Ancona, Dona Gracia Mendes leads an
unsuccessful economic boycott against the port of Ancona,
favoring trade with Pisaro, which has accepted the Jewish refugees.
The plan fails due to internal divisions in the Jewish community over
fear of further persecution.
1559 Pope Paul IV places the Talmud on
the list of banned books, Index liborum prohibitorum.
Popes Pius IV and Gregory XIII will later permit the printing of the
Talmud, but allowing censorship of passages that are deemed insulting
to Christianity; therefore, the Talmud is not printed in Italy. The
last edition of the Index, 1948, still includes books written
Pope Paul IV permits the printing of the Zohar,
book of medieval Jewish mysticism, at the same time he burns 12,000
other books; because he is persuaded that the Zohar contains no
1565 Joseph Caros Shulchan Aruch is first printed in Venice.
1566 Maimonides "Thirteen
Principles" appears in the Venice Haggadah; probably the
earliest statement of these principles in doctrinal form.
1569 Pope Pius V expels the Jews from
the papal states, with the exception of Ancona and Rome.
1570 Establishment of the ghetto in
Florence, locking in 86 Jews at night. The ghetto was established by
Cosimo under pressure from the Church, in exchange for his receiving
the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1571, the ghetto swells to
500, as Jews from all over the Grand Duchy of Tuscany are compelled
to live within the ghetto walls
1571 The Venetian government, at war
with Turkey, resolves to expel all Jews from Venice and the
Adriatic Islands. Though the expulsion is not enforced, it
reflects the impact of the Counter-Reformation and the papal
willingness to sacrifice local commercial interests to doctrinal
1573 Between 1573-1581, the Cinque Scole
Synagogue is erected in the ghetto of Rome. When the ghetto
was established in 1555, the Jews were permitted only one synagogue,
though there were five prayer communities with ethnic, linguistic and
social differences. Later, Pope Pius V agreed to have one building
house the five synagogues, which satisfied the literal restrictions,
but permitted the Jews to establish Castilian, Catalan, Temple and
New Congregations. The current chief Rabbi of Rome and uncle to the
Philadelphia Toaf family, Rabbi Toaf, is a direct descendant of the
first rabbi of the Scole Castiliano, Rabbi Yitzchak Toaf, The
building was demolished in 1910.
1573 Azaria dei Rossi, one of the great
lights of Italian Jewry, a scholar and physician, publishes Meor
einayim (Light for the Eyes). Using classical Greek, Latin,
Christian and Jewish sources, he is the first since antiquity to deal
with the Hellenistic-Jewish philosopher Philo. His critical method of
analysis and refusal to accept rabbinic legend as literal truth, the
work is banned in many Jewish communities.
1586 The last meeting of the delegates
from Italys Jewish communities tales place. Though there is an
attempt to centralize Jewish self-government in the 15th and 16th centuries, the emphasis remains primarily on
local institutions rather than on regional or supra-regional
organizations (Much like the rest of Italy!)
1587 The rabbis of Jerusalem appeal to the
Jews of Italy to finance the restoration of the Nachmanides synagogue
in Jerusalem (attesting to their stature and wealth among world
Salomone DeRossi enters the service of the Duke
of Mantua as a singer and musician. He becomes the leading Jewish
composer of the late Italian Renaissance.
1593 Pope Clement VIII expels the Jews
living in all the papal states, except Rome, Avignon and
Ancona. Jews are invited to settle in Leghorn, the main port of Tuscany , where they are granted full religious liberty and civil rights, by
the Medici family, who want to develop the region into a center of
commerce. In 1600, 100 Jews live there, growing to 3,000 in 1689
and 5,000 at the end of the century. It is the only large Italian
city without a closed ghetto.
1595 A synagogue is built in the
northwestern town of Piedmont, in the typical synagogue architecture
of the Renaissance, within a courtyard. Concerned for their
security, and following the prohibition of Jewish prayer to be heard
by Christians, the Jews place the entrance away from the street.
1597 Nine hundred Jews are expelled
from Milan, which is now ruled by Spain.
1603 Despite much opposition, rabbi and
scholar Leone Modena, has a choir accompany the service in the
synagogue in Ferrara. The harpsichord accompanies services
on weekdays and Simchat Torah in Sephardic synagogues in Venice,
Amsterdam and Hamburg.
1616 Modena writes "the History of
the Hebrew Rites," a systematic description of Jewish customs
and one of the earliest attempts to describe Judaism to non-Jews. Its
popularity causes it to be translated into English, French, Dutch and
1624 Salomone DeRossi, leading Jewish
composer of the Renaissance, writes a collection of synagogal choral
compositions. It is the first Hebrew book to be printed with musical
notations. DeRossi is one of a number of Italian Jewish court
musicians; most of his secular music is not composed for Jewish
1629 Joseph Salomon Delmedigo, rabbi,
mathematician, astronomer and pholisopher, is one of the most
interesting Jewish personalities of his time. Born in Candia of a
distinguished family , he studied in Padua and lived in Egypt,
Constantinople, Poland, Hamburg and Amsterdam.
1630 An outbreak of plague leads to a
severe reduction in trade and industry throughout Italy. This
reinforces the already existing interest of Italian princes in Jewish
immigration and succeeds in attracting Jews from Spain, Brazil,
Holland, and North Africa, from about 1645- late 1660's.
1638 Simone Luzzato, rabbi in Venice for 57 years, writes "Essay on the Jews in Venice," the
first apologetic work urging toleration of the Jews through use of
economic arguments. He argues for better treatment of Italian Jewry
based on their economic usefulness, diligence, faithfulness, and
antiquity. Unlike foreign merchants, the Jews have no homeland of
their own to which they might wish to transfer the wealth they have
gained in Venice.
1644 Leone Modena writes a polemical work
in which he claims that Jesus never considered himself the Son of
God. He also states that the main tenets of Christianity stem from a
much later date and were heavily influenced by pagan beliefs and
1665 Reports of the coming of the Messiah,
in the person of Shabbetai Zvi, and his prophecies, vision and
miracles, sweep across Europe. Messianic fervor engulfs all classes
of Jews in both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities. Livorno,
Italy, is just one of the communities to send an envoy to Smyrna to
pay homage to ‘our king."
1666 In April, an Englishman reports to
London from Florence that many families of Jews have come to
Leghorn (Livorno) from Rome, Verona and Germany to "embarque
to find their Messia."
In September, Shabbetai Zvi converts to Islam,
rather than be martyred, after denying he ever made messianic claims.
His conversion disillusions the entire Jewish Diaspora, which
negatively effects Judaism for centuries to come.
1675 The idea of a comprehensive Jewish
literature is introcuded to the Christian world by Guilio Bartolocci,
an Italian Christian Hebraist, bibliographer and scriptor at the
Vatican Library in Rome. His "Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica"
will be completed by his students in 1693.
1682 Pope Innocent XII abolishes Jewish
loan-banks in Rome. In 1683, he extends the ban to Ferrara and
other Jewish ghettos under his authority. Prohibited from shopkeeping
and most trades and crafts, the Roman Jewish community shrinks,
while the Jews of Northern Italy begin entering commerce and industry.
1734 Moses Hayim Luzzato, Italian poet,
dramatist and mystic, is put under a ban (herem) by Italian rabbis
fearing a new messianic pretender, for practicing sorcery and
1740 Luzatto writes "The Path of the
Upright" while living in Amsterdam. This ethical work wil become
one of the most influential books read by eastern European Jewry in
the late 18th and 19th centuries.
1750 The first talmudic encyclopedia in
alphabetical arrangement, "The Awe of Isaac," written by
Isaac Lampronti, rabbi and physician of Ferrara, begins
publication. It is a comprehensive encyclopedia of Halachah (on view
in the Ferrara museum). Lampronti devotes special attention to
the responsa literature of the Italian rabbis.
1757 Under the rule of the House of
Lorraine, Jews obtain the right to the keys to the ghetto of Florence,
and are granted the right to perform certain trades, e.g. silverwork,
1759 A cardinal, later Pope Clement XIV,
issues a report condemning blood libel accusations.
1796 Between 1796-1798 French troops
led by Napoleon liberate many Italian ghettos.
1797 From 1797-99 the French
Revolutionary Army brings temporary emancipation to the Jews of
1798 With the French expulsion of the pope
from Rome, Jews are granted equal rights and all earlier
special laws relating to their status are revoked.
1799 As a result of the restoration of the
old rulers in Italy, the Jews are again ghettoized and the
restrictions against them are reimposed.
1806 Napoleon convenes the Assembly of
Jewish Notables from all over the French Empire and the Kingdom of
Italy to clarify relations between the state and the Jews.
1808 Under Napoleon, Jews are freed
from the ghetto of Florence, but are forced to
return in 1815, with the restoration of the House of Lorraine
1817 In Ferrara, a five year old
girl is forcibly taken from her family, with church approval, on the
grounds that as an infant, she was privately baptized by her nurse.
1821 Isaac Samuel Reggio begins to publish
the first modern Italian translation and Hebrew commentary on the
Torah. He also publishes works by Leone Modena and founds the
rabbinical seminary in Padua,1829. The seminary closes in 1871 and
reopens in Rome in 1887 as the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano.
1838 Samuel David Luzzato publishes a work
in which he rejects Haskalah rationalism, contending that the nature
of Judaism, unlike the philosophy of Greece, guarantees morality and
1848 With the promulgation of the
Piedmontese constitution, the Jews of the Piedmont region in
northern Italy are granted full emancipation.
1852 An important catacomb with Jewish
inscriptions is found in southern Italy, attesting to the extent of
ancient Jewish culture in Italy.
1858 In Bologna, under papal rule, police
seize six-year-old Edgardo Mortarra from his family and take him to
the House of Catechumens in Rome, based on the testimony of a
former Jewish servant that she baptized him as an infant. Despite
worldwide protests he is handed over to a monastery and raised as a
Christian, becoming the favorite of Pope Pius IX.
1860 The Alliance Israelite Universelle, the
first modern international Jewish organization, established as a
direct result of the Mortara Affair, is founded in Paris, to defend
the civil rights and religious freedom of the Jews all over the world.
The alliance works through diplomatic channels helping Jews to
emigrate and promotes education of young Jews (forerunner of
Herzls Zionist Congress, in its modus vivendi)
1861 With the unification of Italy, with Florence as the first capital, the Jews are emancipated and the ghettos are
1874-82 The Moorish Revival Synagogue in Florence is built. David Levy willed his entire estate for the building of a
temple worthy of the city.
1862 Samuel David Luzzato, teaching at the
Italian Rabbinical College in Padua, publishes "Lectures on
Israelite Moral Theology," emphasizing his belief in tradition,
revelation and the election of Israel. The Torah must not be
rationalized and subjected to historical evolutionary relativism, nor
can morality be separated from religion.
1870 The Jews of Italy are finally
emancipated with the abolition of the ghetto in Rome. The
rights gained in the 1790's, and lost upon the fall of Napolean were
regained in 1848 I Tuscany and Sardinia; in 1859 in Modena, Lombardy and Romagna, in 1860 in Umbria, in 1861 in Sicily and
Naples and in 1866 in Venice.
1890 The ghetto of Florence is demolished,
allowing reconstruction of the town center, now the Piazza della
1897 The Jews of Ferrara become the
most ardent Italian supporters of Theodore Herzls Zionist Dream.
1902 Giuseppe Ottolenghi is named minister
of war of Italy. An army officer, he is the first Jew to serve on the
general staff. He achieved the rank of lieutenant general.
1904 The Great Synagogue of Rome is built.
Pope Pius X rejects Herzls request that he
support the Zionist movement.
1907 Ernesto Nathan is elected mayor of Rome, holding office until 1913.
The Italian government abandons the plan to send
former Treasury Minister Luigi Luzzato to Russia to negotiate a
commercial treaty, as Russia intimates that a Jews would be an
1910 Luigi Luzzato becomes prime minister
of Italy. An economist and lawyer, he was elected to Parliament in
1871, where he will sit until 1921, when he will be elevated to the
Senate. He is minister of the treasury on three occasions and also
minister of agriculture. He supports the Zionist enterprises in
1914 World War I engulfs Europe.
1917 Amadeo Modigliani, Italian painter
and sculptor, holds his only one-man show in Paris; it is a failure.
It is only after his death that the greatness of his work is
recognized. He is a member of the Circle of Montparnasse with fellow
Jews, Chaim Soutine and Jacques Lipchitz, but his Jewish ness never
appears in his work.
1919 The Comite des Delegations Juives is
formed at the Paris Peace conference, with Italian Jews represented.
It submits to memoranda to the conference, which become part of the
international treaties: a guarantee of the civil and cultural rights
of Jews in various countries and the historic claim of the Jewish
people to Palestine.
The Vatican warns of the danger of a Jewish state,
just two years after the Balfour Declaration is issued.
1926 The Amici Israel is founded in Rome by Catholic clergy to foster better understanding of Judaism. It
reaches a membership of 2,000 clergymen. In March, the Vatican
pronounces the group as "contrary to the spirit of the
Church." In the same decree is proscribes antisemitism.
1930 Italy enacts a law standardizing
the legal status of Italian Jewish communities. They must join
the Union of Italian-Jewish Communities, the central representative
body; election of local leaders is required; mandatory contributions
are established; the role of rabbis is defined; and the law decrees
that the community is subject to the protection and supervision of
1933 Between April 1933 and May 1939, 5,000
Jews emigrated from Germany to Italy. (Out of a total of 304,000
emigrants fleeing Germany)
1934 Revisionist Zionists begin to enroll
at the Italian maritime school at Civitivecchia (near Rome).
This collaboration between Italian Fascists and revisionist Zionists
is based on their ideological differences with Great Britain. In
1938, the Zionist relationship with the school will end (when
Mussolini aligns himself with Hitler).
1937 Pope Pius XI issues and encyclical,
"With Burning Anxiety," which reflects the race-conscious
myths of ‘race and ‘blood as contrary to Christian truth,
but does not mention, nor directly criticize anti-semitism.
1938 In September, the Italian
government passes The Racial Laws against the Jews, barring them
from studying or teaching in a school of higher learning and revoking
the citizenship of all foreign Jews obtained after January, 1919, and
decreeing their expulsion within six months. On November, further
discriminatory legislation will be passed, including the prohibition
of marriages between Jews and Aryans and the exclusion of Jews from
military and civil administrative positions.
Pope Pius XI declares in an address to pilgrims,
"It is not possible for Christians to take part in
anti-Semitism." This statement is omitted from all Italian
newspaper accounts of the address
1939 Cecil Roth, an English historian, is
appointed reader in Jewish studies at Oxford. He later will write the
standard history of the Jews of Italy in 1946.
1940 Italy invades France and Greece.
German and Italian radio stations broadcast an official proclamation
in support of Arab independence.
Pope Pius XII is aware of the Holocaust, but fails
to speak out against it.
1941 Japan attacks Pearl harbor; U.S.
declares war on Japan, Germany and Italy.
1942 The Italian military commander in
Croatia refuses to hand over Jews in his zone to the Nazis.
1943 January: the Italians refuse to
cooperate with the Nazis in rounding up the Jews living in the
zone of France under their control. In March, they will prevent the
Nazis from deporting Jews in their zone.
February: Italian military authorities in Lyons
force the French to rescind an order for the deportation of several
hundred French Jews to Auschwitz. Ribbentrop complains to
Mussolini that "Italian military circles. . .lack a proper
understanding of the Jewish question."
September 8: Italy switches her allegiance in
the war, declaring an armistice with the Allies; Allied forces
enter Italy from the south; N Italy is under German control; Jews
flee southward; Rev. Aldo Brunacci of Assisi , under the
direction of his bishop, Giuseppe Nicolini, saved all the Jewish who
sought refuge in Assisi.
October 16: Raid of the ghetto in Rome.
November: Rabbi Ricardo Pacifici of Genoa, 200
members of his congregation, and 100 Jewish refugees from northern
Europe who found shelter in Genoa, are deported and gassed at
Nazis raid Pitigliano and deport all the
Jews; 238 people are deported from Florence, and the synagogue
is looted and desecrated.
1944 The Nazis take 260 Jews living on the
island of Crete to Candia and board them on a ship with 400 Greek
hostages and 300 Italian soldiers. The ship is taken out to sea and
scuttled. All are drowned.
1945 March: The Jewish Brigade under the
command of General Ernest Benjamin, goes into action in north Italy
as part of the British Eighth Army.
April: Benito Mussolini is caught and killed by
Italian partisans; Hitler commits suicide.
August: It is estimated that 7,500 Italian Jews
were victims of the Holocaust (See Lucy Dawidowicz, 1981)
1948 The last edition of the papal
"Index liborum prohibitorum" includes Jewish publications.
1949 Pope Pius XII issues a Second
Encyclical on Palestine, which calls for the full territorial
internationalization of Jerusalem.
1951 Excavations in Rome find the
remains of a small synagogue built into the southwestern chapel of
the Severan basilica in the 5th cen.
1959 Pope John XXIII declares that the
phrase "pro perfidis Judaeis," be deleted from the Good
Friday service. This prayer, translated in the American Catholic
Missal as "let us pray for the unbelieving Jews," was
susceptible of even more derogatory interpretations.
1962 Pope John XXIII issues an encyclical,
Peace on Earth, declaring that every human being has the right to
honor G-d according to the dictates of his/her heart. He also
proposes measures to
the Ecumenical Council to improve relations
between the Catholic Church and other religions.
Giorgio Bassani, Italian Jewish author, writes
"The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," a novel of the
authors youth in Ferrara, where an aristocratic Jewish
family is unable to face the social upheaval brought about by Fascism
and World War II. Its sale of 300,000 copies sets a record for
1962 A new synagogue is dedicated in
Leghorn, to replace the famous synagogue that was destroyed in WWII.
1963 June: Natalia Ginzburg, Italian
playwright and novelist, writes, "Family Sayings," a novel
based on recollections of her youth, including bourgeois assimilated
Italian Jewish life in Turin. She wins Italys most prestigious
November: John F. Kennedy is assassinated.
The Second Vatican Council submits a draft of
"Attitude of Catholics toward Non-Christians, Particularly
toward the Jews."
1964 The Third Vatican Council
repudiates the notion of the Jewish people as ‘rejected, cursed or
guilty of deicide," and admonished Catholics not to
"teach anything that could give rise to hatred or contempt of
Jews in the hearts of Christians."
1965 In an apparent retreat from the
declaration of the Third Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI, in his
Passion Sunday Sermon, says the days lesson was a "grave and
sad page narrating the clash between Jesus and the Jews–the people
predestined to await the Messiah who . . .did not recognize him,
fought him, and slandered him, and finally killed him."
1968 Pope Paul VI drops the call to
internationalize Jerusalem, replacing it with the guarantee of access
to holy shrines.
1972 Dr. Augusto Segre, head of the
culture department of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, is the
first Jews invited to occupy a chair at the Pontifical Lateran
1975 January: The Vatican publishes a
document designed to implement the Vatican II Declaration on the
Jews. The guidelines surpass the declaration and clearly reject
the widespread teaching that Judaism is a rigid religion calling
neither for love of G-d, nor love of men. It also states that the
history of Judaism did not end with the destruction of Jerusalem, but
continued to develop, creating news religious values. The document
calls on Catholics to fight antisemitism.