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The Jewish Community of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik (Italian name: Ragusa)

A port town in Croatia, in the former Yugoslavia. Dubrovnik was an autonomous city-state until 1808, after which it was part of the Venetian or Turkish protectorate. Between 1815-1919 Dubrovnik was part of Austria. From 1919, Dobrovnik was part of the former Yugoslavia.

After the Spanish expulsion in 1492 many refugees passed through on their way to the Balkan cities under Turkish rule. They settled in Dubrovnik and others joined them from the southern Italy expulsions in 1514-15. Their success in commerce caused repeated expulsion orders, which were revoked on the intervention of the Sultan. The Jews dealt mainly in fabrics, silk, wool, leather, and spices. In 1546, a ghetto was established which was enlarged 40 years later when there were 50 Jews, some with their families. Among them were doctors in state service who needed special permission from Rome to treat Christians.

The most important Jewish family in the 16th and 17th centuries was that of Rabbi Aaron b. David Ha-Kohen from Florence, Italy, who established trade connections with Jews throughout Europe. In 1614, the Senate gave concessions to the Jewish merchants to entice them to settle in the city. Due to a blood libel against Isaac Yeshurun in 1622, most Jews left for Turkey or Venice and only four families remained in Dubrovnik. The church increased its pressure, directing local hatred against the Jews, but the Turkish sultan stood by them and refused to pass anti-Jewish measures.

In the 18th century the Jewish population increased; there were 218 Jews out of a total population of around 6,000. The archives mention Jewish schools, teachers, weddings, and a Jewish book seller. Jews played a part in international commerce and were pioneers in marine insurance. With the economic decline of Dubrovnik restrictions were imposed on all foreigners, and because of this the Jews were forbidden, in 1755, to deal in commerce, and had to live within the ghetto. Under French rule (1808- 15) all the restrictions against the Jews were annulled.

When Dubrovnik passed to Austria in 1815, laws applied to Jews in Austria became valid in Dubrovnik too, for example, Jews had to obtain permission from Vienna to get married. Full emancipation was only granted in 1873.

When after World War I Dubrovnik became part of Yugoslavia, the Jewish population had decreased.

There were 308 Jews living in the city in 1815, and 250 in 1939.

The Holocaust Period

Dubrovnik was occupied by the Italian army in April 1941 and administered by the independent Croat State of Croatia under the Quisling Pavelic. Jewish property was confiscated. The Italians, however, did not allow mass deportations, so many refugees from other parts of Yugoslavia went to Dubrovnik. In November 1942, under German instructions, the Italians interned 750 Jews on the nearby island of Lopud; from there they were moved in June 1943 to the camp at Rab in north Dalmatia with most Jews from Italian-occupied territories in Yugoslavia. During the brief interregnum between the fall of Italy and German occupation, many Jews were transported by the partisans to the liberated territory on the mainland. The rest were sent by the Germans to concentration camps.

After the war, 28 refugees from Dubrovnik settled in Israel. In 1969, 31 Jews lived in Dubrovnik, their rabbi serving as chief rabbi for South Dalmatia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro. From time to time, prayer services are held at the old synagogue.

During the war between Bosnia and Croatia at the beginning of the 1990’s the synagogue was damaged in a bombardment. The building was repaired and renovated after the war by the community.

In 1998, 30 Jews lived in the community of Dubrovnik. Dr. Bruno Horowitz, a native of Stanislavov, Ukraine (formerly Poland), served as head of the community.

Place Type:
Town
ID Number:
137120
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

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Violinist. Born in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. In 1940, while he was still a student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he first appeared with the Palestine Symphony Orchestra. In 1947 he emigrated to the United States where he gave his first performance in 1951. Zeitlin performs classical repertoire and devotes himself to the performance of modern works, including some which were written especially for him (as, for example, Paul Ben-Haim’s CONCERTO for violin and orchestra).
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Montenegro

Црна Гора, Crna Gora

A country in western Balkan peninsula on the Adriatic Sea, until 2006 it was a member republic of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

 

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: less than 500 out of 600,000

The Jewish community of Montenegro was established in 2011 and Judaism was recognized as an official religion in the country in 2012. There are several religions represented in Montenegro: Catholicism, Eastern-Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Judaism. There is great respect for Judaism with around 400-500 Jews living in the country and an active community.

The government  of Montenegro has shown its generosity towards the Jews and has provided land to build synagogues. There is a Jewish burial place in the Kotor cemetery in good condition and well maintained.

Jasa Alfandari, the former president of the Jewish community of Montenegro, was a central figure in reestablishing the Jewish community of Montenegro and the wider Balkan area. In 2019 the first chief rabbi of Montenegro was elected. For more than two years, Rabbi Ari Edelkopf served as the rabbi of Montenegro’s Jewish community when he was nominated chief rabbi.

The first cornerstone for a synagogue in the Montenegro region in centuries was laid in 2017. At this event were present prominent religious and political Montenegrin representatives. A sukkah built in 2017 in Rabbi Edelkopf’s yard was for many of Montenegro’s Jews the first they had seen.

The Jewish community of Montenegro is represented in the Mahar Conference of the Balkan region. The Mahar conference of 2018 was dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Jewish state and included a Tu Bishvat seminar. A request was made for more events on ecology and Judaism.

Main Jewish organization:

Jewish Community of Montenegro
Phone: 382 20 622930
Mobile: 382 69 560 878
Email: jevzajcg@gmail.com
website: www.jevzajcg.me

 

HISTORY

Jews lived in the area of Montenegro in ancient times and in the Middle Ages. A few Jewish cemeteries seem to have existed in the area of today’s Montenegro. Their whereabouts are not known. Jewish historical places include Duklja and Ulcinj. The Jewish historical site Duklja consists of remains of an ancient Roman trade center close by to the capital city Podgorica. A Jewish grave was found with two skeletons from the end of the 3rd beginning of the 4th century, ornamented with various motives such as a menorah.

During the Middle Ages mostly Sephardic Jews lived in today’s Montenegro area which was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.

At the beginning of the 17th century Shabbatai Zevi who proclaimed himself messiah lived in Ulcinj. This town borders Albania and is the location where Shabbatai Zevi died in 1676. His grave is thought to be located there in the yard of a Muslim family. In her book Traces of Jews in the Bay of Kotor, Lenka B. Celebic presents the impact of the Jewish community in the area on the development of commerce.

After the occupation of parts of present day Montenegro by Austria in the 19th century, Jews resettled mostly in the area of Kotor.

 

The Holocaust

Yugoslavia was occupied by German, Hungarian, Italian, and Bulgarian forces in April 1941. Many citizens of Montenegro hid Jews from the Nazis and helped the Jewish people. From September 1943 to February 1944 the Gestapo rounded up Jews and deported them to concentration camps.

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.

Croatia

Republika Hrvatska  - Republic of Croatia, a former Yugoslav republic, member of the European Union (EU). 

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 1,700 out of 4,200,000

Koordinacija židovskih općina u Republici Hrvatskoj (Coordinating Committee of the Jewish Communities in Croatia)
Phone: 385 1 4922692
Fax: 385 1 4922694
E-mail: jcz@zg.t-com.hr
Websites: www.zoz.hr` www.croatian-jewish-network.com

 

Yugoslavia

Jugoslavija / Југославија 

A former country in the western Balkan peninsula. Yugoslavia was established as an independent state at the end of World War I and until 1941 was known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The country was ocupied by the Italian and German forces during World War II. It was re-established in 1945 as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until its dissolution in 1992.  

A city in northern Italy.

 

21ST CENTURY

As of the early 21st century, Venice had an active Jewish community of around 500 members, with services still conducted in its beautiful synagogues and a Jewish museum established in the ghetto.

Five synagogues situated within the ancient borders of the ghetto remained standing; the great German synagogue (1529), the Canton synagogue (1533), the Spanish synagogue (1555, reconstructed in 1654), the synagogue of the Levant (1538), and the Italian synagogue (1575). The ancient Lido cemetery, dating back to 1386, was also still in existence. There was also a prayer room in the rest home for the elderly, and a museum containing a collection of magnificent sacred apparel donated to the synagogues.

A commemorative plaque at the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo records the names of some 246 Venetian Jews who were captured and deported during the 1943-44 Nazi-Fascist period. Near the plaque is a Holocaust monument by sculptor Arbit Balatas.

 

HISTORY

The first documents linking Jews with Venice date back to 945 and 992. Even though a census taken in 1152 shows the number of Jews as 1,300, the figure is considered an extreme exaggeration.

After the 13th century, there was sizable immigration of Jews from the Levant and Germany to the area. Initially, they were not allowed to live in the city proper but in 1366, they received permission to reside in Venice itself. Legislation enacted in 1382 allowing moneylending in the city by Jews marked the start of an authorized Jewish presence in the city.

However, a mere 10 years later, they had to leave. From that point forward, officially no Jew could stay in Venice for longer than 15 days at a time, with exceptions made only for merchants arriving by sea and doctors. Also, all Jews coming to the city were required to wear on their outer clothing a yellow circle. To make evasion more difficult, it was changed to a yellow head-covering in 1496 and at the end of 1500, to a red hat.

In 1423, Jews were forbidden to acquire real estate. A blood libel in 1480 caused the death of three Jews at the stake and in 1506, a Hungarian Jew accused of the same crime was stoned by the crowd.

Following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal after 1497, there was an influx of Jews and Crypto-Jews to Venice. The most distinguished of the new arrivals was Isaac Abravanel, who spent the last years of his life there.

The authorized continuous residence of Jews in the city of Venice and the emergence of its Jewish community was a 16th-century development not initially planned by the Venetian government. For example, as part of its restrictive policy towards Jewish residence in Venice in the 15th century, a charter was issued in 1503 that permitted Jewish moneylenders in Mestre to come to Venice in a case of war. Consequently, during the war of the League of Cambrai in 1509, enemies of Venice overran the Venetian mainland. Jewish moneylenders and other Jews who resided in Mestre, Padua and elsewhere, fled to Venice. The Venetian government soon realized that allowing them to stay was doubly beneficial. They could provide the hard-pressed treasury with annual payments, while their moneylending in the city itself was convenient for the needy urban poor.

However, many Venetians, especially clerics, objected to Jews being allowed to reside all over the city. Therefore, in 1516, the Senate decided to segregate them despite objections from the Jews. It was a compromise between the new freedom of residence all over the city and the previous state of exclusion. Accordingly, all Jews residing in the city and all who were to come in the future were required to move to an island known as Ghetto Nuovo (the New Ghetto). It was walled up and provided with two gates. For most of the ghetto’s existence, they were locked all night.

However, the establishment of the ghetto did not ensure continued residence of the Jews in Venice. That privilege was granted by the Venetian government in a 1513 charter. Upon its expiration in 1518, extensive discussions took place in the Senate. Numerous proposals, including the expulsion of Jews from Venice, were advanced. Eventually, a new charter was approved and renewed for generations.

Jews mainly of Italian and German origin were moved into this quarter, the most extreme segregation to which the Jews had ever been submitted. In 1541, Jews from the Levant were moved to the adjoining Ghetto Vecchio (the Old Ghetto). In 1633, Ghetto Nuovissimo (the Newest Ghetto) was established and populated mainly by Western Jews. Among the western Jews were many Crypto-Jews. The division of the Jewish population into three groups - Germans, Levantines, and Westerners - was officially accepted. Also, by this time, the word ghetto had come to be used to designate the closed Jewish quarter.

Overall, the attitude of the Venetian government towards the Jews was ambivalent. Although the majority of the senators allowed Jews to continuously reside in the city from 1513 on, there was a constant undercurrent of hostility. The government’s attitude towards Jewish moneylending evolved over time, viewing Jews as a source of cheap credit for the urban poor, rather than as revenue for the state treasury. Accordingly, it lowered interest rates and reduced the required annual payments from the Jews, which led them to continually borrow money. The native Jews of Venice claimed that they could no longer support the network of pawnshops (sometimes misleadingly referred to as banks) on their own. The Jewish communities on the mainland were required to contribute, and that responsibility was also extended to Jewish merchants, despite their strong objection. The nature of Jewish moneylending had changed from a voluntary profit-making activity engaged in by a few wealthy individuals, to a compulsory responsibility imposed on the Jewish community. In turn, the community passed that responsibility on to individual Jews with the resources to fund the pawnshops, and then subsidized them based on the loans they would have to take permanently.

The authorities of the republic of Venice repeatedly issued orders for the expulsion of the Jews, as was the case in 1527 and 1571. However, the Jews succeeded in having these orders suspended; the first time thanks to a loan of 10,000 ducats, the second time through some intervention which has remained obscure. However, the importance of the Jews as an economic and commercial element in the steadily declining trading activities of the city and, in particular, their importance in trade with the Levant, had become a decisive factor as far as the authorities were concerned. The authorities of the republic  treated Levantine and Western Jews particularly favorably as a result of their overseas connections. Nevertheless, the Pope decreed in 1553 that all copies of the Talmud be publicly burned in the city squares. The city of Venice complied with the order and 13 years later, the senate of the Venetian republic forbade the printing of Hebrew books; however, Hebrew printing continued to flourish for centuries within Venice and other localities within the republic.

In 1552, Venice had 160,000 inhabitants, including 900 Jews, mainly merchants. A considerable number of them had established companies in partnership with Christian merchants. As a result of immigration and natural increase, the Jewish population rose to 4,800 in 1655. However, it soon began to decline as some of the wealthier families departed, attracted by the free port of Livorno (also known in English as Leghorn). Around 2,000 Jews resided in Venice in the last years of the 16th century (1.5% of the total population of the city), increasing to almost 3,000 (2% of the total population) toward the middle of the 17th century.

The Venetian government enforced the regulations regarding residence in the ghetto and the requirement to remain there after the hour established for closing its gates. Only Jewish doctors treating Christian patients and Jewish merchants who had to attend to their business enjoyed permission to be outside the ghetto beyond the permitted hours. In addition, individual Jews were granted the privilege, including representatives of the Jewish community who had to negotiate charter renewal with the government, as well as singer and dancers who performed in the houses of Christians and other who had special needs or skills.

In the 16th century, many magnificent synagogues and yeshivas were erected; some of these were owned by families renowned for their wealth and culture. The synagogues and chapels that were built in the 16th century and subsequently decorated, remodeled, and restored are valuable testimony to the life and culture of the Jewish ghetto. They also reflected the heterogeneous ethnic backgrounds of the Jews of Venice. Five were generally considered to be major synagogues. Three were located in Ghetto Nuovo: the Scuola Grande Tedesca and the Scuola Canton, both of the Ashkenazi rite, and the Scuola Italiana. Situated in Ghetto Vecchio were the Scuola Levantina and the Scuola Ponentina or Spagnola, officialy Kahal Kadosh Talmus Torah. Additionally, at least three similar synagogues existed in Ghetto Nuovo: the Scuola Coanim or Sacerdote, the Scuola Luzzatto, and the Scuola Meshullam. Only the cemetery, initially established in 1386 out of necessity, was located outside the ghetto.

A wealth of remarkable personalities were either born or lived within the walls of the Venetian ghetto. In 1524, at the beginning of his singular career, the adventurer David Reuveni arrived in Venice. Six years later, he met pseudo-messiah Solomon Molcho in the city, the scene of some of his most notorious adventures and vicissitudes. From Antwerp in 1544 came Gracia Mendes Nasi, who was arrested on suspicion of being a Crypto-Jew and set free by Joao Miguez, alias Joseph Nasi, and later duke of Naxos.

In 1574, Solomon Ashkenazi was appointed envoy extraordinary of the sublime porte in Venice after he had impressed the Venetian representative in Constantinople. He was received with all honors by the doge, Alvise Mocenigo, and other dignitaries of the republic. It was rumored that the revocation of the 1571 expulsion decree was due to his influence.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, scholars and rabbis of great renown lived in Venice, such as Leone Modena, Simone Luzzatto, the historian Rodrigo Mendfes da Silva, and the erudite Samuel Aboab. Other outstanding residents were Moses Zacuto, rabbi, kabbalist, and playwright; Sara Coppio Sullam, a poetess whose fame transcended the limits of the ghetto; and the philosopher David Nieto, who left Venice for London to become the spiritual head of the emerging Sephardi community there.

The Shabbatean movement also found convinced supporters and firm opponents in Venice after the arrival of one of the followers of Shabbetai Tzevi, Nathan of Gaza. The rabbis soon compelled him to desist from propagating the movement. Venice was an important Kabalistic center, as well. At the beginning of the 18th century, Nehemiah Chayon lived there. The writings of Moses Chayyim Luzzatto, the famous mystic of Padua, were condemned and the Venetian rabbis, led by Isaac Pacifici, decreed that anyone daring to read these writings or possessing them would be excommunicated.

Among the most important organizations in Venice was the Chevrat Pidyon Shevu'im, an association primarily aimed at redeeming Jews taken captive by the Knights of St. John and held on Malta before being sold into slavery.

The rabbis of Venice constituted an overall distinguished cadre that provided leadership for their time along with several outstanding figures of more local significance. The best known was Leon Modena (1571-1648), whose works include a remarkable Hebrew autobiography that sheds light on his own life, as well as providing insight into the everyday life, practices, values of the Jews in early-modern Venice, including their relationship with Christian neighbors. Another prominent figure was Modena's contemporary, Rabbi Simone Luzzatto (1583-1663). He is mostly remembered for his 1638 Discourse on the Status of the Jews and in particular Those Living in the illustrious city of Venice. He wrote it in Italian for the Venetian nobility to avert possible expulsion of the Jews as a result of a major scandal involving the bribery of Venetian judges through Jewish intermediates. Luzzatto provided considerable insight into the economic and commercial situation, combined with a thorough acquaintance with both classical literature, as well as intellectual trends of the day, especially in the fields of philosophy and political thought and scientific discoveries in mathematics and astronomy. He argued that the presence of the Jewish merchants and moneylenders was very useful for the Venetian economy; therefore, the Jews should not be expelled.

Additional significant figures in Venice were the Jewish doctors, many of whom had been attracted by the educational experience offered by the nearby medical school of Padua. As it was regarded as one of the best medical schools in Europe, attendance of Jewish students was significant and provided a rich opportunity for Jews to familiarize themselves with the best European intellectual and cultural achievements. Many Jewish students enrolled in the school and later returned to serve their communities. One noteworthy Jewish doctor was David dei Pomis (1525-1593), who left Rome and settled in Venice, where he published his works. Among them was a paper that refuted charges that were often brought against Jews and Jewish doctors in his own time.

During the 16th century, Venice became a central location in creating and exporting printed press in a variety languages including Italian, Latin, and Greek, but also Hebrew, Judeo-Italian, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), and Yiddish (Judeo-German). The Venetian printing press made an extensive and lasting contribution to Jewish learning and culture by assuming a major role in the early history of Hebrew printing and publishing. One of the outstanding publishers of Hebrew books in Renaissance Italy and indeed all times, was Daniel Bomberg, a Christian from Antwerp. With the help of editors, typesetters and proofreaders, mostly Jews or converts from Judaism to Christianity, he printed around 200 Hebrew books. His complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud (1520-1523) with commentary by the Rashi and the Tosafot is a significant book for Jewish religious life and culture, as well as his edition of the Rabbinic Bible (Mikra'ot Gedolot) (1517-1517, 1524-1525).

After Bomberg, the more important subsequent printers of Hebrew books included the Christians Marco Antonio Giustiniani and Alvise Bragadini. Their competition in rival editions of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah led to a papal decree of 1553 condemning the Talmud and ordering it burned. Consequently, on October 21, 1553, Hebrew books were burned in Piazza San Marco, to the great loss of the Jewish community and Christians printers alike. In the early 1560s, Hebrew printers in Venice resumed their activity, printing books by Jewish authors from all over who sought out the resources of the city. The books were later exported throughout Europe and the Mediterranean world. However, from 1548 on, Jews were officially not allowed to be publishers or printers. During the course of the 17th century, the quantity and the quality of Venetian Hebrew imprints declined and other centers of Hebrew printing gradually emerged.

In 1777, a new Ricondotta (regulation) aggravated the position of the Jews. The many trading and commercial restrictions reduced the majority to dealing only in rags and second-hand goods. During the same period, serious fires broke out in the ghetto, which further exacerbated the Jewish population’s difficulties and suffering.

The occupation of Venice by the French in 1797 marked the abolition of the old restrictions, the elimination of the "banks for the poor", and broke down the gates of the ghetto. However, the Jews lost many of their newly obtained rights when the city was ceded to Austria at the end of the same year.

The continuous changes in the fortunes of Venice in the 19th century greatly affected the Jewish population of the city. Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy (1805-1814) gave them back their rights. During the 1848-49 revolution, Daniele Manin, a citizen of Jewish origin, headed the government; two of the ministers assisting him were also Jews. However, it was only after Venice became a part of the emerging Kingdom of Italy in 1866 were the Jews granted complete emancipation. Despite this, from that point forward, the Jewish community of Venice declined, as the medium-sized and minor Jewish centers lost their importance and special characteristics as a result of emigration and intermarriage. In 1931, 1,814 Jews lived in Venice and in 1938, about 2,000.

 

THE HOLOCAUST

With the enactment of the racial laws of September 1938 and up to the summer of 1944, the Jewish community of Venice experienced exclusion and racial discrimination. The German occupation of Mestre and Venice on September 9-10, 1943, signaled the beginning of the actual Holocaust in the region. On September 17, Professor Giuseppe Jonah, who had been governing Venice from June 1940, committed suicide rather than deliver to the Germans the membership list of the Jewish community.

The political manifesto of the Italian Social Republic (the so-called Republic of Salo) on November 14, 1943, and the subsequent decrees at the end of that month declared that all Jews were enemy aliens, and ordered their arrest and confiscation of their property. Some of the Jews were able to escape to Switzerland or to Allied-occupied areas in southern Italy. Some young people joined the armed resistance; most of the others were rounded up by the Italian police and Fascist militia, and held in special assembly points, such as the prison of Santa Maria Maggiore, the women's prison on the island of Giudecca, and the Lieco M. Foscarini. From there, until July 1944, they were sent to Fossoli. After that, they were sent to a camp at Bolzano or to the prison of Risiera di san Sabba in Trieste. Nearly all were deported from those camps to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Most arrests and deportation of Jews in Venice occurred between the major roundup on December 5, 1943, and the late summer of 1944. Particularly hateful was the arrest of 21 patients at a recovery house on August 17, 1944. Among the victims there was the elderly Rabbi Adolfo Ottolenghi, who chose to share his fate with his fellow Jews. All of these victims were deported, most of them to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The Nazi-Fascist persecution of Jews in Venice lasted 18 months, during which time, despite the dangers, Jewish life in the former ghetto and religious services at the synagogue continued. There was also some help from non-Jews and from the church. Some 246 Venetian Jews were captured and deported during this period.

 

POSTWAR

At the time of the liberation in 1945, there were 1,050 Jews in the community in Venice. The number dropped throughout the second half of the 20th century, due to aging as well as progressive abandonment of the historical city center in favor of settlement on the mainland in the region of Mestre. 844 Jews made up 0.2% of the city’s total population in 1965.