LEGHORN (Livorno), main port of Tuscany, central Italy. In the middle of the 16th century, when Leghorn was a miserable, malaria-infested village, its rulers, the Medici, decided to turn it into an important port and to attract foreigners to settle it. An invitation was accordingly issued by Cosimo I in 1548, but although of benefit to fugitive Marranos who could have found asylum there, his project met with little success. After 1590 Ferdinand I issued new invitations with more attractive promises. The official invitation issued on June 10, 1593, was addressed to the merchants of every nation, but in reality the majority of its articles were directed to the Jews who had lived as Christians in Spain and Portugal. The charter – usually called "Livornina" – guaranteed full religious liberty, amnesty for crimes previously committed, the opportunity for "Marranos" to return to Judaism unmolested, a large exemption from taxation, and commercial freedom. The Grand Duke authorized the heads of the community (massari) to accept the settlers and grant them the privileges of the charter; the five massari (later assisted by 12 deputies) exercised full civil jurisdiction among the Jews, and partly also criminal jurisdiction. All commercial suits were decided according to the laws of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, but the right was given to the parties to be judged according to rabbinical law. The massari constituted a sort of hereditary oligarchy composed of rich Sephardi merchants; only in 1715 were Italian Jews admitted to the government of the Nazione ebrea ("Jewish Nation," the name of the community until the 19th century). Settlers were given the opportunity of owning houses and exemption from wearing the Jewish *badgeand from other vexations. The Nazione also had the right to inherit property left by Jews who died without direct heirs.
The Medici went ahead energetically with improvements to the town and harbor, which in 1675 received the status of a free port. Leghorn thus became an important center for the trade between the Atlantic and North Sea ports and those of the Mediterranean and the Near East. Both international and internal commerce was transacted mainly by the foreign communities or "nations" living in Leghorn, of which the "Jewish nation" soon became the largest and most influential. During the first few years the Jews were slow to arrive, but subsequently their numbers increased rapidly. There were 134 Jews in Leghorn in 1601; 711 in 1622; 1,250 in 1645; and approximately 2,400 in 1693. The new settlers were either of Spanish origin having arrived via North Africa or Turkey, or Marranos, mainly from Portugal; relatively few Jews came there from the Italian states. Thus Portuguese and Spanish became the only languages used officially by the Jews in Leg-horn. In 1614, the Leghorn community seceded from the community of Pisa, on which it had until then been dependent, and subsequently became far more important. The Jews continued to enjoy the protection of the Medici, and the original promises given were adhered to, or only slightly revised. Even under the bigoted Cosimo III (d. 1723), the restrictions imposed upon the Jews in Leghorn were not serious, mainly relating to the employment of Christian wet-nurses and Turkish slaves, and sexual relations with Christian women. When the sovereignty of Tuscany passed to the house of Lorraine in 1737, this goodwill remained unaltered. The Jews benefited from the enlightened reforms of Leopold I (1745–1790), and in 1780 obtained, among other privileges, the right to have a representative on the municipal council. The number of Jews living in Leghorn increased from 3,476 in 1738 to 4,300 in 1784, and to 4,694 in 1806, amounting to one-eighth of the total population. Among the larger Italian communities, Leghorn Jewry was the only one to remain without a closed ghetto. Jewish residence was limited to a single, though fairly large, open quarter, though Christians were not permitted to reside in the houses of Jews.
At first the Jews in Leghorn specialized in certain industries, such as working of coral, which they exported as far as Russia and India, and soap and paper manufacture. Later, they utilized their family and commercial connections in various ports of the Mediterranean to develop a widespread bilateral trade. To facilitate this exchange, the Jews in Leghorn sent members of their families to Tripoli, Tunis, and Smyrna, whence others moved to Leghorn. Jews from Leghorn organized themselves in a special community in Tunis in 1685, calling themselves Grana (i.e., from Ligorno = Leghorn). This family and business exchange developed at the end of the 18th century, and even more so in the 19th century, particularly with Egypt. The Jews of Leghorn who settled in these regions constituted a sort of Mediterranean diaspora which embodied western values. In 1738, about 150 Jews owned houses in Leghorn, and in 1765 one-third of Leghorn's 150 commercial
This situation deteriorated after the occupation of Leg-horn by the French at various times after 1796. Not only was the port hard hit by the English blockade, but since parity was conceded to all by the French, the special privileges formerly held by the Jews were abrogated. They were partly restored in 1814, on the return of the grand dukes of Lorraine. However, after a few decades of recovery, the commercial importance of Leghorn began to wane when Tuscany was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy in 1859, and other ports began to show competition. These events were reflected in the fluctuations of the Jewish population. It dwindled to 4,497 in 1837 and rose to 4771 in 1841, after a temporary influx from other Italian towns; by the end of the 19th century, the number had diminished to 2,500. With the first emancipation of 1848, the Jews were allowed to take part in the Civil Guard of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and declared equals in rights to all the other citizens of the State; in spite of the end of their privileges, the Jews of Leghorn generally welcomed this emancipation positively, in a patriotic Italian way. The same can be said after the second emancipation of 1859, when Italy became a unitary state. During the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the observance of religious practice diminished considerably, but the fidelity to the community remained steadfast far beyond the secularization process.
The golden age of Jewish Leghorn left many traces. Construction of a new synagogue was begun toward the end of the 16th century, but its subsequent enlargement and embellishment continued until 1789. The Leghorn synagogue became the most admired in Italy, and was visited by the grand dukes of Tuscany and foreign sovereigns.
The community in Leghorn maintained a varied and efficient network of institutions, including a considerable number for charitable or educational purposes. Most important were the talmud torah, a public and compulsory school where religious subjects were taught (from 1728 also a vernacular language – probably Spanish – arithmetic, and accounting), and the institutions providing for the ransom of Jewish prisoners, assistance to the poor in the Holy Land, and dowries for poor girls. There were also a number of yeshivot in Leg-horn that trained the rabbis for the local community, and for many other communities in Europe and the Mediterranean area until World War II. Rabbis and maskilim (a lesser title) gathered in the Yeshiva Kelalit, a consultative council. Among the most eminent rabbis were Joseph *Ergas, *Malachi b. Jacob ha-Kohen, Hezekiah da *Silva, Immanuel Ḥay *Ricchi, David *Nieto, and Ḥayyim Joseph David *Azulai, who spent the last 30 years of his life in Leghorn. The poets Immanuel *Francés (1618–1710) and Abraham Isaac Castello (1726–1789) were members of the rabbinical institutions; Josef Attias (1672–1746) was an outstanding figure in the Italian Enlightenment; the family of Sir Moses *Montefiore originated from Leghorn; and Sabato *Morais, founder of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, was born there. In the second half of the 19th century, the dominant figure in Jewish scholarship in Leghorn was the kabbalist Elijah *Benamozegh.
Leghorn also became a center of Hebrew printing. The first Hebrew press was set up by Jedidiah Gabbai (1650). Some 80 years later, Abraham b. Raphael Meldola, followed by his son Raphael, both with various partners, were active as Hebrew printers (1740–57). Sixteen other printers set up in Leg-horn between 1763 and 1870, the most important being the house of Solomon Belforte (established in 1838) which supplied the North African and Levantine market with liturgical books until the outbreak of World War II. From 1600 to 1899, almost 1,300 Hebrew books were printed in the typographies of Leghorn, which was second in Italy only to Venice.
[Attilio Milano /
Alessandro Guetta (2nd ed.)]
During the Holocaust at least 119 Jews were sent to Auschwitz from Nov. 12, 1943, out of the 2,235 who lived in the city in 1938; only 11 survived. Others were killed in the surrounding mountains, where the German army was very active. The well-known synagogue was partially destroyed in a bombing raid by the Allies, in 1944. At the end of the war about 1,000 Jews were living in Leghorn. Owing to emigration and rapid demographic decline, their number in 1965 was reduced to about 600 out of a total of 170,000 inhabitants. In 1962 a new synagogue was dedicated, financed by the Italian state; it was erected in the same place as the old one but in modern style, thus symbolizing continuity and hope for the future. In 1967 after the *Six-Day War, a few hundred Jews from Libya and other Arab countries arrived in Leghorn, partly attracted by the presence of a number of Jews from Tripoli. The community had an elementary Hebrew school until 1983.
[Sergio DellaPergola /
Alessandro Guetta (2nd ed.)]
A.S. Toaff, Cenni storici sulla Comunita ebraica e sulla Sinagoga di Livorno (1955); Milano, Bibliotheca, index, S.V. Livorno; A. Lattes and A.S. Toaff, Studi ebraici a Livorno nel secolo 18 (1900); G. Sonnino, Storia della tipografia ebraica in Livorno (1912); Milano, Italia, index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Y. Rofe, in: Tagim, 2 (1971); Rassegna Mensile di Israel, 50 (9–12), 1984; R. Toaff, La Nazi-one ebrea a Livorno e a Pisa (1990); J.P. Filippini, Il porto di Livorno e la Toscana (1998); M. Luzzati (ed.), Le tre sinagoghe (1995).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.