BENEVENTO, town in southern Italy. Epigraphical evidence may indicate that Jews were living in Benevento already in the fifth century. Around 950 the miracle worker *Aaron of Baghdad visited the town. Later, members of the *Ahimaaz family resided in Benevento, Hananeel b. Paltiel establishing his yeshivah there. In 1065, Landolfo VI, prince of Benevento, forced a number of Jews to become converted to Christianity, being reproved for this by Pope *Alexander II. In 1077 Benevento became part of the Patrimony of St. Peter and its Jews passed under the rule of the pope. When *Benjamin of Tudela visited Benevento about 1159 he found 200 Jewish families. Two Hebrew inscriptions on a sepulchral stone from 1153 also attest to the existence of a Jewish community in this period. The Jews were living in a fairly ample quarter; in 1198 three churches in Benevento were known as "de Judeca." Jewish economic activities included weaving and especially dyeing, on which taxes were paid to the archbishop. Later Jews engaged in moneylending. In the early 16th century they also dealt in corn. When in 1442 Alfonso of Aragon became king of Naples, he also occupied Benevento. The Holy See compromised by nominating Alfonso apostolic vicar in the city, recognizing his rule de facto. In 1452 Alfonso accorded the Jews of Benevento the same privileges enjoyed by the Jews living in the Kingdom of Naples, in return for a thousand ducats. In 1458, upon Alfonso's death, Benevento returned to pontifical rule. Benevento being a Papal enclave, the Jewish community which now maintained two synagogues was not disturbed at the time of the general expulsion from southern Italy in 1541. Nevertheless, after the election of Pope *Paul IV in 1555, their position sharply deteriorated and several Jews converted, among them a rich banker, Raphael Usiglio. In 1569 they were expelled from Benevento as from the other small towns in the Papal States. The municipal council readmitted Jews in 1617, but in 1630 they were accused of poisoning the wells. Thereafter, the organized Jewish community ceased to exist.
P.M. Lonardo, Gli ebrei a Benevento (1899); idem, in: Vessillo Israelitico, 67 (1917); Roth, Dark Ages, index; Milano, Bibliotheca, no. 1041 and index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. Colafemmina, "Gli ebrei a Benevento," in: Italia Judaica, 6 (1998), 204–27.
[Attilio Milano /
Nadia Zeldes (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.