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Jews have lived in Italy without interruption from the days of the Maccabees until the present, through a period of 21 centuries. Although they were never subjected to general expulsion, there were frequently partial ones. They often enjoyed good relationships with the rulers and general population or were granted special privileges. They remained few in number, refrained from attracting attention, were intellectually alert, and continued faithful to their traditions. The record of Italian Jewry thus provides one of the most complex and fascinating chapters in the history of the Jewish Diaspora.

The Roman Pagan Era (second century B.C.E. to 313 C.E.)

Probably preceded by individual Jews who visited Italy as traders, a Jewish embassy was dispatched to *Rome in 161 B.C.E. by *Judah Maccabee to conclude a political treaty with the Roman senate. It was followed by others sent by his brother *Jonathan 15 years later, by *Simeon in 139, and by *Hyrcanus I in 133. In 139, either these emissaries or the other Jews living in Rome were apparently accused of conducting religious propaganda among the Roman population and expelled from the city. However, the decree soon became obsolete. Jewish prisoners taken by *Pompey during his invasion of Ereẓ Israel, 63–61 B.C.E., were brought to Italy, but most were probably freed after a short time. *Julius Caesar, who considered that the Jews represented a cohesive element in the Roman world, granted them certain exemptions to enable them to fulfill their religious duties. These exemptions were subsequently confirmed by most of the Roman emperors. Under *Augustus, the number of Jews in the capital increased. In 19 C.E., during the reign of *Tiberius, his minister Sejanus deported 4,000 Jewish youths to Sardinia to fight banditry, ostensibly to punish the Jews for having tried to defraud a woman of the Roman nobility. In fact, this was part of the policy to suppress the Oriental cults, and an edict was also issued ordering the Jews to leave Italy unless they abandoned their religious practices. Tiberius abrogated the measures after Sejanus' execution.

The growing friction between the Jews of Rome and the rising Christian sect led *Claudius to rid Rome of both elements (49–50), but this time also the decree was short-lived. The Jewish struggle in Judea against the Romans ended in 70 with wholesale destruction and massacre and mass deportations of Jewish prisoners, a large number of whom were brought to Italy. According to later sources, 1,500 arrived in Rome alone, and 5,000 in *Apulia. There too they attained freedom after a relatively short time, and many remained in Italy. The emperor *Vespasian prohibited the voluntary tribute of the *shekel that Jews in the Diaspora customarily sent to the Temple and changed it to a "Jewish tribute," the *Fiscus Judaicus, to be paid into the public treasury. Under *Domitian (81–96) the exaction of this tax was brutally enforced. It was mitigated by his successor *Nerva, but the tax was not abolished until two centuries later. The Jewish uprisings against Roman rule which broke out in Judea, Egypt, and Cyrenaica during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian and culminated in the heroic but vain revolt of Simeon *Bar Kokhba (132–5) are not recorded to have affected the Jews in Italy. *Antoninus Pius (138–61), *Caracalla (211–7), Alexander *Severus (222–35), and probably other emperors displayed benevolence toward Jews. Jews were included in the edict issued by Caracalla in 212 that extended Roman citizenship to all freemen in the empire.

From the end of the second century until the beginning of the fourth, the Jewish settlements in the Diaspora, although proselytizing intensely, did not encounter opposition from the

Map 1. Major Jewish communities in Italy, 14501550. Based on A. Milano, Storia degli ebrei in Italia, Turin, 1963. Map 1. Major Jewish communities in Italy, 1450–1550. Based on A. Milano, Storia degli ebrei in Italia, Turin, 1963.

Romans, though Septimius *Severus in 204 prohibited conversion to Judaism. The Christian communities, however, which expanded rapidly and proved intransigent, were severely dealt with. The fact that the Jews in Italy were of petty bourgeois or even servile origin, and that they were not infrequently suspected of opposing Roman policy abroad, prevented individual Jews from attaining prominence in economic or social life. It has been estimated that there were 50,000 Jews in Italy during the first century of the empire, of whom over half were concentrated in or around Rome. In the capital, they engaged in humble occupations and lived in the proletarian sections. Cultural standards were not high, although there were painters, actors, and poets. The communities centered on the synagogues, of which 12 are known to have existed in Rome, although not contemporaneously. The ruins of one have been discovered in *Ostia. Their knowledge of Hebrew was rudimentary. The religious convictions and customs of the Jews aroused a certain interest among some sectors of the Roman population and sometimes attracted adherents. This picture emerges from the numerous inscriptions found in the Jewish *catacombs rather than from the evidence provided by the generally hostile Roman intellectuals. Outside Rome the position was substantially similar, as may be deduced from tombstone inscriptions. Initially, Jews settled in the ports: Ostia, Porto, Pozzuoli, Pompeii, *Taranto, and *Otranto. They subsequently spread inland, although it is impossible to state the relative numbers. In the first three centuries of the empire Jews were found in Campania: *Naples, *Capua, and *Salerno; in Basilicata, Apulia, and *Calabria: *Bari, Otranto, Taranto, *Venosa, and *Reggio; and in *Sicily: *Syracuse, *Catania, and *Agrigento. In northern Italy, the presence of Jews has been traced in Civitavecchia, *Ferrara, *Brescia, *Milan, Pola, and *Aquileia. Their occupations may be inferred but are attested only in a few cases. No significant evidence concerning Jewish scholarly and literary activities has been preserved. *Caecilius of Calacte, an orator and literary critic who wrote in Greek during the Augustan period, was highly esteemed, but none of his works is extant. *Josephus composed his major historical works at the imperial court in Rome. It is also known that there was a talmudic academy in Rome which attained distinction in the second century under the guidance of the tanna *Mattiah b. Ḥeresh.

Early Middle Ages (313–c. 1100)

The official acceptance by the Roman Empire of Christianity as a religion and its subsequent expansion marked for the Jews the transition from an era of tolerance to one of subjection. The Christians did not aim at the complete suppression of Judaism, with which they acknowledged affinity in certain common origins and religious convictions. They therefore desired the physical preservation of the Jews, but only in the role of spectral witnesses of ancient truths, with limited possibilities of existence. For this reason, from the fourth century onward the *Church Fathers increased their efforts to secure new laws that would restrain the Jews in their religious practices, limit their political rights, and curb them both socially and economically; at the same time, they exerted pressure on them individually to leave their religion. Constantine the Great prohibited conversion to Judaism and debarred Jews from owning Christian slaves. Constantius (337–61) extended the prohibition to the ownership of pagan slaves and prohibited marriages between Jews and Christian women, imposing the death penalty for such cases. Church dignitaries sallied forth to the public squares to preach against the Jews and incite the populace to destroy their places of worship. In 315 Sylvester, bishop of Rome, is said to have sponsored a public debate directed against the Jews; in 388 Philaster, bishop of Brescia, encouraged the populace of Rome to set fire to a synagogue, and *Ambrose, bishop of Milan, praised the population of Aquileia for doing the same, expressing his sorrow that the synagogue in Milan had not been similarly treated. The emperor *Theodosius II prohibited the construction of new synagogues, permitting only those in danger of collapse to be restored but not enlarged. In addition, he debarred Jews from practicing law or entering state employment. The legal codes that bear the names of Theodosius (438) and later of *Justinian (529–34) established a new status for the Jews as inferior citizens. They were obliged to carry out numerous special duties and were excluded from public offices and from several professions.

The disintegration of the western Roman Empire, the weak and remote influence of the eastern one, and the lack of forceful Church leaders, led to continuous changes in the situation of the Jews in Italy, if not always evidenced by the sources. Much depended also on which of the invaders succeeded in gaining the upper hand in the various parts of Italy. King Theodoric the Ostrogoth proved benevolently disposed toward the Jews and, between 507 and 519, intervened on their behalf against their opponents in Milan, *Genoa, Rome, and *Ravenna. The Jews actively sided with the Goths when Naples was besieged by the Byzantine general Belisarius in 536. As a result they were persecuted by the Byzantines when a few decades later they conquered Italy. Among the popes of this period, only *Gregory I (590–604) is significant for Jewish history. He afforded the Jews protection in Rome, Terracina, Naples, Palermo, Ravenna, and elsewhere against vexations at the hands of local bishops, insisting that although he desired the conversion of the Jews, he was opposed to attaining this by violence. The missionary fervor of the eastern emperors was felt in their Italian possessions, especially in the south. The Jews in *Oria, Bari, *Brindisi, Taranto, and Otranto suffered from discriminatory legislation and campaigns of forcible conversion under the emperors *Basil I in 873–4 and *Romanus I Lecapenus in 932–6. About the same period, the population in the south suffered from raids by roving Arab bands from North Africa. In Sicily, the Saracenic conquest (827–1061) brought more stability and proved beneficial to the Jews of the island. Toward the end of the 11th century, there were a few Jews living in northern Italy, mostly in *Verona, *Pavia, and *Lucca, a considerable nucleus in Rome, and numerous groups in the south of the country and in Sicily, totaling a significant number.

Although the course of the political events affecting the Jews in these seven centuries is almost completely unknown, the Venosa tombstone inscriptions, particularly from the fourth and fifth centuries, and the chronicle of *Ahimaaz of Oria, which relates events from the ninth century on, throw some light on the Jews in some centers in the south. The Jewish occupations are hardly mentioned, although it is known that there were Jewish artisans and merchants, and, especially in the south, dyers and silk weavers; Jews not only owned houses in the towns but also engaged in farming. Something more is now known about the state of Jewish culture, especially around the tenth century. Tombstone inscriptions were by now composed in Hebrew, and not in Latin or Greek as previously. There were talmudic academies in Rome and Lucca (connected with the *Kalonymus family) and in the south, in Venosa, Bari, Otranto, Oria, and later in *Siponto. A legend telling of four rabbis from Bari, who, after being taken prisoners at sea in 972, were set free and later established rabbinical schools in Mediterranean cities (see *Four Captives), would seem to show that Jewish scholarship in Apulia had gained a reputation beyond Italy. The scholars whose names are preserved may be taken to represent the schools or literary circles which had formed around them. Of special importance were the liturgical poet *Shephatiah b. Amittai of Oria (ninth century), the astronomer and physician Shabbetai *Donnolo (tenth century), and *Nathan b. Jehiel Anav of Rome (11th century), who composed the Arukh. The Sefer *Josippon, a Hebrew work based on Josephus' Jewish War, was probably written by an Italian Jew in the mid-tenth century.

Later Middle Ages (1100–1300)

Italy in the 13th century shows no change in the distribution of the Jewish population, which remained mainly concentrated in the south of the peninsula. Reports of a considerable Jewish settlement in *Venice are difficult to verify. There were a few dozen Jewish families resident in Pisa and Lucca, and isolated families elsewhere. Only in Rome were there as many as 200 families. The Jews were prosperous and led an active intellectual life. They lived on good terms with their Christian neighbors, including those of highest rank. It is of no great importance that a Roman Jewish family which had adopted Christianity, the *Pierleoni family, produced an antipope, *Anacletus II (1130–38), but it is highly significant that Jehiel *Anav, a nephew of Nathan b. Jehiel, supervised the finances of Pope *Alexander III (1159–81). However, the spirit predominating in the city of Rome must not be confused with that of the Church, which now renewed its efforts to assert its authority.

In this period the Jews of Italy were trapped between two conflicting attitudes manifested by the Church. One is expressed in the *bull first issued by Pope *Calixtus II (1119–24), beginning Sicut Judaeis, which afforded the Jews protection from assaults against their persons, property, or religious practices, and from conversionist pressures, which was confirmed repeatedly by succeeding popes. The other aspect, manifestly hostile, was enunciated by the Third *Lateran Council (1179) which forbade Jews to employ Christian servants, and by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), convened by Pope *Innocent III, which made efforts to have the Jews placed in a position of perpetual serfdom, and meanwhile introduced the regulation compelling Jews to wear a distinguishing *badge on their garments. About 20 years later the Inquisition began to preoccupy itself with the Jews, who were submitted to the mercies of the *Dominican friars. The rabid campaign against the Talmud initiated in France in 1240 was in due course extended to Italy. The practice of compelling Jews to attend conversionist *sermons began in Lombardy in 1278. Jewish life was still centered, however, in southern Italy and in Sicily. According to *Benjamin of Tudela, in the late 12th century there were not fewer than 1,500 Jews in Palermo and about the same number all told in Apulia and the Campania. These reached the height of their prosperity under Frederick II (1212–50), who extended his personal protection to the Jews and secured them the monopoly of the silk weaving and dyeing industries and foreign commerce. He also supported them against the fiscal claims of the bishops, and took a personal interest in promoting Jewish culture. When in 1265 sovereignty of the area passed to the Angevin rulers, the Jews in the south came under the direct influence of the Holy See on which the new dynasty was largely dependent. Under Charles II a *blood libel was raised against the Jews of *Trani and developed into a violent crusade to convert all the Jews in the south, then numbering probably between 12,000 and 15,000. The campaign lasted until 1294; by then about half the Jewish population had been forced to abjure their faith, entire communities had been annihilated, and many of the synagogues, of which there were four in Trani alone, were converted into churches. Most of the Jews who did not submit fled, while others continued to observe their faith in secret.

Jewish intellectual activity in Italy during this period is represented by several scholars, who interested themselves in various fields without predominating in any. In general, their works on philosophy, ethics, philology, and Kabbalah reflect the influences of contemporary Spanish Jewish literature. There were noteworthy talmudic academies in Rome and southern Italy, in particular at Bari and Otranto. Prominent among the scholars in Rome toward the end of the 12th and during the 13th century, were Menahem b. Solomon b. Isaac, a biblical exegete who also probably arranged the liturgy according to the "Roman" or Italian rite; the philosopher and biblical scholar Zerahiah b. Shealtiel *Gracian; and several members of the Anav family (Benjamin and Zedekiah b. Abraham, Jehiel b. Jekuthiel, Benjamin b. Judah), who extended their activities to almost every field of Jewish learning. Outside Rome, there were the philosopher *Hillel b. Samuel of Verona, Isaac b. Melchizedek of Siponto, commentator on the Mishnah, and the halakhist *Isaiah b. Mali of *Trani (the Elder). Several of these at the same time practiced medicine, wrote liturgical poetry, and translated from Latin and Arabic into Hebrew or vice versa. Members of the ha-Meati family, following in the footsteps of the founder of the family Nathan b. Eliezer, distinguished themselves as translators, as also did Jacob *Anatoli of Naples, *Faraj b. Solomon of Agrigento, and *Ahitub b. Isaac of Palermo. In their task of spreading knowledge they received support from the Hohenstaufen and Angevin courts at Naples. *Judeo-Italian began to be spoken by the Jews of southern and central Italy in the early Middle Ages, then by all Italian Jewry, toward the 14th–16th centuries.

The Zenith (c. 1300–1500)

Toward the end of the 13th century and beginning of the 14th, the Jews in Italy embarked on a new sphere of economic activity as small-scale moneylenders (loan bankers). They were driven into this occupation partly because no regular form of financial assistance was available from other sources for small merchants or needy individuals, and partly because of the Church prohibition on lending money for interest by Christians. Many Jews on the other hand had large amounts of liquid capital, realized after they were obliged to leave the south at the end of the 13th century, or when they left Rome, which declined after the Holy See moved to Avignon in 1309. It was in fact from the south and Rome that a phalanx of Jews wishing to establish themselves as moneylenders made their appearance in several towns and districts in northern and central Italy. They were admitted into these localities and openly encouraged by the local rulers, although often received more hesitantly by the general population. At the same time numerous Jews from Germany, and some from France, crossed the Alps to escape persecution and established themselves in towns in the north of Italy, where they opened loan banks.

The 14th and 15th centuries were periods of expansion and consolidation for the Jewish loan bankers. Their activities resulted not in the accumulation of large fortunes in the hands of a few, but in small fortunes in the hands of many, which led to widely spread prosperity. It is difficult to estimate the number of localities in the peninsula in which Jews were living around the middle of the 15th century – possibly 300 or more. However, it is certain that the prosperity resulting from their moneylending activities was of more benefit to the Jews in Rome and in the north than those in the south. These activities brought them into contact with all sectors of the population, both poor and rich, the small shopkeeper and the lord of the town, the illiterate and the scholar. Hence many of these bankers tended to adopt the way of life of the gentile upper classes, or what has been termed the "Man of the Renaissance," with his taste for letters and art, and pleasure in affluent living.

Nevertheless, the Jews of Italy never became estranged from their Jewish intellectual and religious heritage. This was a period of unprecedented cultural activity, and the Jewish scholars, poets, physicians, and codifiers, who at the same time cultivated secular disciplines and languages, are significant more for their number than for individual excellence. Among the most important were the kabbalistic exegete Menahem b. Benjamin *Recanati, the talmudist and biblical exegete *Isaiah b. Elijah of Trani (the Younger), the poet *Immanuel b. Solomon of Rome, who composed in Italian as well as in Hebrew and also wrote biblical commentaries, his cousin, the philosopher and translator Judah b. Moses *Romano, *Kalonymus b. Kalonymus, of Provençal origin, author of the satires Massekhet Purim and Even Boḥan, and Shemariah b. Elijah of Crete, author of a philosophical commentary on the Bible. Outstanding from the end of the 14th century to the middle of the 15th are the poet and physician Moses b. Isaac *Rieti, author of Mikdash Me'at, a poetical work in Hebrew modeled on Dante's Divine Comedy, and Obadiah of *Bertinoro, author of the classical commentary on the Mishnah. A few decades later saw the activity of the philosophers Elijah *Delmedigo and Johanan Alemanno, both associated with the humanistic circle of *Pico della Mirandola, the halakhist Joseph *Colon, *Judah b. Jehiel, and David Messer *Leon, father and son, the former a philosopher and the latter a biblical scholar. Of Spanish origin were two of the most outstanding personalities and philosophers of their time, Don Isaac *Abrabanel and his son Judah (Leone Ebreo), author of the famous Dialoghi d'amore. In addition, there were the pioneers of Hebrew printing and other Jews who distinguished themselves in medicine, art, and drama.

However, these brilliant economic and cultural achievements did not exclude some darker interludes. Pope *Urban V (1362–70) confirmed the bull giving protection to the Jews, as also did *Boniface IX (1389–1404), who surrounded himself with Jewish physicians. The situation deteriorated after the final condemnation of the Talmud in Spain in 1415 and increasing anti-Jewish activities by the Franciscan friars. Delegates of the Jewish communities assembled in Bologna in 1416, and in Forlì in 1418, to combat these and other dangers. They succeeded in their representations to Pope *Martin V (1417–31), who issued two favorable bulls in 1419 and 1429, and endeavored to control the anti-Jewish preachings of the Franciscans, and especially the activities of their most aggressive representative, John of *Capistrano. However, in 1442, *Eugenius IV introduced harsh anti-Jewish measures which Jewish delegates meeting in Tivoli in 1442 and in Ravenna in 1443 tried unsuccessfully to oppose. In these circumstances, many Jews preferred to move to the territories of rulers who were better disposed, like the Gonzaga in Mantua and the Este in Ferrara. In the following decades the official Vatican attitude again moderated. On the other hand, the Franciscan preachers, often opposed by the civic authorities, violently attacked the Jews and especially Jewish money-lenders, demanding that they should be expelled and their activities replaced by Christian charitable loan banks (see *Monti di Pietà). In order to inflame the populace the friars spread all manner of slanders against Jews, of which the most distressing was the charge of ritual murder in 1475 at *Trent. Other incidents took place elsewhere and were followed by expulsions, generally of a temporary nature.

The Crisis (1492–1600)

Two factors undermined the existence of the Jews in Italy from the end of the 15th and throughout the 16th centuries: the attitude of the Spanish crown toward its Jewish subjects which extended to its Italian possessions, and the confusion caused by the Counter-Reformation struggle in Italy. When the edict of expulsion of the Jews from Spain was issued in March 1492 both Sicily and Sardinia were under Aragonese rule so that the measure was applied there also. Promulgated in May, it was at once implemented, and the process of expulsion was completed by January 1493. In Sicily, 6,300 Jewish-owned houses were confiscated, and a levy of 100,000 florins was imposed. It is calculated that almost 40,000 Jews in all left the country. In Sardinia, the numbers affected were far less. The majority of the exiles went to continental Italy, but a considerable number chose other lands: North Africa, Greece, Turkey, the Levant. The Jews of the two islands were not the only ones to seek shelter in the Kingdom of Naples under the protection of King Ferdinand. They were joined by about 9,000 Spanish Jews. Spanish Jews also received a generally benevolent welcome in other Italian states, and even in the Papal States under Pope *Alexander VI (1492–1503). However, in 1503 the Kingdom of Naples also passed under Spanish rule and in 1510 the expulsion of the Jews was ordered – probably some tens of thousands, though the exact number is difficult to ascertain. The decree was not carried out immediately and 200 wealthy families were formally permitted to remain. In 1515 the edict of expulsion was extended to the *New Christians – that is to Jews who had become converted to Catholicism more or less sincerely and their descendants. In 1515 and in 1520 the quota of tolerated wealthy families was increased, and then lowered again. In 1541 this agreement was definitively abrogated and the law excluding Jews remained in force in southern Italy for over three centuries.

Conditions in central and northern Italy were completely different. In Rome Popes Julius II, *Leo X, *Clement VII, and Paul III, although differing in character, were well-disposed toward the Jews under their jurisdiction. The same applied to the Medici in Florence, the Este in Ferrara, and the Gonzaga in Mantua, who encouraged the activities and talents of their Jewish subjects, both the older inhabitants and the new arrivals. In Venice the senate began to treat the Jews with a little more consideration, although in 1516 Jewish residence was confined to the *ghetto.

The reaction of the Roman Church to the rise of Protestantism reached a climax in the middle of the 16th century. In its efforts to preserve Catholics from all possibility of religious contamination, the Church acted with particular harshness against the Jews. The first blow fell in 1553, when Pope *Julius III ordered that all copies of the Talmud be confiscated and burned throughout Italy, on the charge that it blasphemed Christianity (see *Talmud, Burning of). The attack became more violent under *Paul IV (1555–59). His bull Cum nimis absurdum of July 14, 1555, obliged the Jews in the Papal States to lock themselves in the ghetto at night, prohibited them from engaging in any commercial activity except the sale of rags, required them to sell their houses, and submitted them to all the most harassing restrictions enacted during the preceding centuries. At *Ancona, on the pope's orders, 25 Portuguese Marranos found guilty of having returned to Judaism were sent to the stake. Under Pius IV (1559–65) the oppression abated, but rose to even worse excesses under Pius V (1566–72), who expelled the Jews from all of the Papal States, except Rome and Ancona. Some relief was afforded under Sixtus V (1585–90), who permitted Jews to resume their activities in the towns they had recently been forced to leave. However, all vacillation ended with *Clement VIII (1592–1605), who, in a bull of Feb. 25, 1593, reverted to the harsh measures of Paul IV and Pius V and ordered the Jews to leave the papal domains within three months, except Rome, Ancona, and Avignon. For over two centuries this restrictive papal legislation continued to apply to the Jews living in the papal territories, and was adopted with almost no exceptions by the other Italian states. In the meantime, 900 Jews were banished in 1597 from the duchy of Milan, then under Spanish rule.

Jewish cultural and spiritual life did not suffer because of these vicissitudes. Every town of standing had its yeshivah, that of Padua becoming important under Judah and Abraham *Minz and Meir *Katzenellenbogen. Scholars of this period include the philosopher and biblical exegete Obadiah *Sforno; the religious philosopher Jehiel Nissim of Pisa; the grammarians Abraham de *Balmes, Samuel *Archivolti, and Elijah (Baḥur) *Levita; the physician and lexicographer David de' *Pomis; the geographer Abraham *Farissol; the chroniclers Solomon *Ibn Verga, Gedaliah *Ibn Yaḥya, *Joseph ha-Kohen, and the antiquarian Abraham *Portaleone; the scholarly historian Azariah de' *Rossi, author of Me'or Einayim; the poet *Moses b. Joab; and the dramatist Judah (Leone) de' Sommi *Portaleone, who wrote in both Hebrew and Italian. In addition, many Jews individually contributed to art, drama, music, and the development of printing. Outstanding in the medical profession were the papal physicians Bonet de *Lattes, Samuel and Joseph *Sarfati, Vitale *Alatino, and Jacob *Mantino; also *Amatus Lusitanus, author of Curationum Centuriae, Elijah Montalto, and the *Portaleone family of Mantua, five generations of whom attended on the Gonzagas.

Persecutions (c. 1600–c. 1800)

This period is generally known as the Age of the Ghetto. It logically begins in 1555, when compulsory segregation was imposed by Paul IV, or even with the isolated instance when the Venice ghetto was established in 1516. However, it was at the end of the 16th century that the ghetto became an accepted institution in Italy, from Rome to the Alps. Every ghetto had its individual character. Some were overcrowded and unhealthy like that of Rome, the largest of all; others were more spacious and vivacious as in Venice (long the center of Hebrew printing), Ferrara, and Mantua; some had only a nominal existence, as in *Leghorn. All the ghettos – except that of Leghorn – were locked at night; the houses, even if owned by Christians, had fixed rents (jus gazaga; see *Ḥazakah). Jews who went outside the ghetto were obliged to wear a distinguishing badge on their garments. They could not enter the professions except (with severe restrictions) that of medicine. To travel out of the town they required special permits. Almost everywhere they were compelled to attend conversionist sermons. The police gave adequate protection to the ghetto from concerted attacks, but only reluctantly in cases of individual molestation. There were approximately 30,000 Jews living in Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries, of whom between 4,000 and 7,000 lived in Rome, somewhat fewer in Leghorn, and the others distributed in almost 70 places. The position of the Rome community was the most critical. Conditions had steadily deteriorated through the restrictions on earning a livelihood and the high taxation imposed by the Holy See. From the middle of the 17th century some of the popes (*Innocent X, XI, and XII) attempted to mitigate their lot, but were unable to prevent the community from being declared bankrupt in 1698.

In the 18th century also other pontiffs (Clement XI, *Benedict XIV, *Clement XIV) were moved to sympathy by the desperate plight of Rome Jewry, but any measures they introduced were counteracted by hostile successors. In the first year of his pontificate, Pius VI (1775–99) published an "Edict Concerning the Jews," characterized by utter obscurantism. In the other towns of the Papal States with Jewish communities, Ancona and (from 1598) Ferrara, the pressure upon the Jews was less extreme. Elsewhere, in the 18th century, in small communities – e.g., in Piedmont – Jews who were considered useful to the economy received particular assistance. In Veneto the Jews helped to arrest the decline of the towns where they were living, particularly Venice. In Tuscany, the Jews of Leghorn, who were completely free to utilize their commercial ability, were so successful that the grand dukes of the House of Lorraine, in particular Leopold I (1765–90), began to treat their other Jewish subjects similarly and to improve their conditions. When the French armies entered Italy in 1796–98, the new revolutionary spirit momentarily triumphed: the walls of the ghetto were demolished and the Jews received equal rights. However, with the restoration of the old regimes in 1799, all the new-found liberties were abolished. Napoleon's campaign of 1800 again brought freedom to the Jews, but in 1815 the restoration resulted in a complete and almost general return of the old conditions.

Intellectual life within the ghetto was inevitably inferior to that of the preceding period. Learned Jews were obliged not only to renounce their contacts with the outside world, but also any participation in academic institutions and, hence, pursuit of secular studies. This resulted in a very different literary orientation. Among the authors of Jewish apologetics were Leone *Modena, Simone (Simḥah) *Luzzatto, and Isaac *Cardozo. Controversies arose between the supporters of Kabbalah, Mordecai *Dato, *Aaron Berechiah of Modena, Menahem Azariah of Fano, Moses *Zacuto, and Solomon Aviad Sar Shalom *Basilea, and its opponents, Azariah de' Rossi and Azariah *Figo. Benjamin b. Eliezer ha-Kohen *Vitale and Abraham *Rovigo tended toward Shabbateanism. Joseph *Ergas and *Malachi b. Jacob ha-Kohen were instrumental in transferring the center of kabbalistic theosophy to Leghorn. Besides the emergence of two poetesses in the Italian language, Deborah Ascarelli and Sarah Coppio *Sullam, poetry was represented by Jacob Daniel *Olmo, the brothers Jacob and Immanuel *Frances, and Isaiah and Israel Benjamin *Bassani, father and son. Important as a poet, dramatist, and ethical writer was Moses Ḥayyim *Luzzatto. Salomone *Fiorentino, who wrote poems in Italian toward the end of the ghetto period, was much admired. Talmudic studies attracted such illustrious scholars as Isaac *Lampronti, author of the stupendous compilation Paḥad Yiẓḥak; barely less distinguished were Moses Zacuto, Solomon *Finzi, Samuel *Aboab, and Samson *Morpurgo. The polygraph Ḥayyim Joseph David *Azulai also spent much time in Italy. Hence it would be wrong to state that the walls surrounding the ghetto and its high buildings resulted in intellectual darkness. In fact, the contrary is true. Through scrupulous observance of the mitzvot and self-imposed regulation, either to supply the communities with necessities or to avoid excesses in entertainment and dress, the ghetto became a hive of activity, necessarily confined but tremendously alive. Many had several synagogues, all well attended, some with fine architecture such as those of Venice, Padua, Pesaro, and the small Piedmontese communities. There was a constant supply of teachers to listen and instruct. Moral and religious observance was strict but not oppressive. A social-service network provided assistance to all those who lived within the ghetto, especially well organized at Venice and Rome. In consequence, when they withdrew at night into the ghetto, the Jews did not have the feeling of living in prison.

Freedom and Equality (1815–1938)

The record of the half century that passed between the reestablishment of many ghettos and their final abolition differed in the various regions. In Tuscany, after the restoration of the grand duchy in 1815, the Jews there were granted relative equality; only the army and public office remaining barred to them. In the duchy of Parma, the most stringent restriction was that prohibiting Jews from residing in the capital. In the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom under Austrian rule, where there were the important communities of Mantua, Venice, Verona, and Padua, and the growing community of Milan, conditions were not particularly irksome. In Naples, where Jews had begun to resettle, the only restriction was that they were not allowed to constitute an official community. Elsewhere, however, their situation was now again deeply humiliating, especially in contrast with the freedom they had tasted. In the duchy of Modena, all the old disabilities were restored. The same applied to the Kingdom of Sardinia, comprising Piedmont and Genoa, where the only relaxation was that the Jewish badge was not reimposed. In the Papal States intolerance increased, until in 1827 Pope *Leo XII even resuscitated the notorious anti-Jewish edict of 1775.

However, those Jews once more living in such sad conditions now no longer had to rely only on the assistance, mainly ineffectual, of their more fortunate brethren. The middle-class Italian population which was struggling to liberate the country from reactionary regimes, especially the Carboneria and the Giovine Italia movements, had among their aims the elimination of all anti-Jewish discrimination. Distinguished politicians and writers such as Vincenzo Gioberti, Niccolò Tommaseo, Ugo Foscolo, and Cesare Balbo fought for the same ideas. Some expressed these aims in writings which reached a wide public, for instance Carlo *Cattaneo in his Ricerche economiche sulle interdizioni imposte dalla legge civile agli israeliti (1837), on the economic restrictions imposed on the Jews, and Massimo d'*Azeglio, Dell' emancipazione civile degli israeliti, which appeared at the end of 1847. On their part, the Jews did not wait for their aspirations to freedom to be fulfilled through outside assistance and took an active share in the struggle. The Risorgimento movement, which started in Piedmont in 1820–21, became more daring in Modena in 1831 and culminated in the 1848–49 revolutions in Milan, Rome, and Venice – the last under the leadership of Daniele *Manin. The movement included in its ranks many Jewish volunteers from various parts of Italy. Before the uprising broke out in 1848, even the most reactionary governments hastened to grant the Jews some concessions. Pope *Pius IX (1846–78), having abolished compulsory Jewish attendance at conversionist sermons and other humiliating regulations, admitted Jews into the civic guard; in 1848 he ordered that the gates and walls of the ghettos be demolished in Rome and in other towns of the Papal States. In Piedmont, in June 1848, the House of Savoy introduced into the constitution of the kingdom a provision that established equal civil and political rights for all citizens, without religious distinction.

In some retrogressive centers popular insurrections later broke out, after which, in 1849, two Jews were members of the constitutional assembly of the newly-proclaimed Roman republic, and in Venice two others, Isaac Pesaro and Leone Pincherle, became ministers in the provisional republican government. When, at the end of 1849, some of the ousted rulers returned and attempted to reimpose the humiliating anti-Jewish measures, they succeeded in doing so only on paper because they no longer had the support of wide sectors of the public. The darkest reaction indeed still prevailed in the towns of the Papal States: Rome, Ancona, Ferrara, and Bologna. The Jews here were again confined to the ghettos, although the gates were not locked at night. Jewish students were excluded from the public schools, and Jews were barred from commercial partnerships with Christians. They were subjected to pressures to accept conversion; these culminated in the notorious kidnapping of the child Edgardo *Mortara in Bologna in 1858, and of Giuseppe Coen in Rome as late as 1864. Even in the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom, the Austrian government became hostile to the Jews, who were suspected of holding liberal ideas. Only Piedmont upheld the emancipation of 1848, and as it extended its jurisdiction over the new areas which in 1861 became the Kingdom of Italy, additional Jewish groups were admitted to complete equality. Between 1859 and 1861 Emilia, Romagna, Tuscany, Lombardy, the Marches, and the Kingdom of Naples were absorbed; in 1866 Veneto and in 1870 Rome were incorporated in the new Italian kingdom. Trieste, which remained outside the boundaries of the Kingdom of Italy until 1919, had a large Jewish community under Austrian rule, generally well-disposed toward Jews.

As soon as equality had been extended to the Jews, the fact was accepted by the Italian people, anxious to demonstrate that the previous segregation had been imposed by political and ideological considerations and did not reflect popular feelings. The Jews reciprocated with alacrity. The principle that religion should not be an obstacle, whether in law or in fact, and the total absence of ill feeling or prejudice between Christians and Jews led to two far-reaching consequences. First, Jews felt free to embrace any career – political, military, academic, professional, administrative, or commercial – and to attain the highest positions. Secondly, freedom to associate on equal terms with other citizens encouraged Jews to minimize existing differences – some even concealed their Jewish identity or rejected it. The Jewish population formed 0.15% of the total in 1861 and 0.13% in 1938: yet 11 Jews sat in the chamber of deputies in 1871, 15 in 1874, and nine in 1921; in the senate there were 11 in 1905, and 26 in 1923. In the universities the proportion of Jewish professors was 6.8% in 1919, and 8% in 1938. The proportion of Jews in the liberal professions and public administration was 6.4% in 1901 and 6.7% in 1928. Jews attained outstanding positions in several branches of national life, not only quantitatively but qualitatively. Among many examples were Luigi *Luzzatti, for almost 20 years minister of finance, who became prime minister in 1910; Giuseppe *Ottolenghi, minister of war in 1902–03; Leone *Wollemborg, minister of finance from 1901; after 1923 Ludovico *Mortara was for many years president of the Court of Appeals and, for a time, minister of justice.

In this period, the structure of the Jewish communities changed radically. In 1840 there existed about 70 organized communities, in 1938 only 23. In 1840 Italian Jewry numbered 37,000, in 1931 47,485 (including many newly-arrived immigrants). The distribution of the Jewish population also changed. Many small rural communities disappeared, while medium-sized urban ones suffered through migration to the larger centers. Before the establishment of united Italy, each community had its own administrative and social structure, the central organization imposed by Napoleon lasting for only a short while. A first step toward introducing some measure of coordination among the communities was established by the Rattazzi Law of July 1857. But it was only in 1911 that a "Union of Italian Jewish Communities" (Consorzio delle comunità israelitiche italiane) was set up on a voluntary basis. Finally the law of Oct. 30, 1930, established on an obligatory national basis the Unione delle comunità israelitiche italiane and defined its administrative competence and that of the individual communities. It also defined the prerogatives of the rabbis, including authorization to perform marriages, provided that the relevant articles of the Italian legal code were read. The law laid down that all those considered Jews by Jewish law automatically belonged to the community if they did not make a formal renunciation.

The upheavals which took place in Jewish life in Italy in the 19th century had important consequences on the nature of Jewish scholarship. Isaac Samuel *Reggio (1784–1855), a disciple of Moses *Mendelssohn and of N.H. *Wessely, propagated the view that it was necessary to diverge from rigid orthodoxy and give a wider place to secular studies. These ideas he wished to put into practice in the rabbinical college of Padua (later *Collegio Rabbinico Italiano) founded in 1829. However, when Lelio *della Torre and Samuel David *Luzzatto, one of the great pioneers of the scientific study of Judaism, directed the college, they followed the traditional path, and under their control it became one of the most highly esteemed rabbinical seminaries in Europe. Luzzatto was an outstanding scholar and an acute exponent of vast portions of the Jewish heritage, including the philosophy of religion, history, literature, ritual, and Hebrew linguistics. Luzzatto's death marked the end of the college in Padua; its functions were partly assumed by the rabbinical college of Leghorn, under the direction of Elia *Benamozegh. The Padua college itself, after brief vicissitudes, was transferred to Florence in 1899 under the dynamic Samuel Hirsch *Margulies; after his death in 1922 it relapsed into inactivity, to be resuscitated later in Rome. Among those trained in these institutions were Mordecai *Ghirondi, Marco *Mortara, David *Castelli, Umberto *Cassuto, Dante *Lattes, and Elia S. *Artom. These and other scholars were able to publish the results of their research and studies on general problems in the numerous Jewish periodicals that appeared in Italy from the second half of the 19th century.


The history of the Jews in Italy has attracted the attention of a considerable number of scholars. Over 2,000 major and minor historical works have been published of local, regional, or general interest. A complete classified bibliography may be found in: A. Milano, Bibliotheca historica italo-judaica (1954), with supplements in 1964 and in: RMI (Nov. 1966). Complete histories are: C. Roth, History of the Jews of Italy (1946); A. Milano, Storia degli ebrei in Italia (1963); and on a smaller scale, G. Volli, Breve storia degli ebrei d'Italia (1961); C. Roth, Jews in the Renaissance (1959); and the corresponding work in Hebrew, M.A. Szulwas, Ḥayyei ha-Yehudim be-Italyah bi-Tekufat ha-Renaissance (1955); as well as collections of essays by the last-named writers, all dealing with individual aspects of Italian Jewish history. See also bibliographies to articles on specific cities, in particular *Rome, *Leghorn, *Venice, *Florence, and *Mantua. FASCIST PERIOD: J. Starr, in: JSOS, 1 (1939), 105–24; M. Michaelis, in: Yad Vashem Studies, 4 (1960), 7–41; D. Carpi, ibid., 43–56; idem, in: Rivista di studi politici internazionali, 28 (1961) 35–56; idem, in: Dappim le-Ḥeker ha-Sho'ah ve-ha-Mered, 3 (1968); R. de Felice, Storia degli ebrei italiani sotto il fascismo (1961): U. Nahon, in: Scritti… Leone Carpi (1967), 261–84; R. Katz, Black Sabbath (1970). CONTEMPORARY PERIOD: R. Bachi, in: JJSO, 4 (1962), 172–91; Unione delle Communità Israelitiche Italiane, VII Congresso, Relazione del Consiglio (19665726) (1966); F. Sabatello, in: P. Glikson and S. Ketko (eds.), Jewish Communal Service (1967), 107–12; S. della Pergola, in: Bi-Tefuẓot ha-Golah, 10:1–2 (1968), 159–77. MUSICAL TRADITION. SOURCES: Jews' College, London, Ms. Montefiore no. 479, fol. 147b: Notation of Psalm intonation by J. Finzi in Casale-Monferrato, 1600; S. Rossi, Ha-Shirim asher li-Shelomo (Venice, 1622–23); A. Kircher, Musurgia Universalis (Rome, 1650), pt. 1, 64–67; G. Bartolocci, Bibliotheca magna rabbinica, 4 (Rome, 1675–93; repr. 1969), 427–41; M. Zahalon, Meẓiẓ u-Meliẓ (Venice, 1715); B. Marcello, Estro poetico-armonico (Venice, 1724–26); F. Consolo, Libro dei canti d'Israele (1892); E. Ventura, et al., in: RMI, 5 (1931), 429–32; A.Z. Idelsohn, in: HUCA, 11 (1936), 569–91; E. Piattelli, Canti liturgici ebraici di rito italiano (1967); STUDIES: E. Birnbaum, Juedische Musiker am Hofe von Mantua (1893); E. Werner, in: MGWJ, 81 (1937), 393–416; L. Levi, in: L'Approdo, 3 (1954), 37–44; idem, in: Sefer ha-Mo'adim (1954), 182–6; idem, in: RMI, 23 (1957), 403–11, 435–45; 27 (1961); idem, in: Yeda Am, 2 (1955/56), 59–69; idem, in: Centro Nazionale Studi di Musica Popolare, Roma, Studi e Ricerche (1960), 50–68; idem, in: Scritti… G. Bedarida (1966), 105–36; Adler, Prat Mus, index; idem, in: Jewish Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies (1967), 321–64; S. Naumbourg (ed.), Cantiques de Salomon Rossi (1877, repr. 1954); F. Rikko (ed.), Salomon Rossi, Ha-Shirim asher li-Shelomo, 3 vols. (1967– ). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D.A.L. Bidussa, G.L. Voghera. Oltre il ghetto: momenti e figure della cultura ebraica in Italia tra l'Unità e il fascismo (2005); R. Bonfil, Rabbis and Jewish Communities in Renaissance Italy (Heb., 1979; published for the Litman Library by Oxford University Press, 1990); idem, Gli ebrei in Italia nell'epoca del Rinascimento (1991); idem, Tra due mondi. Cultura ebraica e cultura cristiana nel Medioevo (1996); E. Capuzzo, Gli ebrei nella società italiana: comunità e istituzioni tra Ottocento e Novecento (1999); E. Collotti, Il Fascismo e gli ebrei. Le leggi razziali in Italia (2003); S. DellaPergola, Anatomia dell'ebraismo italiano: caratteristiche demografiche, economiche, sociali, religiose e politiche di una minoranza (1976); R. De Felice, Storia degli ebrei italiani sotto il fascismo (1961, 19884; Jews in Fascist Italy: A History (2001)); E.R. Gruber, Virtually Jewish. Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe (2002); B.D. Ruderman (ed.), Preachers of the Italian Ghetto (1992); idem, Essential Papers on Jewish Culture in Renaissance and Baroque Italy (1992); G. Fabre, Mussolini razzista: dal socialismo al fascismo: la formazione di un antisemita (2005); A. Milano, Storia degli ebrei in Italia 1963 (rist. 1992); G. Formiggini, Stella d'Italia Stella di David. Gli ebrei dal Risorgimento alla Resistenza (1970, repr. 1998); Italia judaica: gli ebrei in Italia tra Rinascimento ed età barocca: atti del 2. Convegno internazionale, Genova 10–15 giugno 1984 (1986); Italia judaica. Atti del III Convegno internazionale (1989); L. Picciotto Fargion, Il Libro della memoria. Gli Ebrei deportati dall'Italia (19431945). Ricerca del Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea (1991, 20022); M. Sarfatti Mussolini contro gli ebrei. Cronaca dell'elaborazione delle leggi del 1938 (1994); idem, Gli ebrei nell'Italia fascista: vicende, identità, persecuzione (2000); G. Schwarz, Ritrovare se stessi: gli ebrei nell'Italia postfascista (2004); A. Stille, Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families under Fascism (1991); R.K. Stow, Theater of Acculturation: The Roman Ghetto in the Sixteenth Century (2000); M. Toscano, Ebraismo e antisemitismo in Italia: dal 1848 alla guerra dei sei giorni (2003); C. Vivanti (ed.), Gli Ebrei in Italia, I. Dall'Alto Medioevo all'Età dei Lumi (1996); idem (ed.), Gli Ebrei in Italia, II. Dall'emancipazione a oggi (1997); K. Voigt, Il rifugio precario. Gli esuli in Italia dal 1933 al 1945, 2 vols. (1993 and 1996); M. Michaelis, Mussolini and the Jews: German-Italian Relations and the Jewish Question in Italy, 19221945 (1978); idem, La Persecuzione degli ebrei durante il fascismo: Le leggi del 1938 (1998); M. Sarfatti: Le leggi antiebraiche spiegate agli italiani di oggi (2002); S. Zuccotti, The Italians and the Holocaust: Persecution, Rescue, and Survival (1987); Dalle leggi antiebraiche alla Shoah: Sette anni di storia italiana 19381945 (2004); D. Carpi, Between Mussolini and Hitler: The Jews and the Italian Authorities in France and Tunisia (1994).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.