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Ancona, italy

ANCONA (Marche), Adriatic seaport in Italy. According to Early Christian legends, the first bishop of Ancona was no less than the Great Rabbi of Jerusalem, who took the Christian name of Quincus after baptism. Jews were living near Ancona in 967. In that year a document attests that Peter, the archbishop of Ravenna, gave land in perpetual rent to the Jew Eliahu, son of Justus. In the Codex De Rossi, dated to the tenth century, there is a reference to Nathan, son of Machir, son of Menahem of Ancona. It seems that there was already a synagogue in Ancona, destroyed in the earthquake of 1279, as the paytan Solomon ben Moses ben Yekutiel De Rossi of Rome wrote a seliḥah on the subject.

By about 1300, there was an organized Jewish community in the city on whose behalf the poet *Immanuel of Rome sent a letter to the Rome community intimating that as the Ancona community was in economic straits and suffered from persecution, it should not be subjected to heavy taxation (Maḥberet 24). Most of the Jews who settled in Ancona came from the Muslim East. Jews probably engaged in moneylending in Ancona in the first half of the 15th century. There were also many merchants engaged in maritime trade with the Eastern Mediterranean. In 1427 the Franciscan Giacomo della Marca, an enthusiastic disciple of *Bernardino da Siena , tried to force the Jews in Ancona to wear the Jewish *badge and to restrict Jewish residence to a single street. He was in part successful, as the city senate indeed passed restrictive measures. Around 1450 the Jewish population of Ancona numbered 500 persons, representing 5% of the city's population. Both in 1456 and 1488 Jews were accused of ritual murder.

The arrival of refugees from the Iberian Peninsula opened a new chapter in the history of the Ancona Jewish community. The first to arrive, in 1492, were refugees from *Sicily . They were joined in 1497 by refugees from Portugal, and after 1510 by others from the Kingdom of *Naples . An order to wear the badge was again issued in 1524, but was revoked four years later. Solomon *Molcho visited the community in 1529 and stimulated messianic enthusiasm there. The assumption by the papal legate of authority in Ancona in 1532 had mixed results for the community. As Ancona was declared a free port, many Jewish merchants took advantage of its excellent harbor facilities to trade with the Levant. At first mercantile interests prevailed in papal policy and Pope Paul III invited merchants from the Levant to settle there regardless of their religion. In 1541 he encouraged the settlement of Jews expelled from Naples and in 1547 extended the invitation to Marranos, whom he promised to protect against the Inquisition. *Julius III renewed these guarantees, and about 100 Portuguese Marrano families apparently settled in Ancona. Jews from Germany also arrived in this period. Thus, around 1550 the Jewish community numbered around 2,700 persons.

In 1555, however, *Paul IV began to institute anti-Jewish measures in the Papal States. The Papal *Bull of July 12, 1555, was implemented in full in Ancona. The Jews were segregated in a ghetto, built the following year, prohibited from owning real property, and restricted to trade in second-hand clothing. Papal opposition to the Marranos proved particularly implacable, and a legate was sent to Ancona to take proceedings against them. Some managed to escape to Pesaro, Ferrara, and other places, but 51 were arrested and tried. Twenty-five were burned at the stake between April and June 1555. The horrors of the tragedy, mourned throughout the Jewish world, inspired touching elegies, still recited locally on the Ninth of Av. The event moved Dona Gracia *Nasi to organize a boycott of Ancona. The boycott, however, caused dissension within Jewry, some rabbis supporting the action while others opposed it, fearing that the pope might retaliate against Jews living under his jurisdiction.

Still, the legal position of Ancona Jewry changed more than once during the second half of the 16th century. It temporarily improved under Pius IV, but again deteriorated under Pius V in 1567. Ancona was one of the cities in the Papal States (together with Rome and Avignon) from which the Jews were not expelled by the Pope in 1569, being tolerated because of their utility in the Levant trade; nevertheless many decided to leave. Some amelioration was afforded by the favorably disposed Sixtus V in 1586 and Ancona was again exempted when *Clement VIII renewed the decree of expulsion in 1593. However by the beginning of the 17th century, the Ancona community was reduced to a state of debility that lasted through two centuries. Any temporary improvement that occurred was prompted by economic considerations. It is interesting that in 1659, when Pope Alexander VII ordered the closing of shops outside the ghetto, the city senate opposed him on the grounds that this would adversely affect the economic situation of the city. The decree was revoked. A local Purim was observed on Tevet 21 to commemorate the deliverance of the community from an earthquake that occurred on December 29, 1690.

In the 18th century the Ashkenazi community slowly began to emerge. The *Morpurgo family was the most important of the Ashkenazi families. In 1763 there were 1,290 Jews living in Ancona. As late as 1775 Pius VI again enforced all the most extreme anti-Jewish legislation.

During the occupation of Ancona by the army of *Napoleon between 1797 and 1799, the Jews were fully emancipated. The gates of the ghetto were removed, and two Jews, Ezechia and Salvatore Morpurgo, sat on the new municipal council, although the Jews, as well as the local population, were obliged to contribute heavy war levies. In 1814, after Napoleon's downfall, Ancona reverted to the Papal States, and in part the former discriminatory legislation was reimposed by Pope Leo XII. The revolutionary activity of 1831 resulted in the destruction of the gates of the ghetto. However, only in 1848 was obligatory residence in the ghetto abolished. Various Jews contributed to the Italian Risorgimento, such as David Almagià, Giuseppe Coen Cagli, and Pacifico Pacifici. Ancona Jews paid a high price for their participation in the Italian Risorgimento. In 1860 the pontifical general Lamoriciére demolished the Levantine synagogue to punish the Jewish community. The Jews obtained complete civic rights in 1861, when Ancona was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. After the unification the richest elements of the community took part in the municipal life of the city. In 1869 Gioacchino Terni was called upon to direct the Chamber of Commerce, and from 1924 to 1927, Mario Iona. The Jewish population of Ancona numbered approximately 1,600 in the 19th century.

The size of the community and its widespread connections attracted many noted rabbis and scholars throughout the centuries, including the humanist *Judah Messer Leon (15th century), the physician *Amatus Lusitanus , and Moses *Basola (16th century), Mahalalel Hallelyah of Civitanova, Hezekiah Manoah Provenzal, Joseph Fermi (17th century), Samson *Morpurgo , Joseph Fiammetta (18th century), Jacob Shabbetai *Sinigaglia , Isaiah Raphael Azulai, David Abraham Vivanti, Isaac Raphael Tedeschi (19th century), and H. Rosenberg, who published several monographs on local history.

In 1938 there were 1,177 Jews in Ancona. During World War II, persecution was more individual than collective in character. The Germans, and eventually the Italian Fascists, demanded tributes to allow the Jews to live. In 1944 soldiers of the Jewish Brigade arrived in Ancona, and helped the community get back on its feet. In 1967, there were 400 Jews in Ancona. In 2004 the figure was around 200, with two synagogues in operation, the Levantine and the Italian, in the same building on Via Astagno. The original Levantine synagogue, originally erected in 1549 by Rabbi M. Bassola, was demolished in 1860, rebuilt in 1861 and inaugurated in 1876, utilizing elements of the previous synagogue.


Milano, Bibliotheca, index; C. Ciavarini, Memorie storiche degli Israeliti in Ancona (18982); C. Roth, House of Nasi: Doña Gracia (1947); I. Sonne, Mi-Paulo ha-Revi'i ad Pius ha-Ḥamishi (1954); Roth, Italy, index; Milano, Italia, index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Ashtor, Gli ebrei di Ancona nel periodo della republica, "Atti e Memorie" (1977); M. Corvatta and M.L. Moscati, "Vicende degli ebrei marchigiani," in: Storia delle Marche (1985); M.L. Moscati-Beningni, Marche Itinerari ebraici, I luoghi, la storia, l' arte (1996), 22–43; H. Rosembergh, Cenni bibliografici di Rabbini e Letterati della Comunita' Israelitica di Ancona (1932); H.V. Volterra, Ashkenaziti in Ancona (1989), 126.

[Attilio Milano /

Samuel Rocca (2nd ed.)]

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