Brindisi is a seaport in southern Italy. Jews lived in Brindisi from an early period, as testified by several tombstone inscriptions, one of which dates back to 834. The inscriptions include several lines of a poem attributed to Amittai, derived, apparently, from the same source as the poems of Amittai ben Shafatiah in Megillat Ahimaaz (the Scroll of Ahimaaz). Brindisi was destroyed in 838 during the Muslim invasions of Southern Italy and rebuilt by the Byzantines at the end of the 10th century.
About 1165 Benjamin of Tudela reported that ten Jewish families of dyers lived there. The Jews of Brindisi were occupied as dyers, moneylenders and brokers, and skilled artisans. In 1278, King Charles I of Anjou invited the Jew Simone, an expert at melting gold in the mint of Brindisi, to exercise his skills in the mint of Naples.
By the end of the 13th century, the Jews had left Brindisi to escape forced conversions and onerous taxes, mainly to the lands of the pontifical state and Taranto. In 1323, the Jews of Brindisi again sought to escape the city because they were being forced by the Christian inhabitants to convert. Fearing that without the Jews the city’s economic prosperity would be affected, the inhabitants petitioned the king to order their return, promising to protect them. King Robert the Wise declared in 1334 that even the rights of
those who were outside the womb of the Church should be respected. Ten years later the Jews suffered another wave of persecution, and Queen Joanna I ordered the local population to cease molesting the Jews and advised the archbishop to investigate cases of forced conversion. But in 1368 Joanna treated converts and false converts who left Brindisi harshly and Alessano for Lecce and Copertino returned to Judaism. The Dominican Pino Giso, archbishop of Brindisi, and the Franciscan Marchisio da Monopoli played an important part in instigating the persecution of converts and the destruction of new synagogues.
During most of the 15th century the Jews of Brindisi enjoyed a peaceful existence. In 1409, King Ladislas, addressing the request of the citizens of Brindisi, confirmed the right of Jews to loan money at interest, up to 40 percent. The city’s population was greatly reduced in the first half of the 15th century. According to a privilege issued in 1463 by King Ferrante I to Brindisi, the city complained that out of a hundred Jewish families who had once lived there, only 12 or 15 remained. The king promised the city that he would offer inducements to encourage their return. In 1468, the city again petitioned the king to prevent the Jews from leaving for other cities or the lands of the barons. In 1494–95, when Jews in the kingdom of Naples were attacked, the Jews of Brindisi attempted to avert disaster by signing over their property to the municipality. However, in 1496 the 50 families living there found it preferable to move from Brindisi to nearby Gallipoli. In 1510, the Jews of Brindisi were included in the general expulsion of Jews from the kingdom of Naples. A few families were able to return in 1520, but in 1540–41 the decree of expulsion was renewed.
P. Camassa, Gli ebrei a Brindisi (1934); G. Guerrieri, Gli ebrei a Brindisi e a Lecce (1900); Milano Italia, index; Roth, Italy, index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Frascadore, Gli ebrei a Brindisi nel 400. Da documenti del Codice Diplomatico di Annibale De Leo (Preface by C. Colafemmina), Galatina-Lecce, 2002.
[Attilio Milano / Nadia Zeldes (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.