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Brescia, Italy

BRESCIA, city in northern Italy. Inscriptions found in Brescia mentioning a Mater Synagogae, and an *Archisynagogos , show that there was a Jewish community there in the late classical period. In 1426 Brescia came under the sovereignty of Venice; in 1444 and 1458 the town unsuccessfully applied to the pope for permission to admit Jewish moneylenders. Later, however, moneylending was evidently permitted. The Jews in Brescia were attacked in 1475 after the blood libel case of Simon of *Trent , but further rioting was prevented by order of the Venetian Senate. In 1481 an attempt to prohibit moneylending in Brescia was unsuccessful. *Bernardino da Feltre preached anti-Jewish sermons in 1494 and a number of Jews were again expelled from the city. Between 1491 and 1494 the printer Gershom b. Moses *Soncino was active in Brescia. His productions included the Meshal ha-Kadmoni of Isaac ibn *Sahula , the first illustrated Hebrew book; the Sefer Maḥbarot le-Mar Immanuel ha-Romi (1491) of *Immanuel b. Solomon of Rome , and the third complete edition of the Hebrew Bible (1494).

After the French captured Brescia in 1509, the houses of the Jews were plundered, moneylending was prohibited, and most of the Jews were expelled. On its reversion to Venice, however, in 1519, they were allowed to return. One of the most famous rabbis of Brescia and Mantua was Joseph (called Giuseppe) Castelfranco, ben Samuel, who lived during the first half of the 16th century. Perhaps he was the founder of Yeshivah of Brescia, mentioned by Eliah *Capsali in his Divrey Hayamim. Most of the Jews were expelled again in 1572 and no official Jewish community existed in Brescia until the 19th century. In 1820 forty Jews lived in Brescia and owned also a synagogue. They were mainly from Verona and devoted to commercial activities. The majority of them moved to Milan in 1840s.


F. Glissenti, Gli ebrei nel Bresciano… (1890); idem, Gli ebrei nel Bresciano… Nuove ricerche e studi (1891); Frey, Corpus, 1 (1936), 576; A. Freimann (ed.), Thesaurus typographiae Hebraicae (1924), A76–A81; M. Steinschneider and D. Cassel, Juedische Typographie und juedischer Buchhandel (1938), 16; D.W. Amram, Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy (1909), 70ff.; L. Ruggini, Ebrei e orientali nell'Italia settentrionale… (= Studia et Documenta Historiae et Juris, 25 (1959), 186–308, index). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Archivio Storico di Milano, Culto, Parte moderna, b. 2912, fasc. "Brescia," Regia delegazione provinciale, 22 May 1820; Sh. Simonsohn, History of the Jews in Mantua (1977), 702.

[Umberto (Moses David) Cassuto]

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