SIENA, city in Tuscany, central Italy. There is documentary evidence that a well-established Jewish settlement existed in Siena in 1229. It consisted mainly of moneylenders, who found conditions there favorable for their business. Although attacked in sermons by the most implacable Franciscan friars – Bernardino da *Siena at the beginning of the 15th century and Bernardino da *Feltre at its close – the Jews maintained their position. Between 1543 and the end of the 16th century at least 11 Jews graduated as physicians from the University of Siena. In 1571 Duke Cosimo I, anxious to receive the title of grand duke, gave in to the pressure of the Church and introduced ghettos in *Tuscany; Siena was one of the two places selected for the purpose. Conditions in the Siena ghetto in the 17th century, its quarrels and personalities, are strikingly illustrated in the diary of an uneducated Jewish peddler of low social and moral standing. In 1786 a new synagogue was built: the elaborate music sung on the occasion has been rediscovered and published. In March 1799, French troops occupied the town and the Jews were given full emancipation, but in the following June gangs of reactionaries from nearby *Arezzo descended on Siena, stormed the ghetto, and massacred 13 Jews, some of them inside the synagogue where the ark still bears the traces of the violence. According to Mussolini's special census of Jews in 1938, there were 219 Jews in Siena and the surrounding area. When the Germans occupied the area, most of these people disappeared into the Tuscan countryside to avoid roundups, but 17 Jews were deported from Siena and died at Auschwitz. In the years after World War II, the community had great difficulties in rebuilding itself. In the early 2000s the Jewish Community of Siena was composed of no more than 50 Jews. The synagogue, one of the most beautiful in Italy, is situated in via delle Scotte.
N. Pavoncello, in: Nova Historia, 7, pt. 5–6 (1955), 31–51; idem, in: Israel (Rome, July 22, 1954; Aug. 11, 1955); Milano, Italia, index; Zolekauer, in: Archivio giuridico, 5 (1900), 259–70; Bollettino senese di storia patria, 14 (1907), 174–83; C. Roth, Personalities and Events (1953), 305–13; idem, in: HUCA, 5 (1928), 353–402; Cianetti, in: Il nuovo giornale (April 19, 1919); Zoller, in: RI, 10 (1913/15), 60–66; 100–10; L. Schwarz, Memoirs of my People (1943), 95–102; Adler, Prat Mus, 1 (1966), 132–54. ADD BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. Salvadori, Breve storia degli ebrei toscani, IX–XX secolo (1995).
[Ariel Toaff /
Massimo Longo Adorno (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.