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Acqui, Italy

ACQUI, town in Piedmont, Italy. Jews began to settle in Acqui, then in the independent marquisate of Montferrat, during the 15th century. The Gonzaga dynasty, which ruled from 1536, was at first kindly disposed toward the Jews, failing to comply with the Papal order to confiscate the Talmud in 1553, and in 1562 protecting them from mob violence. Later its attitude became influenced by Counter-Reformation trends and in 1570 the Jews in Acqui were ordered to wear the Jewish *badge and live apart from Christians. Both the war fought in 1612–31 and the plague of 1630 were disastrous for the Jews of Acqui. The only loan bank then allowed failed in 1614. In 1630 Jewish property was pillaged. Conditions improved under the Gonzaga-Nevers dynasty. However, from 1708, under the rule of the House of Savoy, conditions again deteriorated. In 1731, the 41 Jewish families were restricted to living in a ghetto, although they were permitted to maintain loanbanks. A further source of livelihood was the textile industry, some Jews in Acqui owning silk or cotton mills. The ghetto became heavily overcrowded when the Jews of Monastero had to move there in 1737. By the end of the 18th century, their position had improved markedly, although as late as 1789 Jews were debarred from appearing in public on feast days. When the French Republican armies entered Acqui in 1796, Abraham Azariah (Bonaiut) Ottolenghi, later the rabbi, zealously took up the revolutionary cause. Disorders followed the French retreat, however, and the Ottolenghi family in particular suffered. Jews were excluded from attending public schools in Acqui for some time after they had been permitted to do so in most of Piedmont. At the beginning of the 19th century the Jewish population numbered about 700. In 1848 the Jews were emancipated and the ghetto abolished. The Jewish population, which numbered only 500 in 1870, decreased to 200 by 1899, and 50 a generation later. By the late 1960s there were no Jews living in Acqui. Rabbis of Acqui include Joshua Ben-Zion *Segré (18th century) and several members of the Ottolenghi family. The old synagogue was demolished, together with the ghetto, in 1881, and a new one constructed in the Via Jona Ottolenghi, which still stands.


S. Foà, Gli ebrei nel Monferrato nei secoli xvie xvii (1914); Levi, in: RMI, 9 (1934–5), 511–34; S. Foà, ibid., 19 (1953), 163f., 206f.; Milano, Italia, index; Roth, Italy, index.

[Attilio Milano]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.