NORZI, Italian family whose name derives from the Umbrian city of Norcia (where Jews were living from the third century C.E.). The more common forms of the name are de Nursia, da Norcia, da Norsa, Norsa, Norzi. A certain NATHAN (d. 1369) is considered the founder of the family. Many documents attest to the presence of members of the family in Ferrara, in Bondeno, and under the House of Este in the 15th century, mainly in connection with banking activities. Although others lived in Modena, Reggio, Brescia, Verona, and Padua, the *Mantua branch was the wealthiest and most important. According to De Rossi, they came from the regions of Bologna and Turin. The Norzi family played an important part in the life of the community of Mantua. The former synagogue of the family, destroyed when the ghetto was demolished, has been entirely reconstructed on the present community premises, in Via Govi, and is now the only synagogue in Mantua. Many members of the family, pupils of Joseph Colon and Judah b. Jehiel Messer Leon, became rabbis celebrated for their learning beyond Italy.
MANUELE DA NORCIA moved from Rimini to Mantua in 1428 and obtained permission to open a loan bank (condotta). LEONE DE NURSIA and others were authorized in 1482 to trade in wool and silk cloths. In 1493 DANIELE DE NURSIA settled in Mantua, where he bought a house which had a painting representing the Virgin on its façade; its erasure by Daniele, although authorized by the bishop, caused a general uproar. Nursia first had to pay 1,100 gold ducats to the painter Andrea Mantegna for a painting of the Madonna, now at the Louvre; he was subsequently evicted, and the house was demolished by order of Marquis Giovanni Francesco II Gonzaga, the ruler of Mantua, who ordered that a church should be built on its premises dedicated to Santa Maria della Vittoria to commemorate his victory over the French at Fornovo. Another work by an unknown painter, now at the Basilica of S. Andrea in Mantua, depicts the ceremony of dedication, with four members of the Norzi family wearing the Jewish *badge; the words Debellata hebraeorum temeritate appear at the topof the painting. In 1504 ISAAC BEN DANIEL NORZI was authorized by Gonzaga to engage in moneylending. BENJAMIN BEN IMMANUEL NORZI wrote Sod La'asot Lu'aḥ (1477; in Ms.), a study of the Jewish calendar, and commentaries on rulings by R. Isaac Tiburino, and on the Talmud tractates Pesaḥim, Yoma, Sukkah, Yom Tov, Rosh Ha-Shanah, and Megillah (Wolff, Bibliotheca, 1 (1715), 252).
RAPHAEL BEN GABRIEL (1520–1583?) rabbi at Ferrara and Mantua, was author of various works on rational ethics in religious questions: Se'ah Solet (Mantua, 1561); Marpe la-Nefesh (Mantua, 1561; Venice, 1571); and Oraḥ Ḥayyim (Venice, 1549; Amsterdam, 1557). He exchanged polemics with the rabbi of Ferrara. A kinah was published on the occasion of his death (Zunz, Lit, Poesie, 128, 254; C. Bernheimer, Catalogue des manuscrits et livres rares hébraïques de la bibliothèque du Talmud Tora de Livourne (1915), no. 27 (1)). ELIEZER BEN DAVID NORZI (16th century), son of a banker from Mantua, cousin of Raphael b. Gabriel, wrote a commentary on Abraham Ibn Ezra's Sefer ha-Shem (1834, ch. 6), dealing with the significance of letters and of the Holy Name. The geometrical diagrams in the commentary indicate that he had knowledge of mathematics (Mortara, Indice 45; M. Steinschneider, Die
JEHIEL VIDAL BEN JEDIDIAH SOLOMON (d. 1665), son of the rabbi and scholar Jedidiah Solomon Raphael ben Abraham *Norzi, was appointed rabbi of Mantua in 1628 shortly before the expulsion of the Jews from the town, when he led the exiles to San Martino. They resettled in Mantua in 1630 and he devoted himself to the community until his death. He was often at variance with his community. His responsa are scattered in the archives of the community and in works by contemporary authors (Mortara, in: Corriere Israelitico, 2–3 (1863–65), 56, 71; S. Wiener, Mazkerot Rabbanei Italyah (1898), 40, 66; S. Simonsohn, ibid., index). MOSES BEN JEDIDIAH SOLOMON, rabbi in Mantua in the 17th century, brother of Jehiel, corresponded with Samuel *Aboab (S. Simonsohn, ibid., index). JEDIDIAH SOLOMON BEN ABRAHAM *NORZI (1560–1616) was a rabbi and biblical scholar. ḤAYYIM BEN JEHIEL (d. c. 1698), who sat in the rabbinical tribunal of Mantua in 1665, was a sofer in 1677, and became rabbi of the community with the assent of Moses *Zacuto in 1685. With Zacuto and other rabbis he drew up the statutes of the community in 1677, and issued moral precepts for the Jews of Mantua. Some of his responsa were recorded by Zacuto and other posekim of that time. He is often confused with another rabbi of the same name of the 16th century (Mortara, Indice, 45; P. Norsa, I Norsa, 2 (1959), 122; S. Simonsohn, ibid., 528 and index).
ISAAC BEN MOSES NORSA was rabbi in Ferrara in the 18th century, and author of a ruling on sheḥitah as part of a talmudic discussion held at Ferrara and presided over by Isaac Lampronti (Ittur Bikkurei Kaẓir, Venice, 1715; Stein schneider, Cat Bod, 140; Fuerst, Bibliotheca Judaica, 3 (1863)). UMBERTO NORSA (1866–1943), scholar, translator from various languages into Italian, including the Psalms (1926, not published), was president of the community of Mantua (G. Bedarida, Ebrei d'Italia (1950), index). PAOLO NORSA wrote a history of the Norsa family in the 14th to 16th centuries (I Norsa, 2 vols.; 1953–59).
V. Colorni, in: RMI, 9 (1934/35), 217ff.; P. Norsa, I Norsa (1350–1950), Contributo alla Storia di una Famiglia di Banchieri, 2 vols. (1953–59); E. Castelli, I Banchi Feneratizi Ebraici nel Mantovano (1386–1808) (1959); S. Simonsohn, Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Dukkasut Mantovah (1964); A. Portioli, Atti e memorie R. Accademia Virgiliana Mantua (1882), 55–79; Roth, Italy, index; Milano, Italia, index: Milano, Bibliotheca, index; G. Bedarida, Ebrei d'Italia (1950), index.
[Alfredo Mordechai Rabello]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.