SYRACUSE, city in S.E. Sicily. Inscriptions and other archaeological evidence attest the presence of Jews in Syracuse from Roman times. Toward the middle of the fifth century, the Vandals destroyed the synagogue there, and in 655 the Jews asked the Byzantine authorities for permission to rebuild it. In the 12th century, the Jews of Syracuse received through their rabbi Anatoli b. Joseph a reply by *Maimonides to a legal
King Frederick III intervened in favor of the Jews of Syracuse who were harassed by the ecclesiastical authorities in 1375, and the regulations on their behalf were confirmed by King Marlin in 1392. The Jews obtained further privileges in 1399, when they were exempted from the obligation of supplying wax to the court and flags for the castles. When in 1455 various Jews from Syracuse made a clandestine attempt to immigrate to Ereẓ Israel, they were arrested. The community succeeded, however, in obtaining permission for Jews to emigrate in small groups. Among the scholars who lived in Syracuse was Isaac b. Solomon *Alḥadib, astronomer and translator, and Shalom b. Solomon Yerushalmi, for whom several manuscripts were copied. After the edict of expulsion of the Jews from Spanish domains was issued in 1492 it is estimated that about 5,000 Jews left Syracuse. They are said to have represented 40% of the city's population. The "Purim of Syracuse", still observed by some Sephardi Jewish families, probably refers not to Syracuse but to Saragossa in Spain. A number of tombstones dating from the Middle Ages with Hebrew inscriptions have recently been discovered in Syracuse, and the findings published.
Milano, Bibliotheca, index; Milano, Italia, index; Roth, Italy, index; Orsi, in: Roemische Quartalschrift, 14 (1900), 194–7; Simonsen, in: REJ, 59 (1910), 90–95; S. Simonsohn, in: Archivio storico siracusano, 9 (1963), 8–20; idem, in: Sefer Zikkaron le-Izhak Ben-Zvi … (1964), 273–82; G. De' Giovanni, L'ebraismo della Sicilia … (Palermo, 1748); B. and G. Lagumina, Codice diplomatico dei giudei di Sicilia, 3 vols. (1884–1909), passim; C. Roth, Gleanings (1967), 62–80; Frey, Corpus, 1 (1936), nos. 651–3a.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.