GENOA, seaport in N. Italy. There were Jews living in Genoa before 511, since in that year Theodoric the Ostrogoth confirmed through his minister Cassiodorus the Jewish privilege of restoring, but not enlarging, the synagogue, which had been destroyed by Christian fanatics. From 1134 Jews who came to Genoa had to pay toward the illumination of the cathedral – this obviously discouraging their settlement. *Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1165) found only two Jews (brothers) in Genoa, dyers from North Africa. Notarial documents of 1250–74 show a number of Jews established there or in transit. In 1492 refugees from Spain arriving in Genoa in overcrowded ships were allowed to land for three days, but on Jan. 31, 1493, this concession was withdrawn through fear that the Jews had introduced the plague. In following years some well-to-do Jews were allowed to stay in Genoa under the supervision of an "Office of the Jews."
The policy of the Genoese doges and senate toward the Jews subsequently varied, alternately influenced by fear of competition and the need to exploit Jewish experience in overseas trade. The Jews were expelled from the city in 1515, readmitted a year later, and again expelled in 1550. In 1567 the expulsion was extended to the whole territory of the republic. However, between 1570 and 1586, permission to engage in moneylending and to open shops in Genoa was granted four times to the Jews. In 1598 a further decree of expulsion was issued, but many Jews succeeded in evading it. In 1660 the 200 Jews living in Genoa were confined to a ghetto, although two years later many were still living outside it. What is possibly the first polyglot Bible (or part of it) was published here in 1516: the Psalter in the Hebrew original, with the Greek Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, the Aramaic Targum and its Latin translation, and an Arabic version together with some notes by Bishop Agostino Giustiniani, to whose scholarly initiative this magnificent edition was due. The last decree of expulsion was issued in 1737 but was not rigorously enforced. Finally, in 1752 a more liberal statute was issued, but owing to the uncertain conditions the Jewish population remained small, numbering only 70 in 1763. The number increased during the 19th century, after Genoa's development as Italy's major port, especially after full equality was granted to the Jews in 1848. The community numbered about 1,000 in the middle of the 19th century.
Because of its location and its large and active port, Genoa was an important center for the assistance of Jews in Italy. Until the very last minute, some Jews managed to find boats and escape from the city.
One hundred fifty-three Jews were arrested and deported from the Province of Genoa during the German occupation of Italy. They included many refugees who had fled from Italian-occupied southeastern France at the time of the Italian armistice with the Allies on September 8, 1943, on their way to Switzerland or to the regions of Italy under the Allies.
Many Jewish refugees gathered in Genoa because the city was the headquarters of the Delegazione Assistenza Emigrati Ebrei (DELASEM), which coordinated assistance and rescue programs. The Genovese office of DELASEM was headed initially by Lelio Vittorio Valobra, who later fled to Switzerland and continued to work from there, with Raffaele *Cantoni, to support the organization's activities. Massimo Teglio, a particularly courageous Genovese Jew, remained on the scene and had a central role in helping both Italian and foreign Jews in danger of arrest. Teglio worked closely with Cardinal Pietro Boetto (1871–1946), the archbishop of Genoa, and his secretary, Don Francesco Repetto. Don Repetto recruited local priests and also created a regional rescue network, with help from the archbishop of Turin and priests from other northern Italian cities.
The hunt for Jews began on November 2, 1943, when two German police agents entered the offices of the Jewish community and forced the custodians, Linda and Bino Polacco, to turn over membership lists and summon members to a meeting at the synagogue the following morning. Many members had already left the city, but a majority of those arrested in Genoa were seized at this time. Only a few members who received the summons were able to escape, thanks to a warning received from Teglio. Rabbi Riccardo Pacifici, who until the last moment tried to help refugee Jews, was captured in the Galleria Mazzini, also on November 3. He died at Auschwitz, probably gassed upon arrival on December 11.
[Alberto Cavaglion (2nd ed.)]
At the end of World War II, 1,108 Jews were left in Genoa. Subsequently, the Jewish population maintained its size, notwithstanding a constant outnumbering of deaths over births, and in 1965 it numbered 1,036 persons out of a total of 840,000 inhabitants. The port of Genoa was the transit center for various groups of Jewish emigrants who came mainly from Eastern Europe and were heading for Israel. In early 2000s the community numbered a few hundred, operating a synagogue and a Jewish school. The review La Fiamma ("The Flame") was published monthly.
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Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.