Genoa is a seaport in N. Italy. There were Jews living in Genoa before 511, since in that year Theodoric the Ostrogoth confirmed through his minister Cassiodorus the Jewish privilege of restoring, but not enlarging, the synagogue, which had been destroyed by Christian fanatics. From 1134, Jews who came to Genoa had to pay toward the illumination of the cathedral – this obviously discouraging their settlement. Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1165) found only two Jews (brothers) in Genoa, dyers from North Africa. Notarial documents of 1250–74 show a number of Jews established there or in transit.
In 1492, refugees from Spain arriving in Genoa in overcrowded ships were allowed to land for three days but, on January 31, 1493, this concession was withdrawn through fear that the Jews had introduced the plague. In following years some well-to-do Jews were allowed to stay in Genoa under the supervision of an
Office of the Jews.
The policy of the Genoese doges and senate toward the Jews subsequently varied, alternately influenced by fear of competition and the need to exploit Jewish experience in overseas trade. The Jews were expelled from the city in 1515, readmitted a year later, and again expelled in 1550. In 1567, the expulsion was extended to the whole territory of the republic. However, between 1570 and 1586, permission to engage in moneylending and to open shops in Genoa was granted four times to the Jews. In 1598, a further decree of expulsion was issued, but many Jews succeeded in evading it.
In 1660, the 200 Jews living in Genoa were confined to a ghetto, although two years later many were still living outside it. What is possibly the first polyglot Bible (or part of it) was published here in 1516: the Psalter in the Hebrew original, with the Greek Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, the Aramaic Targum and its Latin translation, and an Arabic version together with some notes by Bishop Agostino Giustiniani, to whose scholarly initiative this magnificent edition was due.
The last decree of expulsion was issued in 1737 but was not rigorously enforced. Finally, in 1752, a more liberal statute was issued, but owing to the uncertain conditions the Jewish population remained small, numbering only 70 in 1763. The number increased during the 19th century, after Genoa's development as Italy’s major port, especially after full equality was granted to the Jews in 1848. The community numbered about 1,000 in the middle of the 19th century.
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Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.