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The Jewish Community of Ancona

Ancona

Adriatic seaport in Italy.

According to early Christian legends, the first bishop of Ancona was no less than the Great Rabbi of Jerusalem who took a Christian name after he was baptized. Jews were living near Ancona in 967 AD. It seems that there was already a synagogue there, which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1279. By about 1300, there was an organized Jewish community in the city on whose behalf the poet Immanuel of Rome sent a letter to the Rome community, intimating that as the Ancona community was in economic straits and suffered from persecution, it should not be subjected to heavy taxation (Mahberet 24). Most of the Jews who settled in Anacona came from the Muslim east. Jews probably engaged in moneylending in Ancona in the first half of the 15th century. There were also many merchants engaged in maritime trade with the Eastern Mediterranean.
In 1427 the Franciscan Giacomo della Marca, an enthusiastic disciple of Bernardino of Siena, tried to force the Jews in Ancona to wear the Jewish badge and to restrict Jewish residence to a single street. He was in part successful, as the city senate indeed passed restrictive measures. Around 1450 the Jewish population of Ancona numbered 500 persons, representing 5% of the city's population. Both in 1456 and 1488 Jews were accused of ritual murder.

The arrival of refugees from the Iberian Peninsula opened a new chapter in the history of the Ancona Jewish community. The first to arrive, in 1492 were refugees from Sicily. By 1497 they were joined by refugees from Portugal, and after 1510 were joined by refugees from the Kingdom of Naples. An order to wear the badge was again issued in 1524, but was revoked four years later. Solomon Molcho visited the community in 1529 and stimulated messianic enthusiasm there. The assumption by the papal legate of authority in Ancona in 1532 had mixed results for the community. As Ancona was about to be declared a free port, many Jewish merchants took advantage of its excellent harbor facilities to trade with the Levant. At first mercantile interests prevailed in papal policy and pope Paul III invited merchants from the Levant to settle there, regardless of their religion. In 1541 he encouraged the settlement of Jews who were expelled from Naples and in 1547 extended the invitation to Marranos, whom he promised to protect against the inquisition. Julius III renewed these guarantees, and about one hundred Portuguese Marrano families apparently settled in Ancona. In 1555, however, Pope Paul IV began to institute anti-Jewish measures in the Papal States. The Papal Bull of July 12, 1555, was implemented in full in Ancona. The Jews were segregated in a ghetto, built the following year, prohibited from owning real property, and restricted to trade in second-hand
clothing. Papal opposition to the Marranos proved particularly implacable, and a legate was sent to Ancona to take proceedings against them. Some managed to escape to Pesaro, Ferrara, and other places, but 51 were arrested and tried. Twenty-five were burned at the stake between April and June 1555. The horrors of the tragedy, mourned throughout the Jewish world, inspired touching elegies, still recited locally on the ninth of Av. The event moved Dona Gracia Nasi to organize a boycott of Ancona. The boycott, however, caused dissension within Jewry, some rabbis supporting the action while others opposed it, fearing that the Pope might retaliate against Jews living under his jurisdiction. The Ancona tragedy thus occasioned the first attempt by Jewry to utilize economic power as a weapon against persecutors, as well as provoking a debate on the desirability and danger of attempting international Jewish action of this nature. The position of Ancona Jewry, although temporarily improved under PiusI V, again deteriorated under Pius V. Ancona was one of the cities in Italy (together with Rome) from which the Jews were not expelled by the Pope in 1569, being tolerated because of their utility in the Levant trade; nevertheless many decided to leave. Some amelioration was afforded by the favorably disposed Sixtus V and Ancona was again exempted when Pope Clement VIII renewed the decree of expulsion in 1593. However by the beginning of the 17th century, the Ancona community was reduced to a state of debility that lasted through two centuries. Any temporary improvement that occurred was prompted by economic considerations, for example, in 1659 when Pope Alexander VII ordered to closing of shops outside the ghetto, the city senate opposed him on the grounds that this would adversely affect the economic situation of the city. The decree was revoked.

In the 18th century the Ashkenazi community slowly began to emerge. The Morpurgo family was the most important of the Ashkenazi families. In 1763 there were 1,290 Jews living in Ancona. As late of 1775 Pius VI again enforced all the most extreme anti-Jewish legislation. During the occupation of Ancona by the army of Napoleon between 1797 and 1799 the Jews were fully emancipated. The gates of the ghetto were removed, and two Jews Ezechia and Savatore Morpurgo, sat on the new municipal council although the Jews, as well as local population were obliged to contribute heavy war levels.

In 1814, after Napoleon's downfall, Ancona reverted to the Papal States, and the former legislation was reimposed by Pope Leo XII. The revolutionary activity resulted in the destruction of the ghetto; however, it was only in 1848 that residence in ghetto was officially forbidden. Various Jews contributed to the Italian Risorgimento, such as David Almagia, Giuseppe Cohen, and Pacifico Pacifici. Ancona Jews paid a high price for their participation. The Jews obtained complete civic rights in 1861 when Ancona was included in the kingdom of Italy. The Jewish population was numbered approximately 1,600 in the 19th century.

The size of the community and its widespread connections attracted many noted rabbis and scholars throughout the centuries, including the humanist Judah Messer Leon (15th century), the physician Amatus Lusitanus, and Moses Basola (16th century), Mahalalel Hallelyja of Civitanova, Hezekiah Manoach Provenzal, Joseph Fermi (17th century), Samson Morpurgo, Joseph Fiammetta (18th century), Jacob Shabbetai Sinigaglia, Isaiah Raphael Azulai, David Abraham Vivanti, Isaac Raphael Tedeschi (19th century), and H. Rosenberg who published several monographs on local history.

In 1938 there were 1,117 Jews in Ancona. During War World II, persecution was more individual than collective. The Germans and the Italian Fascists demanded tributes to allow the Jews to live. In 1944 soldiers of the Jewish Brigade arrived in Ancona, and helped the community get back on its feet. In 1967 there were 400 Jews in Ancona. In 2004 the figure war around 200, with two synagogues in operation, the Levantine and the Italian.

Place Type:
City
ID Number:
126118
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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Related items:
Violinist and composer. Born in Ancona, Italy, he was a successful violin virtuoso until a nerve injury ended his career in his early forties. He turned to composition and research. Consolo achieved his reputation as a composer with his BOOK OF THE SONGS OF ISRAEL (1892), a collection of traditional Sepharadi synagogue songs for unaccompanied voice. He died in Florence, Italy.

Abraham Issac Castello (1726-1789) Poet. Born in Ancona, Italy, Castello worked in the coral industry of Leghorn. He eventually became a cantor in Leghorn and later officiated as rabbi for the community.
His poetic repertoire includes poems published in Shema Shelomo (1788), Kol Millin (1765) and Minhah Hadashah (1785). He also composed a poem on the occasion of the consecration of the restored synagogue in Leghorn in 1789, which was published in Kol Rinah (1790). He died in Leghorn, Italy.

Soldier

Born in Ancona, Italy, he was commissioned in the artillery in 1891. For several years before WW1 he was a senior instructor at Modena Military Academy. Throughout the war he held fighting commands and in June 1916 commanded an Allied artillery force that repelled an Austrian attack. By the end of WW1, he was a much-decorated colonel and in 1924 became head of the Military Schools service. By 1933 he was a major general and Deputy Commander General of the Italian artillery. By 1937 Ascoli was a lieutenant general and army corps commander. With the introduction of anti-Jewish legislation of 1938 he had to leave the Italian army. In WW2 he joined the partisans and was killed fighting the Germans.
Poet. Born in Ancona, Italy, he served as rabbi in Lugo, Pesaro and Florence. He wrote Ikkerei ha-Dat, an halakhic work. Terni also wrote several homilies, psalms and prayers of thanksgiving for the deliverance of the Jews of Florence from danger in 1790, many secular poems and a musical play entitled Simhat Mizvah (1793). He died in Italy.
ANCONA, D'ANCONA Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

Ancona is an Italian city on the Adriatic where Jews lived since the 10th century. The Jewish surnames Ancona and D'ancona ("of/from" Ancona) are documented since the first years of the 15th century.

Distinguished bearers of the Jewish family name D'ancona include the Italian literary historian, editor, and educator Alessandro D'ancona (1835-1914), and his son, the historian of art and educator Paolo D'ancona.
Alberto Ajo, Ancona, Italy, 1905.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Luzzatto Ajo)
Avraham Tasuro, wearing the medals which he received
in the Military, with his daughter Anita and his granddaughters.
Ancona, Italy, 1908.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Dino Rava)

Haim Joseph David Azulay (1724-1806), known as the Hida (by the acronym of his name, חיד"א), rabbi and scholar, born in Jerusalem where his father was a leading rabbi. His first work, written when he was 15, showed that many Jewish scholars had made mistakes in matters of bibliography and chronology. At the age of 29, he was sent as an emissary (shaliah) to raise money for the Jerusalem community. He made a deep impression in Italy, especially in Ancona and Leghorn (Livorno).

He used his travels to unearth ancient Jewish books and documents and was the first Jewish scholar to examine the great collections of Jewish books in French and Italian libraries. He was rabbi of Cairo for four years, returned to Eretz Israel, settling in Hebron, then went to Europe as an emissary of the Hebron community and spent the last 38 years of his life in Leghorn.

Azulai was the author of 83 books on a wide variety of Judaic subjects; best known is his "Shem ha-Gedolim" with biographies of 1,300 scholars and a description of 2,200 books.

Vlore

Albanian: Vlore, Vlora; Gheg Albanian: Vlone, Vlona; in Italian: Valona; during Ottoman era known in Turkish as Avlonya

Port city in south-western Albania.

 

History

According to legend Jews first came to Valona about 2000 years ago when a Roman ship with a cargo of Jewish slaves from Palestine was blown off course and landed on the Albanian coast. The local population aided the slaves who escaped the ship and allowed them to settle in the town.

In 1290, following a blood libel in their town, some Jews fleeing from Apulia settled in Valona.

There is documentary evidence from the fourteenth century of Jews living in Valona selling salt and trading with Venice.

The situation of the Jews living in the town improved when the region passed from Byzantine to Ottoman control in 1417. In 1426 the Ottomans supported the establishment of a Jewish community in Valona.

The Jewish population increased with the arrival of Jewish refugees expelled from Spain in 1492 and driven from Portugal in 1497. These Jews were less strict in their adherence to religious law than the earlier Jewish settlers who followed the Romaniot and Italian traditions.

In 1512 Rabbi David ben Judah Messer Leon, a Talmudic scholar and prolific writer on both Jewish and scientific subjects (author of Ein ha- Kore and Tehillah le-David) was brought in by the Jews of Valona to be their religious leader. He attempted to unify the Romaniot, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Jews into one community, but disputes broke out over ritual matters causing conflict between the Portuguese and Spanish Jews. The rabbi sided with the Portuguese, launching excommunications against his opponents. After several years he was compelled to leave the town. Later in the century the community amalgamated under the leadership of Rabbi Moses ben Jacob Albelda (1500-1583), a distinguished preacher and philosopher.

In 1520 there were 528 Jewish families living in Valona out of a total of 945 (approximately 3,600 Jews out of a general population of less than 5,000.)

The Jews made an important contribution to the development of the town into a commercial center. The Jewish merchants traded with Italy, Greece, Corfu, and Bulgaria, and they controlled almost all the shipping between Venice and Valona. They imported hides, carpets, and silk from the Balkans, and silver and gold ornaments and glassware from Italy and reexported them. They had a monopoly on trade in processed hides and pitch extracted from pine trees.

In 1555 Duke Guido of Urbino ordered the expulsion from Ancona of Portuguese conversos (Jews who had converted to Christianity under force from the Inquisition).  A ship with 70 conversos departed Pesaro for Valona, but 15 disembarked in Dubrovnik and the rest were captured by marauders and sold as slaves in Apulia. A second ship reached Valona in April 1557 and most of the passengers disembarked. In 1565 the Jews of Valona joined with other Adriatic Jewish communities in a an ultimately unsuccessful boycott against Ancona.

When the Venetians captured Valona in 1690 during the “Great Turkish War” between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire, many Jews left the city and escaped to Berat; others who did not flee were captured by the Venetians and sent as slaves to Italy. When the Ottomans recaptured Valona in 1691 only a small number of  Jews returned from Berat.

A bet din (court), which was subordinate to Salonika, sat in Valona. During the 18th century the community went into a decline, became smaller in size and could no longer afford to maintain a rabbi.

Beginning in 1850, Romaniot Jews from Ioannina and Preveza settled in Valona and formed a small community. They took back the old synagogue and cemetery built by the previous Jewish settlers.

In 1904 there were 50 Jews in Valona.

When the Kingdom of Italy occupied Valona at the beginning of World War I, the synagogue became a military storage space. It was later destroyed by fire in 1915.

The Albanian rebellion forced the Italians out in 1920.

 In 1937 there were about 10 to 15 Jewish families living in Valona. The private house of Joseph Matitiah, a member of the municipal council, served as the community synagogue.

 

The Holocaust

Italy occupied Valona again in 1939. When the Germans subsequently occupied the city in 1943, the local population refused to turn over lists of Jews to the Nazis. The Albanians hid and saved all the Jews of Valona as well as several hundred Jewish refugees from other European countries who had fled to Albania after 1933, attempting to reach the land of Israel and other potential places of refuge.

 

Postwar

In 1961 there were still some Jewish families in the city, but by 1991 almost all the Jews of Valona had left and settled in Israel.

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The Jewish Community of Ancona

Ancona

Adriatic seaport in Italy.

According to early Christian legends, the first bishop of Ancona was no less than the Great Rabbi of Jerusalem who took a Christian name after he was baptized. Jews were living near Ancona in 967 AD. It seems that there was already a synagogue there, which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1279. By about 1300, there was an organized Jewish community in the city on whose behalf the poet Immanuel of Rome sent a letter to the Rome community, intimating that as the Ancona community was in economic straits and suffered from persecution, it should not be subjected to heavy taxation (Mahberet 24). Most of the Jews who settled in Anacona came from the Muslim east. Jews probably engaged in moneylending in Ancona in the first half of the 15th century. There were also many merchants engaged in maritime trade with the Eastern Mediterranean.
In 1427 the Franciscan Giacomo della Marca, an enthusiastic disciple of Bernardino of Siena, tried to force the Jews in Ancona to wear the Jewish badge and to restrict Jewish residence to a single street. He was in part successful, as the city senate indeed passed restrictive measures. Around 1450 the Jewish population of Ancona numbered 500 persons, representing 5% of the city's population. Both in 1456 and 1488 Jews were accused of ritual murder.

The arrival of refugees from the Iberian Peninsula opened a new chapter in the history of the Ancona Jewish community. The first to arrive, in 1492 were refugees from Sicily. By 1497 they were joined by refugees from Portugal, and after 1510 were joined by refugees from the Kingdom of Naples. An order to wear the badge was again issued in 1524, but was revoked four years later. Solomon Molcho visited the community in 1529 and stimulated messianic enthusiasm there. The assumption by the papal legate of authority in Ancona in 1532 had mixed results for the community. As Ancona was about to be declared a free port, many Jewish merchants took advantage of its excellent harbor facilities to trade with the Levant. At first mercantile interests prevailed in papal policy and pope Paul III invited merchants from the Levant to settle there, regardless of their religion. In 1541 he encouraged the settlement of Jews who were expelled from Naples and in 1547 extended the invitation to Marranos, whom he promised to protect against the inquisition. Julius III renewed these guarantees, and about one hundred Portuguese Marrano families apparently settled in Ancona. In 1555, however, Pope Paul IV began to institute anti-Jewish measures in the Papal States. The Papal Bull of July 12, 1555, was implemented in full in Ancona. The Jews were segregated in a ghetto, built the following year, prohibited from owning real property, and restricted to trade in second-hand
clothing. Papal opposition to the Marranos proved particularly implacable, and a legate was sent to Ancona to take proceedings against them. Some managed to escape to Pesaro, Ferrara, and other places, but 51 were arrested and tried. Twenty-five were burned at the stake between April and June 1555. The horrors of the tragedy, mourned throughout the Jewish world, inspired touching elegies, still recited locally on the ninth of Av. The event moved Dona Gracia Nasi to organize a boycott of Ancona. The boycott, however, caused dissension within Jewry, some rabbis supporting the action while others opposed it, fearing that the Pope might retaliate against Jews living under his jurisdiction. The Ancona tragedy thus occasioned the first attempt by Jewry to utilize economic power as a weapon against persecutors, as well as provoking a debate on the desirability and danger of attempting international Jewish action of this nature. The position of Ancona Jewry, although temporarily improved under PiusI V, again deteriorated under Pius V. Ancona was one of the cities in Italy (together with Rome) from which the Jews were not expelled by the Pope in 1569, being tolerated because of their utility in the Levant trade; nevertheless many decided to leave. Some amelioration was afforded by the favorably disposed Sixtus V and Ancona was again exempted when Pope Clement VIII renewed the decree of expulsion in 1593. However by the beginning of the 17th century, the Ancona community was reduced to a state of debility that lasted through two centuries. Any temporary improvement that occurred was prompted by economic considerations, for example, in 1659 when Pope Alexander VII ordered to closing of shops outside the ghetto, the city senate opposed him on the grounds that this would adversely affect the economic situation of the city. The decree was revoked.

In the 18th century the Ashkenazi community slowly began to emerge. The Morpurgo family was the most important of the Ashkenazi families. In 1763 there were 1,290 Jews living in Ancona. As late of 1775 Pius VI again enforced all the most extreme anti-Jewish legislation. During the occupation of Ancona by the army of Napoleon between 1797 and 1799 the Jews were fully emancipated. The gates of the ghetto were removed, and two Jews Ezechia and Savatore Morpurgo, sat on the new municipal council although the Jews, as well as local population were obliged to contribute heavy war levels.

In 1814, after Napoleon's downfall, Ancona reverted to the Papal States, and the former legislation was reimposed by Pope Leo XII. The revolutionary activity resulted in the destruction of the ghetto; however, it was only in 1848 that residence in ghetto was officially forbidden. Various Jews contributed to the Italian Risorgimento, such as David Almagia, Giuseppe Cohen, and Pacifico Pacifici. Ancona Jews paid a high price for their participation. The Jews obtained complete civic rights in 1861 when Ancona was included in the kingdom of Italy. The Jewish population was numbered approximately 1,600 in the 19th century.

The size of the community and its widespread connections attracted many noted rabbis and scholars throughout the centuries, including the humanist Judah Messer Leon (15th century), the physician Amatus Lusitanus, and Moses Basola (16th century), Mahalalel Hallelyja of Civitanova, Hezekiah Manoach Provenzal, Joseph Fermi (17th century), Samson Morpurgo, Joseph Fiammetta (18th century), Jacob Shabbetai Sinigaglia, Isaiah Raphael Azulai, David Abraham Vivanti, Isaac Raphael Tedeschi (19th century), and H. Rosenberg who published several monographs on local history.

In 1938 there were 1,117 Jews in Ancona. During War World II, persecution was more individual than collective. The Germans and the Italian Fascists demanded tributes to allow the Jews to live. In 1944 soldiers of the Jewish Brigade arrived in Ancona, and helped the community get back on its feet. In 1967 there were 400 Jews in Ancona. In 2004 the figure war around 200, with two synagogues in operation, the Levantine and the Italian.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Consolo, Federico
Violinist and composer. Born in Ancona, Italy, he was a successful violin virtuoso until a nerve injury ended his career in his early forties. He turned to composition and research. Consolo achieved his reputation as a composer with his BOOK OF THE SONGS OF ISRAEL (1892), a collection of traditional Sepharadi synagogue songs for unaccompanied voice. He died in Florence, Italy.
Olmo, Jacob Daniel Ben Abraham
Abraham Issac Castello

Abraham Issac Castello (1726-1789) Poet. Born in Ancona, Italy, Castello worked in the coral industry of Leghorn. He eventually became a cantor in Leghorn and later officiated as rabbi for the community.
His poetic repertoire includes poems published in Shema Shelomo (1788), Kol Millin (1765) and Minhah Hadashah (1785). He also composed a poem on the occasion of the consecration of the restored synagogue in Leghorn in 1789, which was published in Kol Rinah (1790). He died in Leghorn, Italy.

Ascoli, Ettore
Soldier

Born in Ancona, Italy, he was commissioned in the artillery in 1891. For several years before WW1 he was a senior instructor at Modena Military Academy. Throughout the war he held fighting commands and in June 1916 commanded an Allied artillery force that repelled an Austrian attack. By the end of WW1, he was a much-decorated colonel and in 1924 became head of the Military Schools service. By 1933 he was a major general and Deputy Commander General of the Italian artillery. By 1937 Ascoli was a lieutenant general and army corps commander. With the introduction of anti-Jewish legislation of 1938 he had to leave the Italian army. In WW2 he joined the partisans and was killed fighting the Germans.
Terni, Daniel Ben Moses David
Poet. Born in Ancona, Italy, he served as rabbi in Lugo, Pesaro and Florence. He wrote Ikkerei ha-Dat, an halakhic work. Terni also wrote several homilies, psalms and prayers of thanksgiving for the deliverance of the Jews of Florence from danger in 1790, many secular poems and a musical play entitled Simhat Mizvah (1793). He died in Italy.
ANCONA
ANCONA, D'ANCONA Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

Ancona is an Italian city on the Adriatic where Jews lived since the 10th century. The Jewish surnames Ancona and D'ancona ("of/from" Ancona) are documented since the first years of the 15th century.

Distinguished bearers of the Jewish family name D'ancona include the Italian literary historian, editor, and educator Alessandro D'ancona (1835-1914), and his son, the historian of art and educator Paolo D'ancona.
Alberto Ajo, Ancona, Italy, 1905
Alberto Ajo, Ancona, Italy, 1905.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Luzzatto Ajo)
Avraham Tasuro, Daughter Anita and Granddaughters, Ancona 1908
Avraham Tasuro, wearing the medals which he received
in the Military, with his daughter Anita and his granddaughters.
Ancona, Italy, 1908.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Dino Rava)
Haim Joseph David Azulay (Hida)

Haim Joseph David Azulay (1724-1806), known as the Hida (by the acronym of his name, חיד"א), rabbi and scholar, born in Jerusalem where his father was a leading rabbi. His first work, written when he was 15, showed that many Jewish scholars had made mistakes in matters of bibliography and chronology. At the age of 29, he was sent as an emissary (shaliah) to raise money for the Jerusalem community. He made a deep impression in Italy, especially in Ancona and Leghorn (Livorno).

He used his travels to unearth ancient Jewish books and documents and was the first Jewish scholar to examine the great collections of Jewish books in French and Italian libraries. He was rabbi of Cairo for four years, returned to Eretz Israel, settling in Hebron, then went to Europe as an emissary of the Hebron community and spent the last 38 years of his life in Leghorn.

Azulai was the author of 83 books on a wide variety of Judaic subjects; best known is his "Shem ha-Gedolim" with biographies of 1,300 scholars and a description of 2,200 books.

Vlore

Vlore

Albanian: Vlore, Vlora; Gheg Albanian: Vlone, Vlona; in Italian: Valona; during Ottoman era known in Turkish as Avlonya

Port city in south-western Albania.

 

History

According to legend Jews first came to Valona about 2000 years ago when a Roman ship with a cargo of Jewish slaves from Palestine was blown off course and landed on the Albanian coast. The local population aided the slaves who escaped the ship and allowed them to settle in the town.

In 1290, following a blood libel in their town, some Jews fleeing from Apulia settled in Valona.

There is documentary evidence from the fourteenth century of Jews living in Valona selling salt and trading with Venice.

The situation of the Jews living in the town improved when the region passed from Byzantine to Ottoman control in 1417. In 1426 the Ottomans supported the establishment of a Jewish community in Valona.

The Jewish population increased with the arrival of Jewish refugees expelled from Spain in 1492 and driven from Portugal in 1497. These Jews were less strict in their adherence to religious law than the earlier Jewish settlers who followed the Romaniot and Italian traditions.

In 1512 Rabbi David ben Judah Messer Leon, a Talmudic scholar and prolific writer on both Jewish and scientific subjects (author of Ein ha- Kore and Tehillah le-David) was brought in by the Jews of Valona to be their religious leader. He attempted to unify the Romaniot, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Jews into one community, but disputes broke out over ritual matters causing conflict between the Portuguese and Spanish Jews. The rabbi sided with the Portuguese, launching excommunications against his opponents. After several years he was compelled to leave the town. Later in the century the community amalgamated under the leadership of Rabbi Moses ben Jacob Albelda (1500-1583), a distinguished preacher and philosopher.

In 1520 there were 528 Jewish families living in Valona out of a total of 945 (approximately 3,600 Jews out of a general population of less than 5,000.)

The Jews made an important contribution to the development of the town into a commercial center. The Jewish merchants traded with Italy, Greece, Corfu, and Bulgaria, and they controlled almost all the shipping between Venice and Valona. They imported hides, carpets, and silk from the Balkans, and silver and gold ornaments and glassware from Italy and reexported them. They had a monopoly on trade in processed hides and pitch extracted from pine trees.

In 1555 Duke Guido of Urbino ordered the expulsion from Ancona of Portuguese conversos (Jews who had converted to Christianity under force from the Inquisition).  A ship with 70 conversos departed Pesaro for Valona, but 15 disembarked in Dubrovnik and the rest were captured by marauders and sold as slaves in Apulia. A second ship reached Valona in April 1557 and most of the passengers disembarked. In 1565 the Jews of Valona joined with other Adriatic Jewish communities in a an ultimately unsuccessful boycott against Ancona.

When the Venetians captured Valona in 1690 during the “Great Turkish War” between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire, many Jews left the city and escaped to Berat; others who did not flee were captured by the Venetians and sent as slaves to Italy. When the Ottomans recaptured Valona in 1691 only a small number of  Jews returned from Berat.

A bet din (court), which was subordinate to Salonika, sat in Valona. During the 18th century the community went into a decline, became smaller in size and could no longer afford to maintain a rabbi.

Beginning in 1850, Romaniot Jews from Ioannina and Preveza settled in Valona and formed a small community. They took back the old synagogue and cemetery built by the previous Jewish settlers.

In 1904 there were 50 Jews in Valona.

When the Kingdom of Italy occupied Valona at the beginning of World War I, the synagogue became a military storage space. It was later destroyed by fire in 1915.

The Albanian rebellion forced the Italians out in 1920.

 In 1937 there were about 10 to 15 Jewish families living in Valona. The private house of Joseph Matitiah, a member of the municipal council, served as the community synagogue.

 

The Holocaust

Italy occupied Valona again in 1939. When the Germans subsequently occupied the city in 1943, the local population refused to turn over lists of Jews to the Nazis. The Albanians hid and saved all the Jews of Valona as well as several hundred Jewish refugees from other European countries who had fled to Albania after 1933, attempting to reach the land of Israel and other potential places of refuge.

 

Postwar

In 1961 there were still some Jewish families in the city, but by 1991 almost all the Jews of Valona had left and settled in Israel.