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Alessandria, Italy

ALESSANDRIA, town in northern Italy. The first known Jewish settler in Alessandria was Abraham, son of Joseph Vitale de Sacerdoti (Cohen), who opened a loan bank in or about 1490. The subsequent history of the community, to modern times, continued to center around, and to a great degree consisted of, the record of his descendants, later known by the name Vitale. In 1550, it was proposed to expel the Jews from the Duchy of Milan, which since 1535 had been under Spanish rule. Simone (Samuel) Vitale thereupon went to Madrid and secured authorization for two families to reside in the city. When the Jews were finally expelled from the Duchy of Milan in 1590, he again traveled to Spain and received permission to remain in Alessandria in consideration of the large sum owed him by the government. Thereafter, the community was concentrated around the Vitale family, whose approval had to be obtained by all newcomers before they could settle there. Of the 230 Jews living in Alessandria in 1684, 170 were members of the Vitale family; in 1761, out of 60 households, 36 bore this name. The wealthier members of the community were engaged in the manufacture of textiles and silks; their mills gave employment to many Christians. General conditions remained unchanged when Alessandria passed to the House of Savoy in 1708. The administration of the community remained distinct from that of Piedmont Jewry. The ghetto was established in 1724. In 1761, the Jewish population amounted to 420 persons, the Vitale family having lost the right to approve the newcomers. From the 18th century, the rabbinate became an almost hereditary office held by the family of Levi (de) Veali. The Jews of Alessandria, with the rest of Italian Jewry, enjoyed temporary civic emancipation during the period of French influence in Italy in 1796–1814. Subsequently, there was a sharp reaction. In 1837, Alessandria Jewry was again restricted to the ghetto, although its gates were not renewed. At a wedding celebration in 1835, an overcrowded house in the area collapsed, killing 42 persons, including 17 Christian guests and R. Matassia b. Moses Zacut Levi de Veali. Although from 1848 the Jews of Alessandria enjoyed complete emancipation, many of them were attracted to the larger cities. Between 1900 and 1938, the total of Jewish residents decreased from 868 to 101 according to Mussolini's census. [Cecil Roth] Holocaust Period Starting in 1938, the Jews suffered under the regime's anti-Jewish laws, but the final phase of persecution began only at the end of November 1943, after Minister of the Interior Buffarini Guidi ordered all provincial chiefs to send all Jews to the "appropriate concentration camps." During the night of December 13, supporters of the German-imposed Italian Social Republic attacked the synagogue in the via Milano, destroying or stealing the silver objects. Books and precious manuscripts were burned in a great bonfire in Piazza Rattazzi that same evening. Also in December, 11 Jews from Alessandria were arrested and sent to Fossoli, from where they left for Auschwitz in February 1944; another six were seized by the Germans in the spring of 1944. The roundups continued in two other important old Jewish communities in the province of Alessandria. Twelve people were deported from Acqui, including the entire impoverished family of Arturo Bachi. Eighteen people were deported from Casale. In all, 48 Jews were deported from the entire province of Alessandria. [Alberto Cavaglion (2nd ed.)] After the war 168 Jews lived within the community, but their number decreased to 90 by 1969. At the turn of the 20th century Alessandria no longer operated a Jewish community and was under the jurisdiction of the community of Turin, as were all other nonfunctioning communities of Piedmont (Asti, Carmagnola, Cherasco, Cuneo, Mondovì, Saluzzo, and Ivrea). [Manuela Consonni (2nd ed.)]


Foa, in: RMI, 23–25 (1957–59); Roth, Italy, index; Milano, Italia, index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Pipino, "La Questione ebraica e i commercianti di Alessandria nella seconda metà del '600'," in: La Provincia di Alessandria. Rivista dell'amministrazione provinciale (1991) 97–100; C. Manganelli and B. Mantelli, Antifascisti, partigiani, ebrei: i deportati alessandrini nei campi di sterminio nazisti, 1943–1945 (1991); M. Dolermo, "Gli ebrei di Acqui tra emancipazione e leggi razziali," in: Quaderno di storia contemporanea, 27 (2000), 61–102; A. Villa, Ebrei in fuga: Chiesa e leggi razziali el Basso Piemonte (1938–1945) (2004); D. Sorani, "Ebrei in Piemonte, un'assidua presenza," in: Scritti sull'ebraismo in memoria di Emanuele Menachem Artom (1996), 304–13; F. Lattes, "Le sinagoghe: frammenti di storie ebraiche in Piemonte," in: Musei ebraici in Europa (1998), 103–11; M.D. Anfossi, Gli Ebrei in Piemonte: loro condizioni giuridico-sociali dal 1430 all'emancipazione (1914; reprinted 2001); A. Perosino, "La comunità ebraica di Alessandria dal 1842 a oggi, indagine stastica," in: Rassegna Mensile di Israel 68 (2002), 43–82; A. Perosino, Gli ebrei di Alessandria: una storia di 500 anni (2003); Y. Green, "Sha'aruriat ha-Kiddushin be-Alessandria (1579)," in: Asufot, 5 (1991), 267–309.

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