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Reggio Emilia

REGGIO EMILIA, city in central Italy. The first Jewish settlement of Jewish loan bankers in Reggio Emilia, a fief of the House of Este, dates from the year 1413. For a long time they benefited from the favorable attitude of the ducal house to the Jewish settlements, which sometimes protected them from the persecutions instigated by Franciscan friars. When the papacy secured possession of the duchy of Ferrara in 1598, the duchy of Modena and Reggio was left in the hands of the House of Este. In the succeeding two centuries the duchy continued to welcome considerable groups of Jews, who engaged in moneylending and commercial activities. The ghetto was instituted in Reggio Emilia in 1669 and the Jews were able to carry on freely their business activities and exercise a variety of entrepreneurial, commercial, and cultural activities, including the production, manufacture, and trading of silk, silver, and diamonds. In 1652–53 the duke of Modena issued charters inviting foreign Jews to settle, proclaiming them "wealthy people and very likely to introduce traffic and commerce" and 60 Sephardi families settled in the duchy, mainly in Reggio Emilia. The majority of these were former Marranos from Spain who had recently reverted to Judaism, usually in Tuscany, and nine of them had migrated from Amsterdam and Hamburg. They were able to build an autonomous Portuguese community.

There was a renowned yeshivah in Reggio Emilia with learned rabbis such as *Benjamin b. Eliezer ha-Kohen Vitale and Isaiah *Bassano. A Jew of Reggio, Moses Benjamin *Foà, was book purveyor to the ducal library in Modena, participated in the Comizi of Lion, and worked actively with Moses Formiggini of Modena for the emancipation of the Italian Jews in the Napoleonic era, when the French occupation of 1796 temporarily brought the right to live outside the ghetto and to participate in public. In 1806–1807 Jacob Israel Carmi was one of the Italian rabbis who went to Paris for the Assembly of Notables and the Napoleonic *Sanhedrin; he gave a penetrating account of his experiences in his letters. In this period a number of Jews began to move to cities affording greater cultural and economic opportunities and at the beginning of the 19th century Reggio Emilia had a population of fewer than 800 Jews. During the Holocaust 18 Jews were deported to the death camps from the province of Reggio Emilia. In the early 21st century few Jews lived in Reggio Emilia and the community was affiliated to the community of Modena; the City Hall and the Italian State Ministry of Culture completed the restoration of the main synagogue in 2005.


A. Balletti, Gli ebrei e gli Estensi (19302), passim; idem, Il tempio maggiore israelitico di Reggio nell' Emilia… (1908); Roth, Italy, index; Milano, Italia, index; Milano, Bibliotheca, index; Shulvass, in: Reshumot, 4 (1947), 98–130; Servi, in: Corriere israelitico, 5 (1866–67), 51–53. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Bondoni and G. Busi, Cultura ebraica in Emilia-Romagna (1987); A. Leoni, La nazione ebraica spagnola e portoghese negli stati estensi (1990).

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