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VERCELLI, city in Piedmont, N. Italy. In 1446 the commune granted Abramo della Vigneria and his son Angelo a concession to establish a loan-bank in Vercelli on condition that they be prepared to lend the commune up to 100 florins on request. A small Jewish community formed around these bankers, regulated by the severe statutes issued in 1430 by Amadeus VIII, duke of Savoy. In 1448 the Jews were compelled to live in a separate quarter. They were expelled in 1556 but readmitted on payment of 200 florins. Renewing Jewish privileges in 1572, Duke Emanuel Philibert improved conditions in some minor respects. Jews expelled from Milanese territory were absorbed by the Vercelli community in 1597. There were eight Jewish loan-banks in Vercelli in 1624. In the 18th century the condition of the Jews in Vercelli deteriorated, though it was still better than the general situation of the Jews in Italy. A ghetto was not established until 1724; in 1740 a large new synagogue was inaugurated in the ghetto. On his death Elijah E. Foa (d. 1796) bequeathed his fortune to the community; among the institutions stemming from this bequest was the Collegio Foa (established 1829) which became an important training center for rabbis and Jewish teachers in Italy. The liberating influence of the French Revolution made itself felt in Vercelli; in 1816 they were released from many disabilities including the obligation to wear the Jewish *badge; emancipation was completed when they were granted citizenship in 1848. In that year there were about 600 Jews in Vercelli, economically well-situated. In 1853 Giuseppe Levi and Esdra Pontremoli founded in Vercelli the journal Educatore Israelita, which became the most widespread organ of Italian Jewry (it was superseded in 1878 by the Vessillo Israelitico). A new synagogue, in Arabic-Moorish style, was opened in 1878. Until 1600, the Jews of Vercelli followed the Italian synagogal rite; through the influence of some bankers of German origin the Ashkenazi rite was adopted and remained in use. In the 20th century the community dwindled considerably.

In 1931 there were 275 Jews in the community of Vercelli. During the Holocaust period 26 Jews were sent to extermination camps. After the war the community, including the industrial center of Biella, had a membership of 130, which declined to 75 by 1969.


F. Servi, in: Educatore Israelita, 14 (1866), 311ff.; 15 (1867), 36ff.; Milano, Bibliotheca, 183; Milano, Italia, index; Roth, Italy, index; J. Pinkerfeld, Synagogues of Italy (1954), 48 and illust. no 27; A. Colombo, in: RMI, 34 (1968), 527ff.; L. Mortara Ottolenghi, Miscellane Disegni (1969), 153ff.; Mortara, Indice, passim.

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