TUSCANY


TUSCANY, region in central Italy. No information on Jews in Tuscany during the Roman era is available but it is likely that a Jewish community existed then at least in *Florence. The first reliable data comes from Benjamin of *Tudela who found Jews in *Pisa and in *Lucca (c. 1159). There were Jews in *Siena by 1229. Jews presumably engaged in moneylending in Tuscany in the 13th century. In 1309 three Jewish loan bankers were invited to San Gimignano; the negotiations with them and others did not succeed, but in 1392 the first agreement regulating Jewish loan banking activities (condotta) there was concluded. Until 1437 Jewish moneylenders were excluded from Florence itself, but not from the provincial cities under its sovereignty. In 1393 a condotta was concluded at San Miniato with a group of Jewish bankers headed by members of the Min ha-Keneset or Min Bet-El (Della Sinagoga) family of Rome. A concession to maintain a loan bank in San Gimignano was granted in 1410, and in 1423 a similar license was extended to the city of Pisa, again to this family. At the beginning of the 15th century the family also engaged in moneylending in Pescia, Prato, Colle Val d'Elsa, and perhaps in Pistoia; authorization to permit Jews to engage in moneylending was also extended to the cities of *Arezzo, Montepulciano, Castiglion Fiorentino, Volterra, Castrocaro, and Empoli. In exchange, the central authorities demanded a tax which varied between 50 and 250 florins yearly, according to the importance of the locality.

In 1416 representatives of the communities of Tuscany took part in the Council of *Bologna. The establishment of Christian loan banks (*Monti di Pieta) in the 16th century caused some difficulty to Jewish moneylenders in Tuscany, but there was no conspicuous change in their situation, though there was an unsuccessful attempt to excommunicate the Jews of Empoli. The reign of Duke Cosimo de' Medici was originally beneficial for the Jews. In 1553 however he yielded to papal pressure and ordered the burning of the *Talmud. In 1551 he had issued an invitation to merchants from the Levant, including Jews, to settle in Tuscany and do business there; previously, Marranos also had been permitted to settle in Tuscany. In 1557 and before, he gave asylum to Jewish refugees from the Papal States. The same year he refused to implement the anti-Jewish restrictions issued by Pope *Paul IV or to hand over the Jews to the jurisdiction of the Inquisition. But when Cosimo wished to gain the support of Pope *Pius V for his aspirations to the title of grand duke, his attitude toward the Jews changed. In 1567 he rigorously applied the obligation to wear the Jewish *badge. Refugees from the Papal States who wished to settle in Volterra were not accepted. In 1570 information was collected on the Jews in Pisa, Cortona, Foiano, Pieve-Santo-Stefano, Arezzo, Prato, Anghiari, Castrocaro, Modigliana, Bibbiena, and Montepulciano, apparently as a preliminary to concentrating them in Florence. On the pretext that Jews had violated some of the articles of their moneylending concessions, all their agreements in Florence were abrogated in 1570, and in the district of Siena in 1571. Subsequently the expulsion of the Jews from all cities excepting Florence and Siena was ordered. In these cities the Jewish inhabitants were segregated in a ghetto along with refugees from other localities. At the end of the century, however, the Grand Duke Ferdinand I (1587–1609) invited Jews, including Marranos, to settle in Pisa and the free port of *Leghorn, which before long became one of the great Jewish centers of the Mediterranean area. The Lucca community, however, had ceased to exist.

At the end of the 16th century a new community was established in Pitigliano, which served as a haven for the Jews from the Papal States. This community prospered mainly in the 18th century, when the Jewish population reached 300. In the 17th century Jews settled again in Arezzo, Monte San Savino, Borgo San Sepolcro, and Lippano, although in 1680 Cosimo III intensified the papal anti-Jewish restrictions which were now strictly enforced. At the end of the 17th century the preaching of the apostate Paolo Medici led to anti-Jewish riots, and serious disturbances occurred in Borgo San Sepolcro. A marked improvement in the conditions of the Jews in Tuscany began in the 18th century under the Lorraine dynasty. Leopold I (later Emperor Leopold II of Austria), who reigned in Tuscany from 1765 to 1790, granted all the Jews there the same rights as the Jews of Leghorn. In 1779 he permitted Jews to sit on the municipal councils, and in 1789 to hold official positions.

In 1798 the French occupied Tuscany and granted the Jews full rights of citizenship. These were abrogated in 1799 after the retreat of the French forces. In the wake of the reaction, there were serious anti-Jewish disturbances, especially in Siena and in Monte San Savino and the community ceased to exist. In 1801, on the establishment of the kingdom of Etruria by Napoleon, the Jews in Tuscany were again granted full rights. Between 1810 and 1814, when Tuscany was incorporated in the French Empire, the communities were organized on the lines of the French *Consistory. Jews began to acquire land and to enter middle-class society.

After the Restoration, however, the situation reverted to much the same as before, but Jews were no longer required to live in the ghettos, although most continued to reside there. The House of Lorraine continued its liberal policy, and consequently Tuscany attracted many Jews in poor economic circumstances from Rome. Jews were permitted to attend public schools and universities in Tuscany. They took part in all branches of the economy in business and industry. Only government positions, military service, and the legal profession remained closed to them. On April 30, 1859, Tuscany was incorporated in the kingdom of Sardinia (later the kingdom of Italy) and the principle of equal rights without discrimination on religious grounds was introduced there also. Henceforth the history of the Jews of Tuscany does not differ from the general history of Italian Jewry. Concerning the organization of the communities, legislation of the House of Lorraine remained in force. This obliged every Jew to belong to the community and pay dues to it. However, between 1865 and 1905 the communities successively dispensed with levying compulsory dues. The Italian law of 1931 regulating the organization of the Jewish communities applied to Tuscany, and the principle of compulsory taxation was again introduced. The provincial Tuscan communities dwindled in the 19th century like most of the small communities of Italy. In 1969 there were only a few fully organized communities in Florence, Pisa (including Viareggio and Lucca), and Leghorn (Livorno), and partially in Siena.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

U. Cassuto, Ebrei a Firenze nell'età del Rinascimento (1918); Roth, Italy, index; Milano, Italia, index; De Rubertis, in: RMI, 18 (1952), 10–20; J.E. Rignano, Sulla attuale posizione giuridica degl'israeliti in Toscana … (1847).

[Menachem E. Arom]


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