Timeline of Jewish History in Italy
161 BCE — — Two envoys of Judah Maccabee are the first Jews to travel to Rome
66 BCE —Israel conquered by Rome, under Pompeii; continued Jewish migration to Rome
70 —Second Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by Titus, Menorah is taken back to Rome
80 — Colosseum is opened in Rome
90 — Early Christian Gospel of Matthew blames the destruction of the Temple on the Jews’ rejection of the Torah, as embodied in Jesus, and of biblical prophets before him
100—Oldest known synagogue in Western Europe is established in Ostia,, the port of Rome. It serves the resident Jewish community, as well as transient sailors. It is excavated in 1961.
161-180 —Emperor Marcus Aurelius (of Gladiator fame) builds up roads and cities throughout the Empire
212 —Emperor Caracalla extends Roman citizenship to all sectors of the Empire, subject peoples. He grants benefits to property owners and makes them responsible for imperial taxes and services. Jews share in the newly granted citizenship.
312 — Constantine conquers Italy and secures his regime as Emperor, begins promoting Christianity
313 — Roman Church proselytizes and derogates Jews, but tolerates them so they may witness the return of the Messiah
315 — Constantine begins edits against the Jews and denounces them as Christ killers
337 — Constantius, his son, expands anti-Jewish legislation; Jews are labeled "a pernicious sect"
425 — Theodosius II’s Code of Law outlines social restrictions against the Jews: limitations placed on where they could live, what they could wear; Jews may neither hold public office, build synagogues, hold slaves (=no agriculture) and are subject to extraordinary taxation
489-526 —Germanic —Goths take over Italy. In 519 — synagogues in Ravenna are torched by Christians; Theodric, ruler of Italy, compels the Christians to pay for rebuilding.
534 —Justinian completes codification of Roman law, expanding the limitations on Jews, which serves as the basis of later European codes; new construction of buildings defines the Byzantine style
537 — Justinian decrees that Jews must maintain (pay for) municipal government, even though they are forbidden to hold office
568 — Lombards takeover Northern Italy
600 — Under Pope Gregory I the papacy becomes the supreme authority of the Western Church; establishment of the doctrine, "religio illigitimo," the policy by which Jews were converted through restriction of Jewish religious activity and proffering political and economic inducements to converts. Jews were to be protected from violence, allowed to survive, but were forbidden to attain equal status to Christians
825 — Holy Roman Emperor Louis (son of Charlemagne) issues a Charter of Protection to Jews, encouraging Jewish trade (including slave trade) and relaxing political restrictions, allowing some juridical autonomy-action was due to his needs for Jewish money, which in turn, makes him beholden to Jewish merchants
900 — Jewish slave merchants lose trade to Italian Christians. During this century, Jews from N. France and N. Italy, speaking a language called Laaz, begin speaking earliest Yiddish, as a result of contact with German speakers
920 — R. Moses of Lucca, of N. Italy and son Kalonymus, move to Mainz–becoming forefathers of German Jewish culture. Kalonymus’ Responsa c. 940, are the oldest native products of Ashkenazi Jewry.
1033 —A Jew Taranto, Italy, buys land for vineyards; in contrast to W. Christendom, Byzantine law does allows Jews to own land and engage in agriculture
1054 — Pope Leo IX causes schism in Church, dividing into East and West, affecting the Jews
1095 — Pope Urban II proclaims the First Crusade, to assert papal supremacy in East as well as West. France and Germany join, Italy does not.
1144 — Second Crusade
1177 — Treaty of Venice leaves Italy in the hands of local rulers and the Pope, not the Emperor
1179 — Third Lateran Council adopts new canon: Jews prohibited from having Christian servants; testimony of Christians to be accepted against Jews in suits; Jews who convert permitted to keep their possessions
1215 — Fourth Lateran Council issues canons: 1)Jews to wear a distinguishing mark on clothing and live in segregated quarters; 2)Jews may not exact interest on loans to Christians, Christians may not do business with Jews who don’t obey Church rules; 3)Jews may not hold public office; 4)converts to Christianity must stop Jewish observances 5) Jews prohibited from hiring Christian women of child bearing age as servants
1236 — Pope Gregory IX condemns excesses of the fifth Crusade, in its violence against Jews
1240 — Italian Talmudist, Zedekiah ben Abraham Anav, writes a major halachic compendium on the liturgy and holiday customs of Roman Jews, who have developed their own distinct brand of Judaism, different from Ashkenazic and Sephardic Judaism
1288 — Naples issues first expulsion of Jews in S. Italy
1293 — Destruction of most Jewish communities in the Kingdom of Naples, cradle of Ashkenazi culture in S. Italy, accompanied by conversions of Jews
1300 — Population of Italy:11,000,000; Jews: 15,000
1305 — Pope Clement V is first pope to threaten Jews with an economic boycott in an attempt to force them to stop charging Christians interest on loans
1325 — Writer Samuel ben Solomon of Rome leaves Rome for N. Italy, due to papal expulsion. Most important work is a collection of poems, which is a fusion of Italian, Latin and Jewish cultures, the last of which, "Tofet and Eden," is modeled on Dante’s "Divine Comedy."
1348 — The Black Plague–Jews are accused of poisoning the wells
1353 — Boccaccio completes "Decameron," which acknowledges man’s power and limitations, setting the stage for the humanism of the Renaissance
1397 — Jewish moneylenders are encouraged to settle in Florence
1399 — Anti-Jewish measures in Italy lead to establishment of Italian Jewish synods to ensure centralized leadership of community; synods are convened throughout 15th and 16th centuries to solve special problems
1416 — Anti-Jewish preaching of Franciscans prompts delegates from Jewish communities to meet in Bologna and Forli to respond. Meeting result in pro-Jewish bulls by Pope Martin (1417-1431 —), who tries to control the Franciscans’ preaching
1429 — Pope Martin enacts bull providing a sweeping measure of protection of the Jews, which remains largely unenforced
1437 — Cosimo de Medici, the Elder, grants the first formal charter to the Jews of Florence for moneylending
1442 — Pope Eugenius IV issues an edict prohibiting: building of synagogues, money-lending for interest, holding public office, testifying against Christians. Jews respond by meeting in Tivoli and Ravenna, with no success; causes them to move to other areas of Italy
1459 —Fra Mauro (a converted Jew) prepares a map placing Jerusalem at the center of the world, a practice which was discontinued by the late Renaissance
1462 — Establishment of "Monti di pieta," pity funds, by Franciscans to offer interest-free loans in direct competition with Jewish money-lenders; Jews lose business, and are therefore subject to expulsion
1464 —-92 — Lorenzo Il Magnifico, becomes the protector of Florentine Jews, supporting Jewish scholarship, Talmudic studies and medicine, and guaranteeing favorable living conditions to the Jewish community. Oversees the "Golden Age of Florence," in which there is much interaction between Christians and Jews.
Chair of Hebrew established at the University of Bologna; revival of Hebrew study for theological considerations and secular interest in antiquity become characteristics of the Italian Renaissance
1468 —Joseph ben Meshullam writes a satire which supports rationalism over mysticism, supertitious customs and pilpul, the method of Talmudic study gaining popularity
1471 — Secularization of papacy leaves Jews in central and northern Italy free of persecution. Protection of Jewish life, property and business affairs also guaranteed
1473 — First two Hebrew presses established in Calabria and Pieva da Saca. Others founded in Mantua and Naples
1475 — Judah Messer Leon--rabbi, scholar, man of letters, writes book on Hebrew style applying rhetoric derived from Greek and Latin authors
1480 — Soncino family begins establishing Hebrew presses throughout Italy and in Constantinople and Salonika
1488 — First complete edition of Hebrew Bible printed I Soncino, Italy, by Abraham ben Hayyim
1491— Jews of Ravenna expelled, synagogues destroyed; instigated by Franciscan and Dominican friars whose goal was expulsion of all Jews from Italy – Perugia-1485, Gubbio-1486. . .
R. Elijah Delmedigo holds chair in Philosophy at University of Padua and is a major influence on Pico della Mirandola, a Florentine philosopher/poet (1463-1494)
Population of Italy: 12,000,000; Jews: 80,000 (100% increase in 100 years)
1492 — Sicily and Sardinia, as territories ruled by Spain, expel their Jews. The majority of refugees from the Spanish expulsion head for Portugal and Italy, specifically Venice, Leghorn and Rome, where they are protected by the pope
1494 — France invades Italy; Jews of Florence and Tuscany expelled when the Medici fall from power; they return in 1513 — and bring the Jews back with them
1495 — Charles VIII of France occupies Kingdom of Naples, bringing new persecution against the Jews, many of whom went there as refugees from Spain. Jews will be expelled from Naples in 1510 —and again in 1541
1496— Pico della Mirandola develops a Christian notion of Kabbalah, based on his interaction with Jewish contemporaries and Jewish texts. He attempts to confirm the truth of the Christian religion from the foundations of Jewish Kabbalah
1500 — Disputation in Ferrara between Christians and Abraham Farrisol of Avignon. R. Asher Lemlein, a false messiah, preaches in N. Italy on repentence and messiah. Of Ashkenazic origin, his ideas travel to Germany. Even among Christians, 1500 is a ‘year of repentance"
1510 — King Ferdinand of Spain defeats the French I Naples and establishes it as the largest principality in Italy; expels majority of Jews living south of Rome; expelled again in 1541 —
1513— Machiavelli writes "The Prince"
1515 — Edict of expulsion in Naples extends to ‘New Christians’
1516— Establishment of ghetto (foundry) in Venice as a place of confinement for Jews, whose goal is to gain maximum economic advantage from the Jews’ presence (including taxes), while ensuring minimal social contact with population. Generalization of term to include all enclosed quarters of Jews in Europe
1517— Daniel Bomberg, first Christian merchant to found a Hebrew printing press, prints Hebrew Bible with commentaries by Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Kimchi, Geronides and Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds for the first time
1524 — The old established Jewish families of Rome come to terms with the trasmontani- newcomers from France and Germany, who were previously not accepted into Jewish leadership in Italy (see four synagogues in Venice). Roman Jewish self-government is now shared by Italian, Sicilian, Spanish and German Jews
First Jewish cosmography written – charts Biblical places ans well as new route to India and Islands of the New World
David Ruveni, claiming to be a messenger of king of the Lost Tribes, appears before Pope Clement VII and proposes a treaty between Jews and Christians against Muslims; later dies as a prisoner in Spain
1529 — Scuola Grande Tedesca, oldest synagogue in Venice opens-Ashkenazic
1531 — Scuola Canton, also Ashkenazic
1538 — Scuola Levantina
1555 — Scuola Spagnola, largest in Venice
1575 — Scuola Italiana. All the synagogues are unrecognizable from the outside, with magnificent interiors. Q-Why four synagogues in one square in 45 years?
1531 — Earliest Jewish play in Europe: Italian historian mentions a Purim play he witnessed in the Venice ghetto. Plays with biblical themes are popular in Europe
1532 — Jacob Azulai, Padua, is the first known Jewish artist to make a majolica Seder Plate. Later displayed in Jewish Museum in Vienna
1535 — Judah Abrabanel writes "Dialogues about Love," in Rome. This neoplatonic treatise by a leading philosopher of the Renaissance becomes a classic
1537-70 — The rule of Cosimo I of Florence ushers in a renewed era of growth and prosperity for the Jews, with restored Medici favor and protection
1541 — Venetian Senate grants Levantine Jews permission to reside in Venice, as a result of the increased participation of Sephardic Jews in Balkan commerce; and is an attempt by Italian princes to fill their coffers at the expense of local interests (rights were granted for the financial benefit to Christian rulers, not to improve Jews’ lot)
Elijah Levita publishes a Hebrew grammar book explaining 712 Hebrew words; significant because it has Latin translations, showing cross-cultural knowledge
Jews expelled from Naples; readmitted in 1735
1551 — Grand Duke of Tuscany issues charter to attract Sephardic Jewish merchants from Balkans to Pisa. They trade using routes through Ancona and Pesaro
1553 — Convinced that the Talmud attacks Christianity, Pope Julius III burns thousands of volumes of Talmud in Rome, Bologna, Ferrara,Venice and Mantua.
1554 —A delegation of Italian Jews meets in Ferrara to discuss the banning of the Talmud. They adopt a rabbinic ordinance, recognized by the government, which establishes an internal control over the printing of Hebrew books. Similar rules are later adopted in Padua, Poland, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.
1555 — Pope Paul IV issues bull, cum nimis absurdum, bringing religious and economic restrictions to the papal lands, requiring all Jews to live in ghettos and restricting economic relations with Christians to the selling of used clothes.
What is believed to be the first Hebrew play is written by Judah Leone Sommo, an Italian Hebrew poet and dramatist. The play is in the style of a Renaissance comedy.
1556 — Responding to persecutions by Pope Paul IV against the Jews of Ancona, Dona Gracia Mendes leads an unsuccessful economic boycott against the port of Ancona, favoring trade with Pisaro, which has accepted the Jewish refugees. The plan fails due to internal divisions in the Jewish community over fear of further persecution.
1559 — Pope Paul IV places the Talmud on the list of banned books, Index liborum prohibitorum. Popes Pius IV and Gregory XIII will later permit the printing of the Talmud, but allowing censorship of passages that are deemed insulting to Christianity; therefore, the Talmud is not printed in Italy. The last edition of the Index, 1948, still includes books written by Jews.
Pope Paul IV permits the printing of the Zohar, book of medieval Jewish mysticism, at the same time he burns 12,000 other books; because he is persuaded that the Zohar contains no anti-Christian statements.
1565 —Joseph Caro’s Shulchan Aruch is first printed in Venice.
1566 —Maimonides’ "Thirteen Principles" appears in the Venice Haggadah; probably the earliest statement of these principles in doctrinal form.
1569 — Pope Pius V expels the Jews from the papal states, with the exception of Ancona and Rome.
1570 —Establishment of the ghetto in Florence, locking in 86 Jews at night. The ghetto was established by Cosimo under pressure from the Church, in exchange for his receiving the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1571, the ghetto swells to 500, as Jews from all over the Grand Duchy of Tuscany are compelled to live within the ghetto walls
1571 — The Venetian government, at war with Turkey, resolves to expel all Jews from Venice and the Adriatic Islands. Though the expulsion is not enforced, it reflects the impact of the Counter-Reformation and the papal willingness to sacrifice local commercial interests to doctrinal necessities.
1573 — Between 1573-1581, the Cinque Scole Synagogue is erected in the ghetto of Rome. When the ghetto was established in 1555, the Jews were permitted only one synagogue, though there were five prayer communities with ethnic, linguistic and social differences. Later, Pope Pius V agreed to have one building house the five synagogues, which satisfied the literal restrictions, but permitted the Jews to establish Castilian, Catalan, Temple and New Congregations. The current chief Rabbi of Rome and uncle to the Philadelphia Toaf family, Rabbi Toaf, is a direct descendant of the first rabbi of the Scole Castiliano, Rabbi Yitzchak Toaf, The building was demolished in 1910.
1573 —Azaria dei Rossi, one of the great lights of Italian Jewry, a scholar and physician, publishes Me’or einayim (Light for the Eyes). Using classical Greek, Latin, Christian and Jewish sources, he is the first since antiquity to deal with the Hellenistic-Jewish philosopher Philo. His critical method of analysis and refusal to accept rabbinic legend as literal truth, the work is banned in many Jewish communities.
1586 — The last meeting of the delegates from Italy’s Jewish communities tales place. Though there is an attempt to centralize Jewish self-government in the 15th and 16th centuries, the emphasis remains primarily on local institutions rather than on regional or supra-regional organizations (Much like the rest of Italy!)
1587 —The rabbis of Jerusalem appeal to the Jews of Italy to finance the restoration of the Nachmanides synagogue in Jerusalem (attesting to their stature and wealth among world Jewry).
Salomone De’Rossi enters the service of the Duke of Mantua as a singer and musician. He becomes the leading Jewish composer of the late Italian Renaissance.
1593 —Pope Clement VIII expels the Jews living in all the papal states, except Rome, Avignon and Ancona. Jews are invited to settle in Leghorn, the main port of Tuscany , where they are granted full religious liberty and civil rights, by the Medici family, who want to develop the region into a center of commerce. In 1600, 100 Jews live there, growing to 3,000 in 1689 and 5,000 at the end of the century. It is the only large Italian city without a closed ghetto.
1595 —A synagogue is built in the northwestern town of Piedmont, in the typical synagogue architecture of the Renaissance, within a courtyard. Concerned for their security, and following the prohibition of Jewish prayer to be heard by Christians, the Jews place the entrance away from the street.
1597 — Nine hundred Jews are expelled from Milan, which is now ruled by Spain.
1603 — Despite much opposition, rabbi and scholar Leone Modena, has a choir accompany the service in the synagogue in Ferrara. The harpsichord accompanies services on weekdays and Simchat Torah in Sephardic synagogues in Venice, Amsterdam and Hamburg.
1616 — Modena writes "the History of the Hebrew Rites," a systematic description of Jewish customs and one of the earliest attempts to describe Judaism to non-Jews. Its popularity causes it to be translated into English, French, Dutch and Latin.
1624 — Salomone De’Rossi, leading Jewish composer of the Renaissance, writes a collection of synagogal choral compositions. It is the first Hebrew book to be printed with musical notations. De’Rossi is one of a number of Italian Jewish court musicians; most of his secular music is not composed for Jewish audiences.
1629 — Joseph Salomon Delmedigo, rabbi, mathematician, astronomer and pholisopher, is one of the most interesting Jewish personalities of his time. Born in Candia of a distinguished family , he studied in Padua and lived in Egypt, Constantinople, Poland, Hamburg and Amsterdam.
1630 —An outbreak of plague leads to a severe reduction in trade and industry throughout Italy. This reinforces the already existing interest of Italian princes in Jewish immigration and succeeds in attracting Jews from Spain, Brazil, Holland, and North Africa, from about 1645- late 1660's.
1638 — Simone Luzzato, rabbi in Venice for 57 years, writes "Essay on the Jews in Venice," the first apologetic work urging toleration of the Jews through use of economic arguments. He argues for better treatment of Italian Jewry based on their economic usefulness, diligence, faithfulness, and antiquity. Unlike foreign merchants, the Jews have no homeland of their own to which they might wish to transfer the wealth they have gained in Venice.
1644 — Leone Modena writes a polemical work in which he claims that Jesus never considered himself the Son of God. He also states that the main tenets of Christianity stem from a much later date and were heavily influenced by pagan beliefs and customs.
1665 —Reports of the coming of the Messiah, in the person of Shabbetai Zvi, and his prophecies, vision and miracles, sweep across Europe. Messianic fervor engulfs all classes of Jews in both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities. Livorno, Italy, is just one of the communities to send an envoy to Smyrna to pay homage to ‘our king."
1666 — In April, an Englishman reports to London from Florence that many families of Jews have come to Leghorn (Livorno) from Rome, Verona and Germany to "embarque to find their Messia."
In September, Shabbetai Zvi converts to Islam, rather than be martyred, after denying he ever made messianic claims. His conversion disillusions the entire Jewish Diaspora, which negatively effects Judaism for centuries to come.
1675 — The idea of a comprehensive Jewish literature is introcuded to the Christian world by Guilio Bartolocci, an Italian Christian Hebraist, bibliographer and scriptor at the Vatican Library in Rome. His "Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica" will be completed by his students in 1693.
1682 — Pope Innocent XII abolishes Jewish loan-banks in Rome. In 1683, he extends the ban to Ferrara and other Jewish ghettos under his authority. Prohibited from shopkeeping and most trades and crafts, the Roman Jewish community shrinks, while the Jews of Northern Italy begin entering commerce and industry.
1734 — Moses Hayim Luzzato, Italian poet, dramatist and mystic, is put under a ban (herem) by Italian rabbis fearing a new messianic pretender, for practicing sorcery and pronouncing incantations.
1740 — Luzatto writes "The Path of the Upright" while living in Amsterdam. This ethical work wil become one of the most influential books read by eastern European Jewry in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
1750 — The first talmudic encyclopedia in alphabetical arrangement, "The Awe of Isaac," written by Isaac Lampronti, rabbi and physician of Ferrara, begins publication. It is a comprehensive encyclopedia of halakhah (on view in the Ferrara museum). Lampronti devotes special attention to the responsa literature of the Italian rabbis.
1757 — Under the rule of the House of Lorraine, Jews obtain the right to the keys to the ghetto of Florence, and are granted the right to perform certain trades, e.g. silverwork, hitherto prohibited.
1759 — A cardinal, later Pope Clement XIV, issues a report condemning blood libel accusations.
1796 — Between 1796-1798 French troops led by Napoleon liberate many Italian ghettos.
1797 — From 1797-99 the French Revolutionary Army brings temporary emancipation to the Jews of Italy.
1798 — With the French expulsion of the pope from Rome, Jews are granted equal rights and all earlier special laws relating to their status are revoked.
1799 — As a result of the restoration of the old rulers in Italy, the Jews are again ghettoized and the restrictions against them are reimposed.
1806 — Napoleon convenes the Assembly of Jewish Notables from all over the French Empire and the Kingdom of Italy to clarify relations between the state and the Jews.
1808 — Under Napoleon, Jews are freed from the ghetto of Florence, but are forced to return in 1815, with the restoration of the House of Lorraine
1817 — In Ferrara, a five year old girl is forcibly taken from her family, with church approval, on the grounds that as an infant, she was privately baptized by her nurse.
1821 — Isaac Samuel Reggio begins to publish the first modern Italian translation and Hebrew commentary on the Torah. He also publishes works by Leone Modena and founds the rabbinical seminary in Padua,1829. The seminary closes in 1871 and reopens in Rome in 1887 as the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano.
1838 — Samuel David Luzzato publishes a work in which he rejects Haskalah rationalism, contending that the nature of Judaism, unlike the philosophy of Greece, guarantees morality and justice.
1848 — With the promulgation of the Piedmontese constitution, the Jews of the Piedmont region in northern Italy are granted full emancipation.
1852 — An important catacomb with Jewish inscriptions is found in southern Italy, attesting to the extent of ancient Jewish culture in Italy.
1858 — In Bologna, under papal rule, police seize six-year-old Edgardo Mortarra from his family and take him to the House of Catechumens in Rome, based on the testimony of a former Jewish servant that she baptized him as an infant. Despite worldwide protests he is handed over to a monastery and raised as a Christian, becoming the favorite of Pope Pius IX.
1860 — The Alliance Israelite Universelle, the first modern international Jewish organization, established as a direct result of the Mortara Affair, is founded in Paris, to defend the civil rights and religious freedom of the Jews all over the world. The alliance works through diplomatic channels helping Jews to emigrate and promotes education of young Jews (forerunner of Herzl’s Zionist Congress, in its modus vivendi)
1861 — With the unification of Italy, with Florence as the first capital, the Jews are emancipated and the ghettos are abolished.
1874-82 — The Moorish Revival Synagogue in Florence is built. David Levy willed his entire estate for the building of a temple worthy of the city.
1862 — Samuel David Luzzato, teaching at the Italian Rabbinical College in Padua, publishes "Lectures on Israelite Moral Theology," emphasizing his belief in tradition, revelation and the election of Israel. The Torah must not be rationalized and subjected to historical evolutionary relativism, nor can morality be separated from religion.
1870 — The Jews of Italy are finally emancipated with the abolition of the ghetto in Rome. The rights gained in the 1790's, and lost upon the fall of Napolean were regained in 1848 I Tuscany and Sardinia; in 1859 in Modena, Lombardy and Romagna, in 1860 in Umbria, in 1861 in Sicily and Naples and in 1866 in Venice.
1890 — The ghetto of Florence is demolished, allowing reconstruction of the town center, now the Piazza della Republica.
1897 — The Jews of Ferrara become the most ardent Italian supporters of Theodore Herzl’s Zionist Dream.
1902 — Giuseppe Ottolenghi is named minister of war of Italy. An army officer, he is the first Jew to serve on the general staff. He achieved the rank of lieutenant general.
1904 — The Great Synagogue of Rome is built.
Pope Pius X rejects Herzl’s request that he support the Zionist movement.
1907 — Ernesto Nathan is elected mayor of Rome, holding office until 1913.
The Italian government abandons the plan to send former Treasury Minister Luigi Luzzato to Russia to negotiate a commercial treaty, as Russia intimates that a Jews would be an unacceptable emissary.
1910 — Luigi Luzzato becomes prime minister of Italy. An economist and lawyer, he was elected to Parliament in 1871, where he will sit until 1921, when he will be elevated to the Senate. He is minister of the treasury on three occasions and also minister of agriculture. He supports the Zionist enterprises in Palestine.
1914 — World War I engulfs Europe.
1917 — Amadeo Modigliani, Italian painter and sculptor, holds his only one-man show in Paris; it is a failure. It is only after his death that the greatness of his work is recognized. He is a member of the Circle of Montparnasse with fellow Jews, Chaim Soutine and Jacques Lipchitz, but his Jewish ness never appears in his work.
1919 — The Comite des Delegations Juives is formed at the Paris Peace conference, with Italian Jews represented. It submits to memoranda to the conference, which become part of the international treaties: a guarantee of the civil and cultural rights of Jews in various countries and the historic claim of the Jewish people to Palestine.
The Vatican warns of the danger of a Jewish state, just two years after the Balfour Declaration is issued.
1926 — The Amici Israel is founded in Rome by Catholic clergy to foster better understanding of Judaism. It reaches a membership of 2,000 clergymen. In March, the Vatican pronounces the group as "contrary to the spirit of the Church." In the same decree is proscribes antisemitism.
1930 — Italy enacts a law standardizing the legal status of Italian Jewish communities. They must join the Union of Italian-Jewish Communities, the central representative body; election of local leaders is required; mandatory contributions are established; the role of rabbis is defined; and the law decrees that the community is subject to the protection and supervision of the state.
1933 — Between April 1933 and May 1939, 5,000 Jews emigrated from Germany to Italy. (Out of a total of 304,000 emigrants fleeing Germany)
1934 — Revisionist Zionists begin to enroll at the Italian maritime school at Civitivecchia (near Rome). This collaboration between Italian Fascists and revisionist Zionists is based on their ideological differences with Great Britain. In 1938, the Zionist relationship with the school will end (when Mussolini aligns himself with Hitler).
1937 — Pope Pius XI issues and encyclical, "With Burning Anxiety," which reflects the race-conscious myths of ‘race’ and ‘blood’ as contrary to Christian truth, but does not mention, nor directly criticize anti-semitism.
1938 — In September, the Italian government passes The Racial Laws against the Jews, barring them from studying or teaching in a school of higher learning and revoking the citizenship of all foreign Jews obtained after January, 1919, and decreeing their expulsion within six months. On November, further discriminatory legislation will be passed, including the prohibition of marriages between Jews and Aryans and the exclusion of Jews from military and civil administrative positions.
Pope Pius XI declares in an address to pilgrims, "It is not possible for Christians to take part in anti-Semitism." This statement is omitted from all Italian newspaper accounts of the address
1939 — Cecil Roth, an English historian, is appointed reader in Jewish studies at Oxford. He later will write the standard history of the Jews of Italy in 1946.
1940 — Italy invades France and Greece. German and Italian radio stations broadcast an official proclamation in support of Arab independence.
Pope Pius XII is aware of the Holocaust, but fails to speak out against it.
1941 — Japan attacks Pearl harbor; U.S. declares war on Japan, Germany and Italy.
1942 — The Italian military commander in Croatia refuses to hand over Jews in his zone to the Nazis.
1943 — January: the Italians refuse to cooperate with the Nazis in rounding up the Jews living in the zone of France under their control. In March, they will prevent the Nazis from deporting Jews in their zone.
February: Italian military authorities in Lyons force the French to rescind an order for the deportation of several hundred French Jews to Auschwitz. Ribbentrop complains to Mussolini that "Italian military circles. . .lack a proper understanding of the Jewish question."
September 8: Italy switches her allegiance in the war, declaring an armistice with the Allies; Allied forces enter Italy from the south; N Italy is under German control; Jews flee southward; Rev. Aldo Brunacci of Assisi , under the direction of his bishop, Giuseppe Nicolini, saved all the Jewish who sought refuge in Assisi.
October 16: Raid of the ghetto in Rome.
November: Rabbi Ricardo Pacifici of Genoa, 200 members of his congregation, and 100 Jewish refugees from northern Europe who found shelter in Genoa, are deported and gassed at Auschwitz.
Nazis raid Pitigliano and deport all the Jews; 238 people are deported from Florence, and the synagogue is looted and desecrated.
1944 —The Nazis take 260 Jews living on the island of Crete to Candia and board them on a ship with 400 Greek hostages and 300 Italian soldiers. The ship was sunk by a torpedo fired from a British submarine. The number of survivors is unknown, but most passengers perished.
1945 — March: The Jewish Brigade under the command of General Ernest Benjamin, goes into action in north Italy as part of the British Eighth Army.
April: Benito Mussolini is caught and killed by Italian partisans; Hitler commits suicide.
August: It is estimated that 7,500 Italian Jews were victims of the Holocaust (See Lucy Dawidowicz, 1981)
1948 — The last edition of the papal "Index liborum prohibitorum" includes Jewish publications.
1949 — Pope Pius XII issues a Second Encyclical on Palestine, which calls for the full territorial internationalization of Jerusalem.
1951 — Excavations in Rome find the remains of a small synagogue built into the southwestern chapel of the Severan basilica in the 5th cen.
1959 — Pope John XXIII declares that the phrase "pro perfidis Judaeis," be deleted from the Good Friday service. This prayer, translated in the American Catholic Missal as "let us pray for the unbelieving Jews," was susceptible of even more derogatory interpretations.
1962 — Pope John XXIII issues an encyclical, Peace on Earth, declaring that every human being has the right to honor G-d according to the dictates of his/her heart. He also proposes measures to
the Ecumenical Council to improve relations between the Catholic Church and other religions.
Giorgio Bassani, Italian Jewish author, writes "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," a novel of the author’s youth in Ferrara, where an aristocratic Jewish family is unable to face the social upheaval brought about by Fascism and World War II. Its sale of 300,000 copies sets a record for Italian publishing.
1962 — A new synagogue is dedicated in Leghorn, to replace the famous synagogue that was destroyed in WWII.
1963 — June: Natalia Ginzburg, Italian playwright and novelist, writes, "Family Sayings," a novel based on recollections of her youth, including bourgeois assimilated Italian Jewish life in Turin. She wins Italy’s most prestigious literary prize.
November: John F. Kennedy is assassinated.
The Second Vatican Council submits a draft of "Attitude of Catholics toward Non-Christians, Particularly toward the Jews."
1964 — The Third Vatican Council repudiates the notion of the Jewish people as ‘rejected, cursed or guilty of deicide," and admonished Catholics not to "teach anything that could give rise to hatred or contempt of Jews in the hearts of Christians."
1965 — In an apparent retreat from the declaration of the Third Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI, in his Passion Sunday Sermon, says the day’s lesson was a "grave and sad page narrating the clash between Jesus and the Jews–the people predestined to await the Messiah who . . .did not recognize him, fought him, and slandered him, and finally killed him."
1968 — Pope Paul VI drops the call to internationalize Jerusalem, replacing it with the guarantee of access to holy shrines.
1972 — Dr. Augusto Segre, head of the culture department of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, is the first Jews invited to occupy a chair at the Pontifical Lateran University.
1975 — January: The Vatican publishes a document designed to implement the Vatican II Declaration on the Jews. The guidelines surpass the declaration and clearly reject the widespread teaching that Judaism is a rigid religion calling neither for love of G-d, nor love of men. It also states that the history of Judaism did not end with the destruction of Jerusalem, but continued to develop, creating news religious values. The document calls on Catholics to fight antisemitism.
November: The United Nations adopts the resolution that determines that Zionism is racism, by a vote of 72 in favor; 35 against; with 32 abstentions. Italy votes against the resolution.
1979 — The Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv mounts an exhibition on "the Ghettos of Italy: Venice and Rome."
Pope John Paul II pays homage at Auschwitz to the victims of Nazism during his first trip back to Poland after becoming pope.
1981 — A museum for Jewish Art from Italy opens in Jerusalem (on Rechov Hillel), housing 1,000 objects, including the original synagogue of Conegliano Veneto, built in 1701.
1982 — January: The Jewish Museum in Venice, established in 1956, is restored and reopened.
October: terrorists open fire and throw grenades at worshipers leaving the main synagogue in Rome after Simchat Torah services. A two-year-old is killed and 35 are wounded. From this incident onward, there are police guards every Shabbat.
1985 — November: A Vatican document on Jewish-Christian relations is issued. Among other statements of reconciliation is the first mention of the Holocaust and the State of Israel. Catholics are encouraged to recognize and teach the spiritual significance to Jews of these events.
December: Palestinian terrorists of the Abu Nidal faction attack El AL counters at the Rome and Vienna airports.
1986 — Pope John Paul II visits the Central Synagogue in Rome. No pope has ever before entered a Jewish house of worship. The ceremony is broadcast live around the world.
The Italian Supreme Court repeals the 1930 law that requires Jews to affiliate with the organized Jewish community, and pay a tax for support of the communal institutions.
1987 — The Union of Italian Jewish Communities and the Italian government sign an agreement that the community will no longer be a public body that is controlled by the state. However, contributions to the community can be deducted from taxes, up to a maximum of 10% of personal income, and Jews can observe the Sabbath and holidays wherever employed and can obtain kosher food in public institutions.
Pope John Paul II meets in Rome with a delegation of American Jewish leaders to discuss the Waldheim visit, the Holocaust and the Vatican’s relations with Israel. He later meets with Waldheim in Vienna and Jewish leaders protest.
1989 — The Vatican issues its first statement on Anti-Zionism. It calls anti-semitism "the most tragic form that racist ideology has assumed in our country." After distinguisheing anit-semitism from Anti-Zionism, it comments that Anti-Zionism "serves at times as a screen for anti-Semitism, feeding on it and leading to it."
The Vatican urges the removal of the Carmelite convent from its site at Auschwitz, backing the 1987 accord signed by Catholic bishops and Jewish leaders, and rejecting the opposition of Poland’s cardinal.
1991 — In a roll-call vote at the United Nations General Assembly, 115-25, the body of nations voted to revoke its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism. Italy voted for the revocation.
1993 —The Vatican establishes formal ties with Israel.
1997 — Israel and the Vatican sign an accord, formally recognizing the legal status of the Roman Catholic Church’s institutions in Israel.
1998 — The Vatican issues a document assessing the Church’s behavior during the Holocaust; it praises Pope Pius XII for saving hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives, sparking criticism from Jewish groups.
2000 — The Vatican issues "Memory and Reconciliation, The Church and the Mistakes of the Past," listing several major areas in which the Church had failed, including the Inquisition, forced conversion and the treatment of Jews. One week before a planned trip to Israel, Pope John Paul II apologizes for the Church’s treatment of Jews.
2015 — 393 Italian Jews make aliyah to Israel, the largest number since 1948.
Source: Compiled and copyrighted, 2000, by Elizabeth D. Malissa, M.A. Jewish Studies Coordinator Adult Jewish Studies and the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School Gratz College, Philadelphia, PA.