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The Jewish Community of Milan

Milan

A city in Lombardy, north Italy

The presence of Jews in Milan in the Roman period is attested by three Jewish inscriptions, two of which refer to "father of the community." In 388, Ambrose, bishop of Milan, expressed regret for failing to lead his congregation in burning down the synagogue which instead had been destroyed "by act of God". It was soon rebuilt, but about 507 was sacked by the Christian mob, whose action was condemned by the Ostrogothic ruler Theodoric. The community presumably continued in existence, though there is little evidence in succeeding centuries except for vague references to Jewish merchants and farmers in the tenth century. With the spread of Jewish communities through northern Italy in the 13th century that of Milan was also revived, but in 1320 the Podesta issued a decree expelling the Jews. In 1387 duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti granted privileges to the Jews in the whole of Lombardy; these were confirmed by Francesco Sforza and his successors. When in 1452 pope Nicholas V approved the Jewish right of residence in the duchy, he specifically authorized the construction of a synagogue in Milan. Pope Pius II demanded a levy of one-fifth on the possessions of the Jews to subsidize a crusade (1459), but was opposed by duke Francesco Sforza. In 1489, under Ludovico il Moro, the Jews were expelled from the entire duchy. They were soon readmitted, except to Milan itself where a Jew could only stay for three days. Similar conditions continued under the last Sforza dukes and after 1535, when the duchy of Milan came under Spanish rule. In 1541 emperor Charles V confirmed that Jews were allowed to live in various towns of the territory, but not in Milan. Thus, when the Jews were finally expelled in 1597, there were none in Milan itself. In 1714, when Lombardy came under Austrian rule, Jews began to return to Milan, and by the middle of the 19th century they numbered approximately 500; a synagogue was built in 1840. In 1848 some were active in the rising against Austrian rule. In 1859 Milan became a part of the new Italian kingdom, and the Jews received full rights.

Because of the great commercial and industrial development around Milan which now followed, the city became a center of attraction for new immigrants. In 1900, 2,000 Jews resided there and in 1931, 6,490.

After Hitler assumed power many refugees arrived from central and eastern European countries; this flow continued illegally during the first years of war. About 800 Jews were deported from Milan during the war. Many were captured and killed by the Germans in the towns and villages where they had taken refuge. During the autumn of 1943, the Germans carried out an anti-Jewish raid, in the course of which the community synagogue was destroyed.

At the end of the war, 4,484 Jews were living in Milan and were joined temporarily by many refugees from camps in Lombardy. A number of Jewish immigrants came to Italy after 1949 from Egypt and, to a lesser degree, from other Arab countries; 4% came from Israel. The Jewish population of Milan in 1965 was 8,488 persons out of a total of 1,670,000 inhabitants, with the Sephardi and oriental element predominating. After the Six-Day War (1967), some 3,000 Jews, who fled persecution in Egypt, and above all in Libya, sought temporary refuge in Italy. Assimilation was widespread, especially among the Italian element, with the proportion of mixed marriages fluctuating around 50%. The general socioeconomic status of the community was middle class or upper-middle class, with the characteristic concentration in the wholesale and export-import business.
The community of Milan has a Hebrew school with about 1,000 students. Beside the central synagogue, which follows the Italian rite, there are seven other synagogues and houses of prayer of Italian, oriental, Persian, and Ashkenazi rites, as well as a rest home for elderly people. In 1967 there were 8,700 Jews in Milan, making the community the second in importance in Italy.

Place Type:
City
ID Number:
258128
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:
Zevi, Tulia (1919-2011), journalist and communal activist, born in Milano, Italy, to a wealthy family. Her father was a well-known anti-fascist lawyer. She studied philosophy at the University of Milano, but she was unable to graduate on account of the racial laws imposed by the Fascist government of Italy in 1938. After the discriminatory laws were enacted the family decided to move first to Geneva, Switzerland, and then to Paris, France, where Zevi continued her studies at the Sorbonne. In summer 1939 the family moved to New York, USA.

In New York she made the first steps which led to her career as a journalist. She joined the organization ‘Giustizia e Liberta’ ["Justice and Freedom"], which published the journal ‘Italy against Fascism’, and took part in NBC broadcasts aimed at Italian partisans. In New York she met and subsequently married Italian architect and art critic Bruno Zevi. The couple returned to Italy in 1946, where Tulia reported on the Nuremberg war trials. Later she reported on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem, Israel. Between 1960 and 1993 she was a correspondent for Israel newspaper "Maariv" and also for the London "Jewish Chronicle".

In 1978 she was elected vice president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and then five years later she became president of the organization, the first time a women held the position. In 1986 she welcomed Pope John Paul II on his historic visit to Rome’s main synagogue. She held the position of president of the Union until 1998. In this capacity Zevi negotiated and then signed the convention which defined the relationship between the Jewish communities and the Italian state. In 1992 Tulia Zevi was awarded Italy's highest civilian honor, the Order of Merit. Then Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano hailed her "exquisite humanity and culture," and praised her work as an ardent anti-fascist. In 1998 she was chosen to be a member of the Italian commission of UNESCO. In 2007 she published her autobiography "Tio raccanto la mia storia" (“I will tell you my story”).

In her term of office Zevi chose to engage the Catholic Church in dialogue in order to make a clean break with the past when the Catholic Church and the papacy often took the initiative in humiliating and discriminating against the Jews of Italy. After her death the Vatican issued an almost unheard of expression of condolences and praising her for her part in “a sincere and fruitful dialogue” between Christians and Jews.
Hugo, Karoly (1808-1877), writer, born in Pest, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire) as Bernstein Hugo Karoly and he was also known also as Hugo Amber Bernstein. He attended high schools at Pest and Szeged and studied philosophy and medicine at the University of Pest. In 1830 he became a military surgeon with the Polish army in Warsaw. From 1840 on he published some poetry and several plays in German of which "Schauspiel der Welt" ("The World is a Drama") had some success.

In 1844, Hugo, who felt that the critics and the public were not doing him justice, began to edit the satirical magazine "Die Fuchtel". He began to write for the Hungarian stage, but they had to be translated from German since he hardly spoke Hungarian, and he met with more success than his earlier German plays. His "Bankar es baro" (1847), was performed sixty years after it was written. He also wrote: "Egy magyar kiraly" (1846); "Brutus es Lucretia" (1847); "Vilag szinjateka" (1847). The revolution of 1848 found him in Paris, France. His plays written for the French stage were never performed. After striving in vain for recognition for ten years, he left Paris, and once again tried his luck in Vienna, Budapest and Berlin. In Berlin he published Hugo Amber Bernstein oder das verkannte Genie, which won him an arrest, but he was released soon after when found to be suffering from a persecution complex. He was mentally unbalanced for the rest of his life. Hugo died in Milan, Italy.

Enrico Guastalla (1828-1903), Italian soldier born at Guastalla, Italy. Although his parents intended him for a life as a businessman, he volunteered to join the Italian army in 1848. He took part in the defense of Rome in the war against Austria, and for his bravery in the battle of Vascello was appointed lieutenant. The following year he participated in the abortive capture of Rome from the pope. He afterward went to Piedmont and for several years he edited the "Liberta e Associazione" but, suspected of revolutionary tendencies by the government, he fled to London, England, where he met the radical Italian patriot Guiseppe Mazzini.

In 1859 he returned to Italy and joined G. Garibaldi at Como. He was wounded in the leg at Volturno (Oct. 1, 1860). After a month's inaction he became a member of Garibaldi's staff. At Aspromonte he was captured and imprisoned.

Guastalla again saw active service in 1866, and fought under Garibaldi at Como, Brescia, Lonoto, Salo, and Desenzano. He retired from the army with the rank of major and the insignia of Knight Commandant of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus. He was elected member of the Italian Parliament for Varese in 1865 and sat here for many years.

Goldstein-Goren, Avram (Dolphi) (1905 – 2005), financer, industrialist and philanthropist, born in Podu Turcului, Romania, the son of Yitzhak Moshe Goldstein, a prominent businessman, and Betty (Bracha) Wechsler of Iasi.

After his studies in economics and law at Bucharest University (1924-1927), he became director of the Commercial Bank (Banca Comerciala) in Tecuci, Romania. He also was active as a lawyer, until 1941, when following the adoption of the anti-Semitic legislation by the Romanian goverment, he was expulsed from the Romanian Bar.

In 1939 he married Stela Cukier, the daughter of Jewish merchants and textile industrialists from Poland. Goldstein-Goren immigrated to the Land of Israel 1944. In Israel he started a successful carrer as an industrialist founding two textile companies in Dimona and Beer Sheva, respectively. He also was co-owner of the Palestine British Bank.

At the end of 1945 Avram contracted to buy very large quantities of the raw cotton that had accumulated in Egypt during the war in order to have it spun in Italy into yarn to be shipped back to the Middle East. In mid 1946 he settled in Milan, Italy, living there for the rest of his life.

In the 1950s he extended his commercial activities abroad being involved in real estate projects in France and Canada and various financial and commercial companies in the United States. In the 1970s he was a shareholder and director of Keyser Ullman Ltd., a merchant bank that was eventually merged into the Charterhouse Group. He remained a director of Keyser Ullmann in Geneva, Switerland, until 1983.

Goldstein-Goren was an enthusiaist philanthopist dedicated to the advancement of Jewish culture, education and heritage. Among other projects he supported the establishemnt of a Center of Jewish Studies at the University of Bucharest, and a similar center at the University of Milano, supported the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, established a number of community centers and synagogues in Tel Aviv, Dimona, Raanana, and Jerusalem, and the Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center at Tel Aviv University. He was awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa by Beer Sheva University in 1989, and a Honorary Citizenship of the town of Tecuci.
MILAN

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.

Milano (in German, Mailand) is a city in northern Italy where Jews are reported to have lived since the 4th century. As a Jewish family name, Millan is recorded in the 16th century. Milan and Milano are documented in the 17th century. Mailaender (meaning "from Milano" in German) is found in the 19th century. A famous bearer of the Jewish family name Milan was the German-born soldier of fortune, Gabriel Milan (1631-1689), the first Jewish governor of the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, appointed in 1684 by the King of Denmark.
THE TABLETS OF THE LAW
AND VARIOUS TEMPLE IMPLEMENTS.
MILAN SPANISH BIBLE (FOL.1V,2R),
14TH CENTURY.
(MILAN, AMBROSIAN LIBRARY, C 105, SUP.)
Jewish Students who were Expelled from the University.
Milan, Italy, March 1942
The students continued their studies in course arranged for them by jewish professors who lost their former positions.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Miriam Cohen, Israel)
First grade high school students, in Milan, Italy, 1935
Some of the students dressed in fascist youth uniform,
among them Miriam D'ancona (Fifth on left front row)
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Miriam Cohen)
Family gathering on the occasion
of the 50th wedding anniversary
of Mariata (Basani) and Vito Taliakuzo,
Milan, Italy, 1928.
The little girl is Lea Taliakuzo-Levy.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Lea Levy)
The Colorani family home in Milan,
Italy, 1919.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Devora Keret, Israel)


One of the children, Uginio Colorani, became a leader in the Italian Underground, fought the Germans and the Fascists during World War II.
He was executed by the Germans.
Hugo, Karoly (1808-1877), writer, born in Pest, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire) as Bernstein Hugo Karoly and he was also known also as Hugo Amber Bernstein. He attended high schools at Pest and Szeged and studied philosophy and medicine at the University of Pest. In 1830 he became a military surgeon with the Polish army in Warsaw. From 1840 on he published some poetry and several plays in German of which "Schauspiel der Welt" ("The World is a Drama") had some success.

In 1844, Hugo, who felt that the critics and the public were not doing him justice, began to edit the satirical magazine "Die Fuchtel". He began to write for the Hungarian stage, but they had to be translated from German since he hardly spoke Hungarian, and he met with more success than his earlier German plays. His "Bankar es baro" (1847), was performed sixty years after it was written. He also wrote: "Egy magyar kiraly" (1846); "Brutus es Lucretia" (1847); "Vilag szinjateka" (1847). The revolution of 1848 found him in Paris, France. His plays written for the French stage were never performed. After striving in vain for recognition for ten years, he left Paris, and once again tried his luck in Vienna, Budapest and Berlin. In Berlin he published Hugo Amber Bernstein oder das verkannte Genie, which won him an arrest, but he was released soon after when found to be suffering from a persecution complex. He was mentally unbalanced for the rest of his life. Hugo died in Milan, Italy.
Goldstein-Goren, Avram (Dolphi) (1905 – 2005), financer, industrialist and philanthropist, born in Podu Turcului, Romania, the son of Yitzhak Moshe Goldstein, a prominent businessman, and Betty (Bracha) Wechsler of Iasi.

After his studies in economics and law at Bucharest University (1924-1927), he became director of the Commercial Bank (Banca Comerciala) in Tecuci, Romania. He also was active as a lawyer, until 1941, when following the adoption of the anti-Semitic legislation by the Romanian goverment, he was expulsed from the Romanian Bar.

In 1939 he married Stela Cukier, the daughter of Jewish merchants and textile industrialists from Poland. Goldstein-Goren immigrated to the Land of Israel 1944. In Israel he started a successful carrer as an industrialist founding two textile companies in Dimona and Beer Sheva, respectively. He also was co-owner of the Palestine British Bank.

At the end of 1945 Avram contracted to buy very large quantities of the raw cotton that had accumulated in Egypt during the war in order to have it spun in Italy into yarn to be shipped back to the Middle East. In mid 1946 he settled in Milan, Italy, living there for the rest of his life.

In the 1950s he extended his commercial activities abroad being involved in real estate projects in France and Canada and various financial and commercial companies in the United States. In the 1970s he was a shareholder and director of Keyser Ullman Ltd., a merchant bank that was eventually merged into the Charterhouse Group. He remained a director of Keyser Ullmann in Geneva, Switerland, until 1983.

Goldstein-Goren was an enthusiaist philanthopist dedicated to the advancement of Jewish culture, education and heritage. Among other projects he supported the establishemnt of a Center of Jewish Studies at the University of Bucharest, and a similar center at the University of Milano, supported the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, established a number of community centers and synagogues in Tel Aviv, Dimona, Raanana, and Jerusalem, and the Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center at Tel Aviv University. He was awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa by Beer Sheva University in 1989, and a Honorary Citizenship of the town of Tecuci.
Zevi, Tulia (1919-2011), journalist and communal activist, born in Milano, Italy, to a wealthy family. Her father was a well-known anti-fascist lawyer. She studied philosophy at the University of Milano, but she was unable to graduate on account of the racial laws imposed by the Fascist government of Italy in 1938. After the discriminatory laws were enacted the family decided to move first to Geneva, Switzerland, and then to Paris, France, where Zevi continued her studies at the Sorbonne. In summer 1939 the family moved to New York, USA.

In New York she made the first steps which led to her career as a journalist. She joined the organization ‘Giustizia e Liberta’ ["Justice and Freedom"], which published the journal ‘Italy against Fascism’, and took part in NBC broadcasts aimed at Italian partisans. In New York she met and subsequently married Italian architect and art critic Bruno Zevi. The couple returned to Italy in 1946, where Tulia reported on the Nuremberg war trials. Later she reported on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem, Israel. Between 1960 and 1993 she was a correspondent for Israel newspaper "Maariv" and also for the London "Jewish Chronicle".

In 1978 she was elected vice president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and then five years later she became president of the organization, the first time a women held the position. In 1986 she welcomed Pope John Paul II on his historic visit to Rome’s main synagogue. She held the position of president of the Union until 1998. In this capacity Zevi negotiated and then signed the convention which defined the relationship between the Jewish communities and the Italian state. In 1992 Tulia Zevi was awarded Italy's highest civilian honor, the Order of Merit. Then Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano hailed her "exquisite humanity and culture," and praised her work as an ardent anti-fascist. In 1998 she was chosen to be a member of the Italian commission of UNESCO. In 2007 she published her autobiography "Tio raccanto la mia storia" (“I will tell you my story”).

In her term of office Zevi chose to engage the Catholic Church in dialogue in order to make a clean break with the past when the Catholic Church and the papacy often took the initiative in humiliating and discriminating against the Jews of Italy. After her death the Vatican issued an almost unheard of expression of condolences and praising her for her part in “a sincere and fruitful dialogue” between Christians and Jews.

Enrico Guastalla (1828-1903), Italian soldier born at Guastalla, Italy. Although his parents intended him for a life as a businessman, he volunteered to join the Italian army in 1848. He took part in the defense of Rome in the war against Austria, and for his bravery in the battle of Vascello was appointed lieutenant. The following year he participated in the abortive capture of Rome from the pope. He afterward went to Piedmont and for several years he edited the "Liberta e Associazione" but, suspected of revolutionary tendencies by the government, he fled to London, England, where he met the radical Italian patriot Guiseppe Mazzini.

In 1859 he returned to Italy and joined G. Garibaldi at Como. He was wounded in the leg at Volturno (Oct. 1, 1860). After a month's inaction he became a member of Garibaldi's staff. At Aspromonte he was captured and imprisoned.

Guastalla again saw active service in 1866, and fought under Garibaldi at Como, Brescia, Lonoto, Salo, and Desenzano. He retired from the army with the rank of major and the insignia of Knight Commandant of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus. He was elected member of the Italian Parliament for Varese in 1865 and sat here for many years.

Helfy, Ignac (1830-1897), politician and writer, born in Szamosujvar, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire). Asa student of philosophy at the University of Pest, Hungary, Helfy joined the student revolutionary movement of 1848, and became an ardent follower and personal friend of Lajos (Louis) Kossuth, the lawyer who became Regent-President of Hungary in 1849 and who was widely honoured as a freedom fighter and democrat. Helfy served in the revolutionary army as a volunteer, and wrote proclamations for it. He was interned by the victorious Austrians, and after his liberation in 1852 he went to Vienna, Austria, to complete his education, which had been interrupted by the revolution. He also studied in Padua, Italy, where he received his Ph.D. (1855).

At this time Helfy converted to Christianity. He stayed in Italy as a political exile, and devoted himself to writing on historical subjects, such as his pocket history of the world, "Vilagtortenet zsebben" (1854), and on literary subjects, such as "Fiori del Campo literario ungherese" (1859), and "Mindenfele es semmi" ("All sorts of Things and Nothing," 1860). In an effort to acquaint the Italian public with Hungarian literature, he published a series of articles in Milan, "I,'Ungheria litteraria et artistica" (1858-1859), and translated into Italian several novels by Jokai and Eotvos. The Austro-Italian war led him to resume political writing, and from 1869 on he edited the "Alleanza" in Milan, to which Kossuth and his general in exile, Klapka, contributed. In another publication, the "Magyar Ujsag", started in 1869 but closed soon after, he voiced his protest against Hungary's reconciliation with the House of Habsburg. It was this event, however, which made possible his return to Hungary in 1870.

At the suggestion of Kossuth, also in exile, Helfy was elected a deputy to the Lower Chamber of the Hungarian parliament, and became the leader of the nationalist group which advocated the complete separation of Hungary from Austria. He contributed to a number of daily newspapers and periodicals, and published the "Iratok" ("Papers") written by Kossuth, the income from which was used to help the leader who was still in exile. Helfy was a member of the Petofi Association where he read his studies under the title "Kolteszet a politikaban es a politikai kolteszet" ("Poetry in Politics and the political Poetry", 1894).
Falco, Mario (1884-1943), jurist, born in Turin, Italy. Falco was an expert in canon and ecclesiastical law who lectured at the universities of Macerata, Parma and Milan. In 1924 he was appointed professor of law in Milan and held the position until he was dismissed in accordance with the anti-Semitic laws of 1938. Most of his writings were concerned with canon law. An active Zionist, he was involved in Jewish affairs both in the communities where he lived and also on a national level. He was a member of the Italian government committee set up in 1930 to draft a law to regulate the Jewish community.

Charlette Shulamit Ottolenghi (b. 1955), singer, born in Lugano, Switzerland, she grew up in Milan, Italy. In 1973 she immigrated to Israel where she attended Tel Aviv University, graduating with a degree in clinical psychology. While developing a successful career as a clinical psychologist, Ottolenghi also nurtured a passion for singing under the guidance of alto Mira Zakai, among others. Her musical interest was focused on popular music, both Italian and Israeli.
Early in her singing career, Ottolenghi was invited to give several concerts of Neapolitan and Sicilian songs under the patronage of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of the Italian Embassy in Israel. In addition, she gave concerts throughout Italy (Milan, Rome, Bologna) presenting a program entitled “The Song of Song and other songs,” which featured verses of the Song of Songs set to music as well as works of modern Israeli poets paired with music of Israeli composers.
In the more recent past, her interest in the Jewish popular music expanded to the Sephardi tradition and its songs in Judeo-Espanol and to the Jewish Italian tradition. She now perform melodies drawn from her childhood memories and from her study of traditional anthologies. Her concert program “Voice of Prayer of the Italian Jews” has been presented in Israel and Italy. She lives in Jerusalem.

Saul Steinberg (1914-1999), cartoonist and graphic designer, born in Ramnicu Sarat, Romania, but later grew up in Bucharest. He studied philosophy at the University of Bucharest, after which he enrolled at the Politehnica in Milan, Italy, where he studied architecture, graduating in 1940. During his stay in Milan he actively contributed to the satirical publication Bertoldo.

Following the introduction of anti-Semitic laws in Italy, Steinberg managed to move to the Dominican Republic hoping to obtain the American visa, during which time he contributed with drawings to numerous foreign publications. In 1942 The New Yorker magazine sponsored his entry into the United States, thus starting a fruitful connection between Steinberg and this publication. For the rest of his life, Steinberg contributed nearly 90 cover drawings and over 1,200 other designs for The New Yorker.  During World War II, Steinberg worked for US military intelligence services, posted in China, North Africa and Italy. At the end of the war he began to work for various American periodicals. A retrospective of his work was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1978 and another retrospective, this time after his death, was exhibited at the Institute of Modern Art in Valencia, Spain, in 2002.

Isaac Gioacchino Levi (1818-1908), painter and writer, born in Busseto, Italy. He studied at the academy of Fine Arts in Parma, Italy. Winner of the academic prize for the best work of painting, in 1849 he went to Rome on a prize sojourn for a three-year specialization staying there until 1853.

Between 1856-1859 he was a teacher at Collegio Convito Nazionale in Torino. During his stay in Torino, Levi participated to the exhibitions organized by the local Society for Promoting Fine Arts. In 1858 his work entitled The Exile of the Milanese in 1162 received much praise; The Death of Don Carlos of Spain exhibited in 1859 enjoyed greater success and was purchased by King Vittorio Emanuele II for 700 lire. In the same period the painter participated in the decoration of the cathedral of Mondovì. After 1860 he was  a teacher at the Military Academy in Milano. Between 20 June and 22 Sept. 1865 to Levi was entrusted with one of the most prestigious assignments of his career, the fresco decoration of the vault of the Verdi theater in Busseto. In 1873 Levi worked again in his hometown and completed another fresco, on the ceiling of a room of the local Public Library, with the subject of Prometheus .

Levi was appointed honorary member by the Institute of Fine Arts of Urbino in 1866 and by the Royal Academy of Parma in 1874. He died in Busseto. 

Benedetto Franchetti, known as Papa Franchetti (1824-1894), musician, artistic director and impresario, born in Mantova, Italy (then part of the Austrian Empire). Franchetti set up choirs in various places in Italy, including Mantova, Padova, Finale de Modena, and Cento. He then worked at the Conservatory of Music in Milano, Italy. Franchetti moved to Romania, settling in Bucharest. He was a teacher of music at Gheorghe Lazăr high school and then the artistic director and impresario of the Italian Opera Theater in Bucharest where he was instrumental in introducing the Italian operas to the Romanian audience. In 1885, in recognition of his contribution to the cultural life in Romania, Franchetti was one of the few hundreds out of a Jewish population of more than 200,000 that was granted Romanian citizenship. He also was awarded a number of Romanian distictions, including Coroana Romaniei with the rank of knight, an order intended to reward special services to the Romanian state.  

Italy

Repubblica Italiana

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 27,500 out of 61,000,000. Most Jews of Italy live in Rome and Milano greater areas. The main umbrella organization of the Jewish communities of Italy: 

Unione delle Comunità Ebraiche Italiane (Union of the Italian Jewish Community)
Phone: 39 6 580 3667/580 3670
Fax: 39 6 589 9569
Email: segretaria@ucei.it or info@ucei.it.
Website: http://www.ucei.it

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Italy

59 BCE | The Rebbetzin Poppea

Legend has it that in 59 BCE the great Roman statesman, orator and writer Cicero said that he was afraid to speak out loud, for fear of Rome's Jewish residents.
Cicero was famous for his hyperbole, but even if he was overstating his case, there is no doubt that Jews in the Roman Empire were a dominant force to be reckoned with.
Most Jews who arrived in Italy flocked to Rome. Many of them were manumitted slaves from Judea, captives from the wars of Pompey and later of Titus, as well as merchants and artisans drawn to the vibrant life of the imperial capital. According to various historical sources, the great advocate of the Jews at the time was none other than Julius Caesar, who gave the Jews special rights, among them the freedom to observe their religious commandments, to settle their internal affairs in Jewish courts and to send first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem.
One of the most fascinating trends of this period, which is well-attested in historical sources, is the adoption of Jewish ways and customs by the gentile population of Rome. One of the more prominent members of this group, who were known as “God-fearing,” was Poppea, wife of the Emperor Nero, who observed the Sabbath and refrained from eating non-kosher animals.

70 CE | Non-Modern Slavery

According to various historical sources, the number of Hebrew slaves that arrived in Rome from Judea in the year 70 CE, after the suppression of the Great Revolt and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, stood at some 100,000 people. The Romans directed the new manpower at their disposal to the construction of lavish public facilities. According to accounts from the time, some 20,000 Jewish slaves built the Colosseum, the famed gladiator arena in Rome, which formed the second part of Roman author Juvenal's satirical, yet astute, formula of governance: "bread and circuses".
In an act of solidarity, the Jewish community of Rome ransomed most of the captives brought from Judea, an act that greatly enlarged and strengthened the community, which built 12 synagogues and a whole array of yeshivas that maintained continual rabbinical contact with the sages in the Land of Israel. Historians of the time describe the Jewish community of Rome as very Hellenized, with the prayer and reading of the Torah being conducted in Greek, and intermarriage with gentile women being prevalent. At the same time, the members of the community were strict in their observance of the commandments and traditions. Researchers agree that the Jewish communities of the Roman Empire in late Antiquity were the seeds that gave birth to the Jews of Europe.

313 | The Black Swan and the Birth of Christianity

In his book “The black Swan” Nassim Taleb describes history as impacted by a series of “black swans,” by which he means events that could not have been foreseen and which nonetheless had a crucial influence on the course of human events. Among this type of events Taleb counts the rise of Christianity – a small, esoteric religion born in the Near East.
Black swan or not, the ascension of Christianity to control of the Roman Empire, which began with Constantine the Great's Edict of Milan in 313 CE, brought a significant deterioration in the condition of Roman Jews. Under pressure from the Church the authorities issued new laws that discriminated against Jews in the civil, economic and religious spheres. Among other things, Jews were banned from public office and forbidden from constructing new synagogues.
Some 200 years before this, another important event took place. In 132 CE the Roman Emperor Hadrian, an avid Hellenist and sculpture enthusiast, decided to turn Jerusalem into a pagan city, and renamed it Aelia Capitolina. This move, along with bans on observing the Sabbath and circumcision, were the trigger for the eruption of the Bar Kochba Revolt in the Land of Israel. After the revolt was brutally suppressed by the Romans, tens of thousands of Jews were exiled to Rome and sold into slavery.

476 | Empires Fall

The great Roman Empire stood at the forefront of human culture for nearly 800 years. Its mark is still evident to this day, in almost every field of human endeavor: Art, architecture, law and political science, military strategy and much more. The intrigue and vicious infighting in the Imperial court were also famous, or rather infamous, and over the past 2,000 years they have inspired countless works of literature and plastic art, and in the past century or so films and television series as well.
By the end of the fifth century, with the downfall of the Western Roman Empire, Jews had settled in all lands under its control. Remnants of Jewish life from that time have been found throughout Italy, in Sicily, Sardinia, Brescia, Bologna, Florence and more.
Ironically, it was under Papal rule that Jews fared relatively better, especially in the Papal State, a region under direct Church sovereignty after the fall of the empire, which included Rome and other parts of central and northern Italy. The reasons for the Church's easier treatment of the Jews in these areas were political, economic and theological as well: According to the Christian interpretation of the verse in Psalms 59:11, “Slay them not, lest my people forget,” the Jews were not to be killed, lest the Christians forget the origins of their faith, to which the Jews, descendants of the contemporaries of Jesus, stand as living testimony. And yet, in the fifth century the number of Jews in Italy declined, from hundreds of thousands to only tens of thousands.

1035 | Nathan The Wise

“Of The Humble,” “Of The Apples,” “Of The Elders,” and “Of The Reds,” - these may sound like varieties of fruit, but are in fact the names of four noble Jewish families who arrived in Rome, according to tradition, after the destruction of the Second Temple, and their descendants were considered for many generations to be the leaders and wise men of the Jewish community in Italy. Let us focus on one of the most important and influential of them: Nathan the Roman, from the “Of The Humble” clan, born in Rome in 1035 CE.
Nathan's main work was the masterpiece of lexicography “The Arukh” - a compilation of difficult Hebrew words from the apocryphal literature written around the time the Bible was sealed, up to the author's own time, along with translations thereof into Latin, Arabic, Persian, Greek and even vernacular Italian and the Slavonic dialect. This book was most instrumental in the spread of Judaism in polyglot Europe and served as a vital link in the chain of Jewish wisdom throughout the ages.
However, the information regarding the Jews of Italy in the Middle Ages is very scant. From what little we know it is known that Talmudic centers were built in the south of Italy from which the members of the Kalonymus family passed knowledge of the Torah to Magentia (Mainz) in Germany, and that during this period Jewish communities were established in Venice, Florence, Ferrara and Mantua.

1224 | Moses Received Torah At Sinai and Handed It to Avicenna Who Handed It to Jacob Ben Abba

One of the main characteristics of the Italian Renaissance was the re-discovery of Greek classics in literature, philosophy, medicine and science. But many of the original works had vanished, and classics enthusiasts were forced to content themselves with translations of these works into Arabic, by philosophers Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd), who were considered the greatest translators and commentators of Aristotle and other ancient philosophers.
This is where the Jews, who held the key to the translation, enter the picture: “Upon the decline of Arab culture in Spain, the Jews picked up the torch of wisdom from hands that faltered, and passed it on with great success to the Christian world, which thirsted for this new knowledge.” - thus wrote historian Cecil Roth in his book “The Jews in the Renaissance .”
Historians of the Middle Ages have emphasized the role of the Jews as carriers of Greek culture. The translation of the great classics from Arabic to Latin – two languages many Jews spoke fluently, both because of the frequent migrations they were forced to undertake and because of the diverse trade ties between Jewish communities throughout the world – were of crucial importance to Renaissance culture.
Rome became home to a large group of Jewish scholars, physician-philosophers, who engages in translating and expounding on the ancient Greek texts and the works of Muslim scholars. Three of the most notable of these were Hillel Ben Samuel of Verona, Issac Ben Mordechai, who served as physician to the popes of his day, and the sage Jacob Ben Abba, who was invited in 1224 to Naples to serve as an interpreter in the court of Emperor Fredrick II.

1450 | With the Power of Print

At university departments of life sciences, life is often treated as a process of data flow. We might say that the meaning of life, according to this view, is manifested in the information we collect and pass on – and not just the genetic data we carry, but also the experiences we have documented, the diaries we wrote, the technologies we've developed and the works we have created. The printing revolution in the mid-15th century was a sort of “Mt. Sinai” moment to those who hold this world-view. From the moment print was invented, any writer or scientist, upon completion of their life's work, could disseminate their writings in a scope unknown prior to that time.
Beginning in the last quarter of the 15th century, the Hebrew printing presses in Italy began to build the library of Jewish texts that serves us to this day. To understand the magnitude of Italian Jews' contributions in this field we shall mention two central printing presses: The first is Daniel Bomberg's press in Venice, which operated in the 1520's and set the format of the Bible and Talmud as we now know them, and the other is the famous Soncino Family Press, which preserved the halachic and commentary literature written in France and Spain in the Middle Ages.

1500 | The Migration North

Until the 15th century most of the Jews of Italy lived in the southern part of the country, including the island of Sicily. Only with the conquest of Southern Italy in the late 15th century by the Catholic Spaniards, who were particularly hostile to Jews, did the Jewish community move to the northern part of the peninsula. It should be noted that until the 1860's Italy was composed of dozens of independent or semi-independent states and cities, each of which conducted itself as a sovereign entity with its own laws and public administration. The treatment of Jews varied from place to place and state to state. In Venice, for example, Jews were accepted as residents with some restriction, whereas Genoa, Venice's great rival for Mediterranean trade dominance, did not accept Jews at all. The expulsion of Jews was an everyday occurrence in those days, so the Jews were driven in shame from some cities, only to be welcomed with open arms in others.

1516 | The Merchants Of Venice

The term “Ghetto” originated in the Jewish quarter of Venice, which is probably the oldest Jewish residential quarter still standing in the world. The most commonly accepted explanation is that the word “ghetto” originated from the foundry (getto in the local dialect) which stood next to the Jewish quarter. Another possible source is “Borghetto” - a diminutive of “Borgo” which is similar to “Borough” in English.) Later on Pope Pius IV used the word “ghetto” to describe the area in which the Jews lived, and since then the word has taken root and acquired various cultural and social subtext.
Jews lived in Venice as early as the fourth or fifth century, but their presence in the city was immensely strengthened in the 14th century, when a large stream of Jewish merchants and moneylenders came to town at the behest of its rulers, who wished to stimulate its economy. In March 1516 Jewish residence was restricted to a special borough, their freedom of movement was curtailed, and they were forced to wear a yellow star and later on a yellow cap as well.
Despite the restrictions, Jewish life flourished in Venice. The Jews of the city built batei midrash and synagogues in which important rabbis served and worked, among them Rabbi Leon Judah Ariyeh of Modena (known by his Hebrew acronym The Riam) and Rabbi Samuel Judah Katznellenbogen. The ghetto also featured many cultural institutions, among them a theater, bookshops and of course, the first Hebrew printing press.
The ghetto in Venice was first built for economic reasons, but forty-nine years later, on July 14th 1555, the first ghetto was created in Rome – and this time for faith-based reasons. Pope Paul IV issued a bull forbidding Jews from living as neighbors of Christians.
The establishment of this ghetto was the sign for others throughout Italy, in Florence and Padua among others. These ghettos developed unique customs and folklore as time went by. The ghettos were organized by the community members, who established mutual aid institutions and internal tribunals.

1707 | Shadal and Ramchal

Despite their forced seclusion in ghettos, the Jews of Italy produced many, many scholars and rabbinical luminaries. Two of the greatest of these are known by their acronyms: Ramchal (Rabbi Moses Chaim Luzzatto) and Shadal (Samuel David Luzzatto).
The Ramchal was born in Padua in 1707, and it is said that at the age of fourteen, he knew the Talmud and Mishna by heart. The young genius tried his hand at general literature as well, wrote plays and composed poetry. In addition he was drawn to Kabbalah and mysticism, and gathered a group of scholars around him who studied the writings of Rabbi Issac Lurie and the occult.
Alongside his studies at the beit midrash the Ramchal also claimed to have experienced a weekly meeting with an angel named “The Magid”, or “Teller”, who would visit him regularly and share secrets of Kabbalah and the art of “Tzeruf” - the combination and permutation of Hebrew letters to paranormal effect. In a moment of weakness, he disclosed his secret to a friend, who proved unworthy of the trust and spread the story further. The disclosure aroused a great uproar. The young genius was accused of practicing magic and witchcraft. His personal notes and writings were taken from him and some were burned. Following this episode the Ramchal migrated from Italy to Amsterdam, where he wrote his magnum opus “Mesilat Yesharim” (“Path of the Righteous”) which is to be found in any Jewish religious library to this day.
100 years after the birth of the Ramchal the Luzzatto tribe was blessed with another prodigy upon the birth in Trieste of Shadal, a true renaissance man who wrote works on philosophy, poetry, and biblical commentary, and is considered one of the fathers of the Jewish Enlightenment movement, or “Haskala”. Shadal's world-view combined rationalism and a search for objective truth with romanticism and religious-national beliefs. Unlike the Ramchal, he abhorred the study of Kabbalah and mysticism. His books gained an enormous audience, and some view him as one of the forerunners of the “revival age” writers who preceded the advent of Zionism.

1870 | Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

Seventy-two years passed between Napoleon's conquest of northern Italy and his declaration that Jews are citizens like any other, until the process of emancipation was fully completed, and Jews began to leave the ghettos and take their place as full-fledged Italian citizens.
But the adherents of the religion of emancipation, who bowed down to a “god” of their own – the idea of national unity – were concerned that the reclusive Jews would form “a nation within the nation”. Therefore, they treated the Jews in accordance with the principle adopted back in the days of the French Revolution in the late 18th century, which stated that “The Jews must be denied any rights as a people, and must be accorded all rights as individuals.”
Italian emancipation succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The Jews of Italy integrated into the newly-established unified state to an unprecedented degree. In Italy the routes to careers in the diplomatic corps, the civil service and the military were open to them, while they remained closed to Jews almost anywhere else on the continent. Italy was the first country in Europe to appoint a Jewish Minister of War, Giuseppe Ottolenghi, and two Jewish Prime Ministers, Alessandro Fortis (1905-1906) and Luigi Luzzatti (1910-1911).
In those years mixed marriages and assimilation were so prevalent that there was fear that the Jewish minority in Italy – numbering only one tenth of a percent of the population – would simply disappear.

1922 | The Rise of Fascism

More than once throughout history, just as Jews had almost managed to integrate into general society, someone came along to put them back down. In the case of the Jews of Italy, it was the dictator Benito Mussolini, who headed the Fascist party which came to power in Italy in 1922.
In terms of his treatment of Jews the Mussolini era is divided into three periods. The first period can be called “The Honeymoon” and lasted for ten years, until 1932. During this time the civil and religious rights of the Jewish minority were respected, and Mussolini even publicly denounced racism and anti-Semitism. During this period Mussolini maintained good relations with Zionist leaders and encouraged the activities of the Zionist Federation, although he opposed Jewish separatism.
The second period, which may be called “The Chameleon Phase,” began in 1933, with Hitler's ascent to power in Germany, and ended in 1938. During this time Mussolini began to dither: On the one hand he gave out statements and issued laws favoring the Jews, and on the other took unofficial anti-Semitic steps and voiced support for anti-Semitism in Germany, which he would later join as an ally.
The third phase, “The True Face Period,” began in 1938, when the race laws against Jews were issued. Mussolini burned his bridges with the West, committed to the Berlin-Rome axis and launched an unprecedented anti-Semitic attack in the press, aimed explicitly at all Italian Jews.

1943 | Blood Race and Tears

“I really believe that to have a dry rag would be positive happiness.” (Jewish writer Primo Levi describing a routine day of work in the freezing cold of Auschwitz).

Had you asked a European Jew in 1938, right after the passage of race laws in Italy, where he or she would rather live, Italy would likely have ranked near the bottom of the list. But like Karl Marx's famous saying, that history repeats itself, with the second time as farce – it was the Fascist regime which, somewhat ironically, safeguarded the Jews of Italy.
The reason for this was political. Mussolini wished to portray himself to his subjects as an independent leader, and therefore prevented the Nazis from implementing their “final solution” on those living under his rule – even if he viewed them as second-class citizens.
In 1943 Mussolini was deposed as head of state and Marshall Pietro Badoglio, who was appointed in his stead, immediately signed an armistice agreement with the Allies. This was supposedly deliverance for the Jews, but fate is often a matter of geography: At the time, most Italian Jews lived in the north of the country, which was under Nazi control, and so the hand of fate decreed that out of 44,500 Jews living in Italy before the war, at least 7,682 would perish in the Holocaust.
The Jewish community of Italy was dealt a heavy blow: Thousands were uprooted from their communities, the Jewish order of life was disrupted and many of those who remained in the country were broken in body and spirit. One of them, Jewish-Italian author Primo Levi, wrote the extraordinary book “Is This A Man,” which is considered one of the most chilling and realistic literary depictions of the Holocaust. Levi fell from the balcony of his home in 1987, and it is widely assumed that he took his own life.

2014 | Italian Memory

Italy remembers its Jews. In 2008, for example, no fewer than five academic symposiums were held to discuss the race laws in Italy, marking the 70th anniversary of their passage. The country has also erected monuments to commemorate the Holocaust, and holds memorial services in honor of the Holocaust of Italian Jews. Furthermore, the Jewish issue is part of the curriculum in public schools.
As of 2014 there are 21 Jewish communities in Italy, totaling 35,000 people. The ancient synagogues are in various stages of restoration.
The Jews are collectively represented in contact with the authorities by the “Federation of Jewish Communities of Italy”. Most Jews in Italy are immigrants and children of immigrants, and most of them live in two communities – in Rome and in Milan. Many Jewish heritage sites can be found throughout Italy, including museums, synagogues, ancient Jewish neighborhoods, archeological sites and more.
Israel is home to approximately 10,000 Jews of Italian origin, of whom some 3,000 are organized in the “Italian Immigrant Organization ” which publishes a journal in Italian. Members of the organization meet on important occasions at the gorgeous Italian Synagogue in Jerusalem, where prayer services are held in the unique style of this community.

Brescia

City in northern Italy.

Inscriptions found in Brescia mentioning a 'mater synagogue', and an Archisynagogos, show that there was a Jewish community there in the late classical period. In 1426, Brescia came under the sovereignty of Venice; in 1444 and 1458 the town unsuccessfully applied to the Pope for permission to admit Jewish moneylenders. Later, however, moneylending was evidently permitted. The Jews in Brescia were attacked in 1475 after the blood libel case of Simon of Trent, but further rioting was prevented by order of the Venetian Senate. In 1481 an attempt to prohibit moneylending in Brescia was unsuccessful. Bernardino da Feltre preached anti-Jewish sermons in 1494 and a number of Jews were again expelled from the city. After the French captured Brescia in 1509, the houses of the Jews were plundered, moneylending was prohibited, and most of the Jews were expelled. On its reversion to Venice, however, in 1519, they were allowed to return. Most of the Jews were expelled again in 1572 and no Jewish community has since existed in Brescia. Between 1491 and 1494 the printer Gershom b. Moses Soncino was active in Brescia. His productions included the "Meshal ha-Kadmoni" of Isaac ibn Sahula, the first illustrated Hebrew book; the "Sefer Machbarot le-Mar Immanuel ha-Romi" (1491) of Immanuel B. Solomon of Rome, and the third complete edition of the Hebrew bible (1494)

After the French captured Brescia in 1509, the houses of the Jews were plundered, moneylending was prohibited, and most of the Jews were expelled. In 1519 they were allowed to return. One of the most famous rabbis of Brescia and Mantua was Joseph (called Giuseppe) Castelfranco, ben Samuel, who lived during the first half of the 16th century. He was perhaps the founder of Yeshiva of Brescia, mentioned by Eliah Capsali in his "Divrey Hayamim". Most of the Jews were expelled again in 1572 and no official Jewish community existed in Brescia until the 19th century. In1820 forty Jews lived in Brescia and owned also a synagogue. They were mainly from Verona and devoted to commercial activities. The majority moved to Milan in 1840s.

Bergamo

A city in the Lombardy region, northern Italy.

Ruled mainly by Venice between 1430 and 1797. Jewish moneylenders in Bergamo are mentioned in the 15th century. The anti-Jewish sermons preached there by the Franciscan Bernardino da Feltre in 1479 led to the temporary expulsion of the Jews. By the beginning of the 16th century, Jews in Bergamo still owned houses and real estate. When Louis XII of France captured the city in 1509 the Jewish inhabitants were expelled, but they were permitted to return when it reverted to Venice in 1559. There has been no Jewish community in Bergamo in recent times.

Lombardy

A region in northern Italy.

Fiorenzuolo d'Arda

 A city in the province of Piacenza, part of the Emilia-Romagna region, Italy.

Jews had settled in cities already at the beginning of the 15th century. They came from Germany and southern Italy. They were mostly bankers. When the Christian bank - Monte di Pieta - was opened, the Jews had to leave and they settled in small towns at the end of the 15th century.

A small Jewish community was established from 1574. There was no formal ghetto but the Jewish families lived in nearby streets, probably for security reasons. The community's synagogue was in use until 1900. The building was sold in 1970. The Holy Ark and teva were sent to Milan and some furnishings were transferred to the Jewish museum in Soragna.

Jews no longer live in Fiornzuolo, but in 2003, local students cleaned and restored the old Jewish cemetery for visitors and conducted tours about Jewish life in the past.

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The Jewish Community of Milan

Milan

A city in Lombardy, north Italy

The presence of Jews in Milan in the Roman period is attested by three Jewish inscriptions, two of which refer to "father of the community." In 388, Ambrose, bishop of Milan, expressed regret for failing to lead his congregation in burning down the synagogue which instead had been destroyed "by act of God". It was soon rebuilt, but about 507 was sacked by the Christian mob, whose action was condemned by the Ostrogothic ruler Theodoric. The community presumably continued in existence, though there is little evidence in succeeding centuries except for vague references to Jewish merchants and farmers in the tenth century. With the spread of Jewish communities through northern Italy in the 13th century that of Milan was also revived, but in 1320 the Podesta issued a decree expelling the Jews. In 1387 duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti granted privileges to the Jews in the whole of Lombardy; these were confirmed by Francesco Sforza and his successors. When in 1452 pope Nicholas V approved the Jewish right of residence in the duchy, he specifically authorized the construction of a synagogue in Milan. Pope Pius II demanded a levy of one-fifth on the possessions of the Jews to subsidize a crusade (1459), but was opposed by duke Francesco Sforza. In 1489, under Ludovico il Moro, the Jews were expelled from the entire duchy. They were soon readmitted, except to Milan itself where a Jew could only stay for three days. Similar conditions continued under the last Sforza dukes and after 1535, when the duchy of Milan came under Spanish rule. In 1541 emperor Charles V confirmed that Jews were allowed to live in various towns of the territory, but not in Milan. Thus, when the Jews were finally expelled in 1597, there were none in Milan itself. In 1714, when Lombardy came under Austrian rule, Jews began to return to Milan, and by the middle of the 19th century they numbered approximately 500; a synagogue was built in 1840. In 1848 some were active in the rising against Austrian rule. In 1859 Milan became a part of the new Italian kingdom, and the Jews received full rights.

Because of the great commercial and industrial development around Milan which now followed, the city became a center of attraction for new immigrants. In 1900, 2,000 Jews resided there and in 1931, 6,490.

After Hitler assumed power many refugees arrived from central and eastern European countries; this flow continued illegally during the first years of war. About 800 Jews were deported from Milan during the war. Many were captured and killed by the Germans in the towns and villages where they had taken refuge. During the autumn of 1943, the Germans carried out an anti-Jewish raid, in the course of which the community synagogue was destroyed.

At the end of the war, 4,484 Jews were living in Milan and were joined temporarily by many refugees from camps in Lombardy. A number of Jewish immigrants came to Italy after 1949 from Egypt and, to a lesser degree, from other Arab countries; 4% came from Israel. The Jewish population of Milan in 1965 was 8,488 persons out of a total of 1,670,000 inhabitants, with the Sephardi and oriental element predominating. After the Six-Day War (1967), some 3,000 Jews, who fled persecution in Egypt, and above all in Libya, sought temporary refuge in Italy. Assimilation was widespread, especially among the Italian element, with the proportion of mixed marriages fluctuating around 50%. The general socioeconomic status of the community was middle class or upper-middle class, with the characteristic concentration in the wholesale and export-import business.
The community of Milan has a Hebrew school with about 1,000 students. Beside the central synagogue, which follows the Italian rite, there are seven other synagogues and houses of prayer of Italian, oriental, Persian, and Ashkenazi rites, as well as a rest home for elderly people. In 1967 there were 8,700 Jews in Milan, making the community the second in importance in Italy.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Fiorenzuolo d'Arda
Lombardy
Bergamo
Brescia
Italy

Fiorenzuolo d'Arda

 A city in the province of Piacenza, part of the Emilia-Romagna region, Italy.

Jews had settled in cities already at the beginning of the 15th century. They came from Germany and southern Italy. They were mostly bankers. When the Christian bank - Monte di Pieta - was opened, the Jews had to leave and they settled in small towns at the end of the 15th century.

A small Jewish community was established from 1574. There was no formal ghetto but the Jewish families lived in nearby streets, probably for security reasons. The community's synagogue was in use until 1900. The building was sold in 1970. The Holy Ark and teva were sent to Milan and some furnishings were transferred to the Jewish museum in Soragna.

Jews no longer live in Fiornzuolo, but in 2003, local students cleaned and restored the old Jewish cemetery for visitors and conducted tours about Jewish life in the past.

Lombardy

A region in northern Italy.

Bergamo

A city in the Lombardy region, northern Italy.

Ruled mainly by Venice between 1430 and 1797. Jewish moneylenders in Bergamo are mentioned in the 15th century. The anti-Jewish sermons preached there by the Franciscan Bernardino da Feltre in 1479 led to the temporary expulsion of the Jews. By the beginning of the 16th century, Jews in Bergamo still owned houses and real estate. When Louis XII of France captured the city in 1509 the Jewish inhabitants were expelled, but they were permitted to return when it reverted to Venice in 1559. There has been no Jewish community in Bergamo in recent times.

Brescia

City in northern Italy.

Inscriptions found in Brescia mentioning a 'mater synagogue', and an Archisynagogos, show that there was a Jewish community there in the late classical period. In 1426, Brescia came under the sovereignty of Venice; in 1444 and 1458 the town unsuccessfully applied to the Pope for permission to admit Jewish moneylenders. Later, however, moneylending was evidently permitted. The Jews in Brescia were attacked in 1475 after the blood libel case of Simon of Trent, but further rioting was prevented by order of the Venetian Senate. In 1481 an attempt to prohibit moneylending in Brescia was unsuccessful. Bernardino da Feltre preached anti-Jewish sermons in 1494 and a number of Jews were again expelled from the city. After the French captured Brescia in 1509, the houses of the Jews were plundered, moneylending was prohibited, and most of the Jews were expelled. On its reversion to Venice, however, in 1519, they were allowed to return. Most of the Jews were expelled again in 1572 and no Jewish community has since existed in Brescia. Between 1491 and 1494 the printer Gershom b. Moses Soncino was active in Brescia. His productions included the "Meshal ha-Kadmoni" of Isaac ibn Sahula, the first illustrated Hebrew book; the "Sefer Machbarot le-Mar Immanuel ha-Romi" (1491) of Immanuel B. Solomon of Rome, and the third complete edition of the Hebrew bible (1494)

After the French captured Brescia in 1509, the houses of the Jews were plundered, moneylending was prohibited, and most of the Jews were expelled. In 1519 they were allowed to return. One of the most famous rabbis of Brescia and Mantua was Joseph (called Giuseppe) Castelfranco, ben Samuel, who lived during the first half of the 16th century. He was perhaps the founder of Yeshiva of Brescia, mentioned by Eliah Capsali in his "Divrey Hayamim". Most of the Jews were expelled again in 1572 and no official Jewish community existed in Brescia until the 19th century. In1820 forty Jews lived in Brescia and owned also a synagogue. They were mainly from Verona and devoted to commercial activities. The majority moved to Milan in 1840s.

Italy

Repubblica Italiana

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 27,500 out of 61,000,000. Most Jews of Italy live in Rome and Milano greater areas. The main umbrella organization of the Jewish communities of Italy: 

Unione delle Comunità Ebraiche Italiane (Union of the Italian Jewish Community)
Phone: 39 6 580 3667/580 3670
Fax: 39 6 589 9569
Email: segretaria@ucei.it or info@ucei.it.
Website: http://www.ucei.it

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Italy

59 BCE | The Rebbetzin Poppea

Legend has it that in 59 BCE the great Roman statesman, orator and writer Cicero said that he was afraid to speak out loud, for fear of Rome's Jewish residents.
Cicero was famous for his hyperbole, but even if he was overstating his case, there is no doubt that Jews in the Roman Empire were a dominant force to be reckoned with.
Most Jews who arrived in Italy flocked to Rome. Many of them were manumitted slaves from Judea, captives from the wars of Pompey and later of Titus, as well as merchants and artisans drawn to the vibrant life of the imperial capital. According to various historical sources, the great advocate of the Jews at the time was none other than Julius Caesar, who gave the Jews special rights, among them the freedom to observe their religious commandments, to settle their internal affairs in Jewish courts and to send first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem.
One of the most fascinating trends of this period, which is well-attested in historical sources, is the adoption of Jewish ways and customs by the gentile population of Rome. One of the more prominent members of this group, who were known as “God-fearing,” was Poppea, wife of the Emperor Nero, who observed the Sabbath and refrained from eating non-kosher animals.

70 CE | Non-Modern Slavery

According to various historical sources, the number of Hebrew slaves that arrived in Rome from Judea in the year 70 CE, after the suppression of the Great Revolt and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, stood at some 100,000 people. The Romans directed the new manpower at their disposal to the construction of lavish public facilities. According to accounts from the time, some 20,000 Jewish slaves built the Colosseum, the famed gladiator arena in Rome, which formed the second part of Roman author Juvenal's satirical, yet astute, formula of governance: "bread and circuses".
In an act of solidarity, the Jewish community of Rome ransomed most of the captives brought from Judea, an act that greatly enlarged and strengthened the community, which built 12 synagogues and a whole array of yeshivas that maintained continual rabbinical contact with the sages in the Land of Israel. Historians of the time describe the Jewish community of Rome as very Hellenized, with the prayer and reading of the Torah being conducted in Greek, and intermarriage with gentile women being prevalent. At the same time, the members of the community were strict in their observance of the commandments and traditions. Researchers agree that the Jewish communities of the Roman Empire in late Antiquity were the seeds that gave birth to the Jews of Europe.

313 | The Black Swan and the Birth of Christianity

In his book “The black Swan” Nassim Taleb describes history as impacted by a series of “black swans,” by which he means events that could not have been foreseen and which nonetheless had a crucial influence on the course of human events. Among this type of events Taleb counts the rise of Christianity – a small, esoteric religion born in the Near East.
Black swan or not, the ascension of Christianity to control of the Roman Empire, which began with Constantine the Great's Edict of Milan in 313 CE, brought a significant deterioration in the condition of Roman Jews. Under pressure from the Church the authorities issued new laws that discriminated against Jews in the civil, economic and religious spheres. Among other things, Jews were banned from public office and forbidden from constructing new synagogues.
Some 200 years before this, another important event took place. In 132 CE the Roman Emperor Hadrian, an avid Hellenist and sculpture enthusiast, decided to turn Jerusalem into a pagan city, and renamed it Aelia Capitolina. This move, along with bans on observing the Sabbath and circumcision, were the trigger for the eruption of the Bar Kochba Revolt in the Land of Israel. After the revolt was brutally suppressed by the Romans, tens of thousands of Jews were exiled to Rome and sold into slavery.

476 | Empires Fall

The great Roman Empire stood at the forefront of human culture for nearly 800 years. Its mark is still evident to this day, in almost every field of human endeavor: Art, architecture, law and political science, military strategy and much more. The intrigue and vicious infighting in the Imperial court were also famous, or rather infamous, and over the past 2,000 years they have inspired countless works of literature and plastic art, and in the past century or so films and television series as well.
By the end of the fifth century, with the downfall of the Western Roman Empire, Jews had settled in all lands under its control. Remnants of Jewish life from that time have been found throughout Italy, in Sicily, Sardinia, Brescia, Bologna, Florence and more.
Ironically, it was under Papal rule that Jews fared relatively better, especially in the Papal State, a region under direct Church sovereignty after the fall of the empire, which included Rome and other parts of central and northern Italy. The reasons for the Church's easier treatment of the Jews in these areas were political, economic and theological as well: According to the Christian interpretation of the verse in Psalms 59:11, “Slay them not, lest my people forget,” the Jews were not to be killed, lest the Christians forget the origins of their faith, to which the Jews, descendants of the contemporaries of Jesus, stand as living testimony. And yet, in the fifth century the number of Jews in Italy declined, from hundreds of thousands to only tens of thousands.

1035 | Nathan The Wise

“Of The Humble,” “Of The Apples,” “Of The Elders,” and “Of The Reds,” - these may sound like varieties of fruit, but are in fact the names of four noble Jewish families who arrived in Rome, according to tradition, after the destruction of the Second Temple, and their descendants were considered for many generations to be the leaders and wise men of the Jewish community in Italy. Let us focus on one of the most important and influential of them: Nathan the Roman, from the “Of The Humble” clan, born in Rome in 1035 CE.
Nathan's main work was the masterpiece of lexicography “The Arukh” - a compilation of difficult Hebrew words from the apocryphal literature written around the time the Bible was sealed, up to the author's own time, along with translations thereof into Latin, Arabic, Persian, Greek and even vernacular Italian and the Slavonic dialect. This book was most instrumental in the spread of Judaism in polyglot Europe and served as a vital link in the chain of Jewish wisdom throughout the ages.
However, the information regarding the Jews of Italy in the Middle Ages is very scant. From what little we know it is known that Talmudic centers were built in the south of Italy from which the members of the Kalonymus family passed knowledge of the Torah to Magentia (Mainz) in Germany, and that during this period Jewish communities were established in Venice, Florence, Ferrara and Mantua.

1224 | Moses Received Torah At Sinai and Handed It to Avicenna Who Handed It to Jacob Ben Abba

One of the main characteristics of the Italian Renaissance was the re-discovery of Greek classics in literature, philosophy, medicine and science. But many of the original works had vanished, and classics enthusiasts were forced to content themselves with translations of these works into Arabic, by philosophers Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd), who were considered the greatest translators and commentators of Aristotle and other ancient philosophers.
This is where the Jews, who held the key to the translation, enter the picture: “Upon the decline of Arab culture in Spain, the Jews picked up the torch of wisdom from hands that faltered, and passed it on with great success to the Christian world, which thirsted for this new knowledge.” - thus wrote historian Cecil Roth in his book “The Jews in the Renaissance .”
Historians of the Middle Ages have emphasized the role of the Jews as carriers of Greek culture. The translation of the great classics from Arabic to Latin – two languages many Jews spoke fluently, both because of the frequent migrations they were forced to undertake and because of the diverse trade ties between Jewish communities throughout the world – were of crucial importance to Renaissance culture.
Rome became home to a large group of Jewish scholars, physician-philosophers, who engages in translating and expounding on the ancient Greek texts and the works of Muslim scholars. Three of the most notable of these were Hillel Ben Samuel of Verona, Issac Ben Mordechai, who served as physician to the popes of his day, and the sage Jacob Ben Abba, who was invited in 1224 to Naples to serve as an interpreter in the court of Emperor Fredrick II.

1450 | With the Power of Print

At university departments of life sciences, life is often treated as a process of data flow. We might say that the meaning of life, according to this view, is manifested in the information we collect and pass on – and not just the genetic data we carry, but also the experiences we have documented, the diaries we wrote, the technologies we've developed and the works we have created. The printing revolution in the mid-15th century was a sort of “Mt. Sinai” moment to those who hold this world-view. From the moment print was invented, any writer or scientist, upon completion of their life's work, could disseminate their writings in a scope unknown prior to that time.
Beginning in the last quarter of the 15th century, the Hebrew printing presses in Italy began to build the library of Jewish texts that serves us to this day. To understand the magnitude of Italian Jews' contributions in this field we shall mention two central printing presses: The first is Daniel Bomberg's press in Venice, which operated in the 1520's and set the format of the Bible and Talmud as we now know them, and the other is the famous Soncino Family Press, which preserved the halachic and commentary literature written in France and Spain in the Middle Ages.

1500 | The Migration North

Until the 15th century most of the Jews of Italy lived in the southern part of the country, including the island of Sicily. Only with the conquest of Southern Italy in the late 15th century by the Catholic Spaniards, who were particularly hostile to Jews, did the Jewish community move to the northern part of the peninsula. It should be noted that until the 1860's Italy was composed of dozens of independent or semi-independent states and cities, each of which conducted itself as a sovereign entity with its own laws and public administration. The treatment of Jews varied from place to place and state to state. In Venice, for example, Jews were accepted as residents with some restriction, whereas Genoa, Venice's great rival for Mediterranean trade dominance, did not accept Jews at all. The expulsion of Jews was an everyday occurrence in those days, so the Jews were driven in shame from some cities, only to be welcomed with open arms in others.

1516 | The Merchants Of Venice

The term “Ghetto” originated in the Jewish quarter of Venice, which is probably the oldest Jewish residential quarter still standing in the world. The most commonly accepted explanation is that the word “ghetto” originated from the foundry (getto in the local dialect) which stood next to the Jewish quarter. Another possible source is “Borghetto” - a diminutive of “Borgo” which is similar to “Borough” in English.) Later on Pope Pius IV used the word “ghetto” to describe the area in which the Jews lived, and since then the word has taken root and acquired various cultural and social subtext.
Jews lived in Venice as early as the fourth or fifth century, but their presence in the city was immensely strengthened in the 14th century, when a large stream of Jewish merchants and moneylenders came to town at the behest of its rulers, who wished to stimulate its economy. In March 1516 Jewish residence was restricted to a special borough, their freedom of movement was curtailed, and they were forced to wear a yellow star and later on a yellow cap as well.
Despite the restrictions, Jewish life flourished in Venice. The Jews of the city built batei midrash and synagogues in which important rabbis served and worked, among them Rabbi Leon Judah Ariyeh of Modena (known by his Hebrew acronym The Riam) and Rabbi Samuel Judah Katznellenbogen. The ghetto also featured many cultural institutions, among them a theater, bookshops and of course, the first Hebrew printing press.
The ghetto in Venice was first built for economic reasons, but forty-nine years later, on July 14th 1555, the first ghetto was created in Rome – and this time for faith-based reasons. Pope Paul IV issued a bull forbidding Jews from living as neighbors of Christians.
The establishment of this ghetto was the sign for others throughout Italy, in Florence and Padua among others. These ghettos developed unique customs and folklore as time went by. The ghettos were organized by the community members, who established mutual aid institutions and internal tribunals.

1707 | Shadal and Ramchal

Despite their forced seclusion in ghettos, the Jews of Italy produced many, many scholars and rabbinical luminaries. Two of the greatest of these are known by their acronyms: Ramchal (Rabbi Moses Chaim Luzzatto) and Shadal (Samuel David Luzzatto).
The Ramchal was born in Padua in 1707, and it is said that at the age of fourteen, he knew the Talmud and Mishna by heart. The young genius tried his hand at general literature as well, wrote plays and composed poetry. In addition he was drawn to Kabbalah and mysticism, and gathered a group of scholars around him who studied the writings of Rabbi Issac Lurie and the occult.
Alongside his studies at the beit midrash the Ramchal also claimed to have experienced a weekly meeting with an angel named “The Magid”, or “Teller”, who would visit him regularly and share secrets of Kabbalah and the art of “Tzeruf” - the combination and permutation of Hebrew letters to paranormal effect. In a moment of weakness, he disclosed his secret to a friend, who proved unworthy of the trust and spread the story further. The disclosure aroused a great uproar. The young genius was accused of practicing magic and witchcraft. His personal notes and writings were taken from him and some were burned. Following this episode the Ramchal migrated from Italy to Amsterdam, where he wrote his magnum opus “Mesilat Yesharim” (“Path of the Righteous”) which is to be found in any Jewish religious library to this day.
100 years after the birth of the Ramchal the Luzzatto tribe was blessed with another prodigy upon the birth in Trieste of Shadal, a true renaissance man who wrote works on philosophy, poetry, and biblical commentary, and is considered one of the fathers of the Jewish Enlightenment movement, or “Haskala”. Shadal's world-view combined rationalism and a search for objective truth with romanticism and religious-national beliefs. Unlike the Ramchal, he abhorred the study of Kabbalah and mysticism. His books gained an enormous audience, and some view him as one of the forerunners of the “revival age” writers who preceded the advent of Zionism.

1870 | Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

Seventy-two years passed between Napoleon's conquest of northern Italy and his declaration that Jews are citizens like any other, until the process of emancipation was fully completed, and Jews began to leave the ghettos and take their place as full-fledged Italian citizens.
But the adherents of the religion of emancipation, who bowed down to a “god” of their own – the idea of national unity – were concerned that the reclusive Jews would form “a nation within the nation”. Therefore, they treated the Jews in accordance with the principle adopted back in the days of the French Revolution in the late 18th century, which stated that “The Jews must be denied any rights as a people, and must be accorded all rights as individuals.”
Italian emancipation succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The Jews of Italy integrated into the newly-established unified state to an unprecedented degree. In Italy the routes to careers in the diplomatic corps, the civil service and the military were open to them, while they remained closed to Jews almost anywhere else on the continent. Italy was the first country in Europe to appoint a Jewish Minister of War, Giuseppe Ottolenghi, and two Jewish Prime Ministers, Alessandro Fortis (1905-1906) and Luigi Luzzatti (1910-1911).
In those years mixed marriages and assimilation were so prevalent that there was fear that the Jewish minority in Italy – numbering only one tenth of a percent of the population – would simply disappear.

1922 | The Rise of Fascism

More than once throughout history, just as Jews had almost managed to integrate into general society, someone came along to put them back down. In the case of the Jews of Italy, it was the dictator Benito Mussolini, who headed the Fascist party which came to power in Italy in 1922.
In terms of his treatment of Jews the Mussolini era is divided into three periods. The first period can be called “The Honeymoon” and lasted for ten years, until 1932. During this time the civil and religious rights of the Jewish minority were respected, and Mussolini even publicly denounced racism and anti-Semitism. During this period Mussolini maintained good relations with Zionist leaders and encouraged the activities of the Zionist Federation, although he opposed Jewish separatism.
The second period, which may be called “The Chameleon Phase,” began in 1933, with Hitler's ascent to power in Germany, and ended in 1938. During this time Mussolini began to dither: On the one hand he gave out statements and issued laws favoring the Jews, and on the other took unofficial anti-Semitic steps and voiced support for anti-Semitism in Germany, which he would later join as an ally.
The third phase, “The True Face Period,” began in 1938, when the race laws against Jews were issued. Mussolini burned his bridges with the West, committed to the Berlin-Rome axis and launched an unprecedented anti-Semitic attack in the press, aimed explicitly at all Italian Jews.

1943 | Blood Race and Tears

“I really believe that to have a dry rag would be positive happiness.” (Jewish writer Primo Levi describing a routine day of work in the freezing cold of Auschwitz).

Had you asked a European Jew in 1938, right after the passage of race laws in Italy, where he or she would rather live, Italy would likely have ranked near the bottom of the list. But like Karl Marx's famous saying, that history repeats itself, with the second time as farce – it was the Fascist regime which, somewhat ironically, safeguarded the Jews of Italy.
The reason for this was political. Mussolini wished to portray himself to his subjects as an independent leader, and therefore prevented the Nazis from implementing their “final solution” on those living under his rule – even if he viewed them as second-class citizens.
In 1943 Mussolini was deposed as head of state and Marshall Pietro Badoglio, who was appointed in his stead, immediately signed an armistice agreement with the Allies. This was supposedly deliverance for the Jews, but fate is often a matter of geography: At the time, most Italian Jews lived in the north of the country, which was under Nazi control, and so the hand of fate decreed that out of 44,500 Jews living in Italy before the war, at least 7,682 would perish in the Holocaust.
The Jewish community of Italy was dealt a heavy blow: Thousands were uprooted from their communities, the Jewish order of life was disrupted and many of those who remained in the country were broken in body and spirit. One of them, Jewish-Italian author Primo Levi, wrote the extraordinary book “Is This A Man,” which is considered one of the most chilling and realistic literary depictions of the Holocaust. Levi fell from the balcony of his home in 1987, and it is widely assumed that he took his own life.

2014 | Italian Memory

Italy remembers its Jews. In 2008, for example, no fewer than five academic symposiums were held to discuss the race laws in Italy, marking the 70th anniversary of their passage. The country has also erected monuments to commemorate the Holocaust, and holds memorial services in honor of the Holocaust of Italian Jews. Furthermore, the Jewish issue is part of the curriculum in public schools.
As of 2014 there are 21 Jewish communities in Italy, totaling 35,000 people. The ancient synagogues are in various stages of restoration.
The Jews are collectively represented in contact with the authorities by the “Federation of Jewish Communities of Italy”. Most Jews in Italy are immigrants and children of immigrants, and most of them live in two communities – in Rome and in Milan. Many Jewish heritage sites can be found throughout Italy, including museums, synagogues, ancient Jewish neighborhoods, archeological sites and more.
Israel is home to approximately 10,000 Jews of Italian origin, of whom some 3,000 are organized in the “Italian Immigrant Organization ” which publishes a journal in Italian. Members of the organization meet on important occasions at the gorgeous Italian Synagogue in Jerusalem, where prayer services are held in the unique style of this community.

Benedetto Franchetti
Isaac Gioacchino Levi
Saul Steinberg
Charlette Shulamit Ottolenghi
Falco, Mario
Helfy, Ignac
Goldstein-Goren, Avram
Enrico Guastalla
Hugo, Karoly
Zevi, Tulia

Benedetto Franchetti, known as Papa Franchetti (1824-1894), musician, artistic director and impresario, born in Mantova, Italy (then part of the Austrian Empire). Franchetti set up choirs in various places in Italy, including Mantova, Padova, Finale de Modena, and Cento. He then worked at the Conservatory of Music in Milano, Italy. Franchetti moved to Romania, settling in Bucharest. He was a teacher of music at Gheorghe Lazăr high school and then the artistic director and impresario of the Italian Opera Theater in Bucharest where he was instrumental in introducing the Italian operas to the Romanian audience. In 1885, in recognition of his contribution to the cultural life in Romania, Franchetti was one of the few hundreds out of a Jewish population of more than 200,000 that was granted Romanian citizenship. He also was awarded a number of Romanian distictions, including Coroana Romaniei with the rank of knight, an order intended to reward special services to the Romanian state.  

Isaac Gioacchino Levi (1818-1908), painter and writer, born in Busseto, Italy. He studied at the academy of Fine Arts in Parma, Italy. Winner of the academic prize for the best work of painting, in 1849 he went to Rome on a prize sojourn for a three-year specialization staying there until 1853.

Between 1856-1859 he was a teacher at Collegio Convito Nazionale in Torino. During his stay in Torino, Levi participated to the exhibitions organized by the local Society for Promoting Fine Arts. In 1858 his work entitled The Exile of the Milanese in 1162 received much praise; The Death of Don Carlos of Spain exhibited in 1859 enjoyed greater success and was purchased by King Vittorio Emanuele II for 700 lire. In the same period the painter participated in the decoration of the cathedral of Mondovì. After 1860 he was  a teacher at the Military Academy in Milano. Between 20 June and 22 Sept. 1865 to Levi was entrusted with one of the most prestigious assignments of his career, the fresco decoration of the vault of the Verdi theater in Busseto. In 1873 Levi worked again in his hometown and completed another fresco, on the ceiling of a room of the local Public Library, with the subject of Prometheus .

Levi was appointed honorary member by the Institute of Fine Arts of Urbino in 1866 and by the Royal Academy of Parma in 1874. He died in Busseto. 

Saul Steinberg (1914-1999), cartoonist and graphic designer, born in Ramnicu Sarat, Romania, but later grew up in Bucharest. He studied philosophy at the University of Bucharest, after which he enrolled at the Politehnica in Milan, Italy, where he studied architecture, graduating in 1940. During his stay in Milan he actively contributed to the satirical publication Bertoldo.

Following the introduction of anti-Semitic laws in Italy, Steinberg managed to move to the Dominican Republic hoping to obtain the American visa, during which time he contributed with drawings to numerous foreign publications. In 1942 The New Yorker magazine sponsored his entry into the United States, thus starting a fruitful connection between Steinberg and this publication. For the rest of his life, Steinberg contributed nearly 90 cover drawings and over 1,200 other designs for The New Yorker.  During World War II, Steinberg worked for US military intelligence services, posted in China, North Africa and Italy. At the end of the war he began to work for various American periodicals. A retrospective of his work was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1978 and another retrospective, this time after his death, was exhibited at the Institute of Modern Art in Valencia, Spain, in 2002.

Charlette Shulamit Ottolenghi (b. 1955), singer, born in Lugano, Switzerland, she grew up in Milan, Italy. In 1973 she immigrated to Israel where she attended Tel Aviv University, graduating with a degree in clinical psychology. While developing a successful career as a clinical psychologist, Ottolenghi also nurtured a passion for singing under the guidance of alto Mira Zakai, among others. Her musical interest was focused on popular music, both Italian and Israeli.
Early in her singing career, Ottolenghi was invited to give several concerts of Neapolitan and Sicilian songs under the patronage of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of the Italian Embassy in Israel. In addition, she gave concerts throughout Italy (Milan, Rome, Bologna) presenting a program entitled “The Song of Song and other songs,” which featured verses of the Song of Songs set to music as well as works of modern Israeli poets paired with music of Israeli composers.
In the more recent past, her interest in the Jewish popular music expanded to the Sephardi tradition and its songs in Judeo-Espanol and to the Jewish Italian tradition. She now perform melodies drawn from her childhood memories and from her study of traditional anthologies. Her concert program “Voice of Prayer of the Italian Jews” has been presented in Israel and Italy. She lives in Jerusalem.

Falco, Mario (1884-1943), jurist, born in Turin, Italy. Falco was an expert in canon and ecclesiastical law who lectured at the universities of Macerata, Parma and Milan. In 1924 he was appointed professor of law in Milan and held the position until he was dismissed in accordance with the anti-Semitic laws of 1938. Most of his writings were concerned with canon law. An active Zionist, he was involved in Jewish affairs both in the communities where he lived and also on a national level. He was a member of the Italian government committee set up in 1930 to draft a law to regulate the Jewish community.
Helfy, Ignac (1830-1897), politician and writer, born in Szamosujvar, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire). Asa student of philosophy at the University of Pest, Hungary, Helfy joined the student revolutionary movement of 1848, and became an ardent follower and personal friend of Lajos (Louis) Kossuth, the lawyer who became Regent-President of Hungary in 1849 and who was widely honoured as a freedom fighter and democrat. Helfy served in the revolutionary army as a volunteer, and wrote proclamations for it. He was interned by the victorious Austrians, and after his liberation in 1852 he went to Vienna, Austria, to complete his education, which had been interrupted by the revolution. He also studied in Padua, Italy, where he received his Ph.D. (1855).

At this time Helfy converted to Christianity. He stayed in Italy as a political exile, and devoted himself to writing on historical subjects, such as his pocket history of the world, "Vilagtortenet zsebben" (1854), and on literary subjects, such as "Fiori del Campo literario ungherese" (1859), and "Mindenfele es semmi" ("All sorts of Things and Nothing," 1860). In an effort to acquaint the Italian public with Hungarian literature, he published a series of articles in Milan, "I,'Ungheria litteraria et artistica" (1858-1859), and translated into Italian several novels by Jokai and Eotvos. The Austro-Italian war led him to resume political writing, and from 1869 on he edited the "Alleanza" in Milan, to which Kossuth and his general in exile, Klapka, contributed. In another publication, the "Magyar Ujsag", started in 1869 but closed soon after, he voiced his protest against Hungary's reconciliation with the House of Habsburg. It was this event, however, which made possible his return to Hungary in 1870.

At the suggestion of Kossuth, also in exile, Helfy was elected a deputy to the Lower Chamber of the Hungarian parliament, and became the leader of the nationalist group which advocated the complete separation of Hungary from Austria. He contributed to a number of daily newspapers and periodicals, and published the "Iratok" ("Papers") written by Kossuth, the income from which was used to help the leader who was still in exile. Helfy was a member of the Petofi Association where he read his studies under the title "Kolteszet a politikaban es a politikai kolteszet" ("Poetry in Politics and the political Poetry", 1894).
Goldstein-Goren, Avram (Dolphi) (1905 – 2005), financer, industrialist and philanthropist, born in Podu Turcului, Romania, the son of Yitzhak Moshe Goldstein, a prominent businessman, and Betty (Bracha) Wechsler of Iasi.

After his studies in economics and law at Bucharest University (1924-1927), he became director of the Commercial Bank (Banca Comerciala) in Tecuci, Romania. He also was active as a lawyer, until 1941, when following the adoption of the anti-Semitic legislation by the Romanian goverment, he was expulsed from the Romanian Bar.

In 1939 he married Stela Cukier, the daughter of Jewish merchants and textile industrialists from Poland. Goldstein-Goren immigrated to the Land of Israel 1944. In Israel he started a successful carrer as an industrialist founding two textile companies in Dimona and Beer Sheva, respectively. He also was co-owner of the Palestine British Bank.

At the end of 1945 Avram contracted to buy very large quantities of the raw cotton that had accumulated in Egypt during the war in order to have it spun in Italy into yarn to be shipped back to the Middle East. In mid 1946 he settled in Milan, Italy, living there for the rest of his life.

In the 1950s he extended his commercial activities abroad being involved in real estate projects in France and Canada and various financial and commercial companies in the United States. In the 1970s he was a shareholder and director of Keyser Ullman Ltd., a merchant bank that was eventually merged into the Charterhouse Group. He remained a director of Keyser Ullmann in Geneva, Switerland, until 1983.

Goldstein-Goren was an enthusiaist philanthopist dedicated to the advancement of Jewish culture, education and heritage. Among other projects he supported the establishemnt of a Center of Jewish Studies at the University of Bucharest, and a similar center at the University of Milano, supported the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, established a number of community centers and synagogues in Tel Aviv, Dimona, Raanana, and Jerusalem, and the Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center at Tel Aviv University. He was awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa by Beer Sheva University in 1989, and a Honorary Citizenship of the town of Tecuci.

Enrico Guastalla (1828-1903), Italian soldier born at Guastalla, Italy. Although his parents intended him for a life as a businessman, he volunteered to join the Italian army in 1848. He took part in the defense of Rome in the war against Austria, and for his bravery in the battle of Vascello was appointed lieutenant. The following year he participated in the abortive capture of Rome from the pope. He afterward went to Piedmont and for several years he edited the "Liberta e Associazione" but, suspected of revolutionary tendencies by the government, he fled to London, England, where he met the radical Italian patriot Guiseppe Mazzini.

In 1859 he returned to Italy and joined G. Garibaldi at Como. He was wounded in the leg at Volturno (Oct. 1, 1860). After a month's inaction he became a member of Garibaldi's staff. At Aspromonte he was captured and imprisoned.

Guastalla again saw active service in 1866, and fought under Garibaldi at Como, Brescia, Lonoto, Salo, and Desenzano. He retired from the army with the rank of major and the insignia of Knight Commandant of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus. He was elected member of the Italian Parliament for Varese in 1865 and sat here for many years.

Hugo, Karoly (1808-1877), writer, born in Pest, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire) as Bernstein Hugo Karoly and he was also known also as Hugo Amber Bernstein. He attended high schools at Pest and Szeged and studied philosophy and medicine at the University of Pest. In 1830 he became a military surgeon with the Polish army in Warsaw. From 1840 on he published some poetry and several plays in German of which "Schauspiel der Welt" ("The World is a Drama") had some success.

In 1844, Hugo, who felt that the critics and the public were not doing him justice, began to edit the satirical magazine "Die Fuchtel". He began to write for the Hungarian stage, but they had to be translated from German since he hardly spoke Hungarian, and he met with more success than his earlier German plays. His "Bankar es baro" (1847), was performed sixty years after it was written. He also wrote: "Egy magyar kiraly" (1846); "Brutus es Lucretia" (1847); "Vilag szinjateka" (1847). The revolution of 1848 found him in Paris, France. His plays written for the French stage were never performed. After striving in vain for recognition for ten years, he left Paris, and once again tried his luck in Vienna, Budapest and Berlin. In Berlin he published Hugo Amber Bernstein oder das verkannte Genie, which won him an arrest, but he was released soon after when found to be suffering from a persecution complex. He was mentally unbalanced for the rest of his life. Hugo died in Milan, Italy.
Zevi, Tulia (1919-2011), journalist and communal activist, born in Milano, Italy, to a wealthy family. Her father was a well-known anti-fascist lawyer. She studied philosophy at the University of Milano, but she was unable to graduate on account of the racial laws imposed by the Fascist government of Italy in 1938. After the discriminatory laws were enacted the family decided to move first to Geneva, Switzerland, and then to Paris, France, where Zevi continued her studies at the Sorbonne. In summer 1939 the family moved to New York, USA.

In New York she made the first steps which led to her career as a journalist. She joined the organization ‘Giustizia e Liberta’ ["Justice and Freedom"], which published the journal ‘Italy against Fascism’, and took part in NBC broadcasts aimed at Italian partisans. In New York she met and subsequently married Italian architect and art critic Bruno Zevi. The couple returned to Italy in 1946, where Tulia reported on the Nuremberg war trials. Later she reported on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem, Israel. Between 1960 and 1993 she was a correspondent for Israel newspaper "Maariv" and also for the London "Jewish Chronicle".

In 1978 she was elected vice president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and then five years later she became president of the organization, the first time a women held the position. In 1986 she welcomed Pope John Paul II on his historic visit to Rome’s main synagogue. She held the position of president of the Union until 1998. In this capacity Zevi negotiated and then signed the convention which defined the relationship between the Jewish communities and the Italian state. In 1992 Tulia Zevi was awarded Italy's highest civilian honor, the Order of Merit. Then Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano hailed her "exquisite humanity and culture," and praised her work as an ardent anti-fascist. In 1998 she was chosen to be a member of the Italian commission of UNESCO. In 2007 she published her autobiography "Tio raccanto la mia storia" (“I will tell you my story”).

In her term of office Zevi chose to engage the Catholic Church in dialogue in order to make a clean break with the past when the Catholic Church and the papacy often took the initiative in humiliating and discriminating against the Jews of Italy. After her death the Vatican issued an almost unheard of expression of condolences and praising her for her part in “a sincere and fruitful dialogue” between Christians and Jews.
The Colorani Family Home in Milan, Italy, 1919
Family Gathering to Celebrate Wedding Anniversary, Milan, 1928
First grade high school students, in Milan, Italy, 1935
Jewish Students Expelled from the University. Milan, Italy, 1942
Tablets of the Law and Temple Implements. Milano Spanish Bible, 14th century
The Colorani family home in Milan,
Italy, 1919.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Devora Keret, Israel)


One of the children, Uginio Colorani, became a leader in the Italian Underground, fought the Germans and the Fascists during World War II.
He was executed by the Germans.
Family gathering on the occasion
of the 50th wedding anniversary
of Mariata (Basani) and Vito Taliakuzo,
Milan, Italy, 1928.
The little girl is Lea Taliakuzo-Levy.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Lea Levy)
First grade high school students, in Milan, Italy, 1935
Some of the students dressed in fascist youth uniform,
among them Miriam D'ancona (Fifth on left front row)
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Miriam Cohen)
Jewish Students who were Expelled from the University.
Milan, Italy, March 1942
The students continued their studies in course arranged for them by jewish professors who lost their former positions.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Miriam Cohen, Israel)
THE TABLETS OF THE LAW
AND VARIOUS TEMPLE IMPLEMENTS.
MILAN SPANISH BIBLE (FOL.1V,2R),
14TH CENTURY.
(MILAN, AMBROSIAN LIBRARY, C 105, SUP.)
MILAN
MILAN

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.

Milano (in German, Mailand) is a city in northern Italy where Jews are reported to have lived since the 4th century. As a Jewish family name, Millan is recorded in the 16th century. Milan and Milano are documented in the 17th century. Mailaender (meaning "from Milano" in German) is found in the 19th century. A famous bearer of the Jewish family name Milan was the German-born soldier of fortune, Gabriel Milan (1631-1689), the first Jewish governor of the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, appointed in 1684 by the King of Denmark.
Goldstein-Goren, Avram
Enrico Guastalla
Hugo, Karoly
Goldstein-Goren, Avram (Dolphi) (1905 – 2005), financer, industrialist and philanthropist, born in Podu Turcului, Romania, the son of Yitzhak Moshe Goldstein, a prominent businessman, and Betty (Bracha) Wechsler of Iasi.

After his studies in economics and law at Bucharest University (1924-1927), he became director of the Commercial Bank (Banca Comerciala) in Tecuci, Romania. He also was active as a lawyer, until 1941, when following the adoption of the anti-Semitic legislation by the Romanian goverment, he was expulsed from the Romanian Bar.

In 1939 he married Stela Cukier, the daughter of Jewish merchants and textile industrialists from Poland. Goldstein-Goren immigrated to the Land of Israel 1944. In Israel he started a successful carrer as an industrialist founding two textile companies in Dimona and Beer Sheva, respectively. He also was co-owner of the Palestine British Bank.

At the end of 1945 Avram contracted to buy very large quantities of the raw cotton that had accumulated in Egypt during the war in order to have it spun in Italy into yarn to be shipped back to the Middle East. In mid 1946 he settled in Milan, Italy, living there for the rest of his life.

In the 1950s he extended his commercial activities abroad being involved in real estate projects in France and Canada and various financial and commercial companies in the United States. In the 1970s he was a shareholder and director of Keyser Ullman Ltd., a merchant bank that was eventually merged into the Charterhouse Group. He remained a director of Keyser Ullmann in Geneva, Switerland, until 1983.

Goldstein-Goren was an enthusiaist philanthopist dedicated to the advancement of Jewish culture, education and heritage. Among other projects he supported the establishemnt of a Center of Jewish Studies at the University of Bucharest, and a similar center at the University of Milano, supported the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, established a number of community centers and synagogues in Tel Aviv, Dimona, Raanana, and Jerusalem, and the Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center at Tel Aviv University. He was awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa by Beer Sheva University in 1989, and a Honorary Citizenship of the town of Tecuci.

Enrico Guastalla (1828-1903), Italian soldier born at Guastalla, Italy. Although his parents intended him for a life as a businessman, he volunteered to join the Italian army in 1848. He took part in the defense of Rome in the war against Austria, and for his bravery in the battle of Vascello was appointed lieutenant. The following year he participated in the abortive capture of Rome from the pope. He afterward went to Piedmont and for several years he edited the "Liberta e Associazione" but, suspected of revolutionary tendencies by the government, he fled to London, England, where he met the radical Italian patriot Guiseppe Mazzini.

In 1859 he returned to Italy and joined G. Garibaldi at Como. He was wounded in the leg at Volturno (Oct. 1, 1860). After a month's inaction he became a member of Garibaldi's staff. At Aspromonte he was captured and imprisoned.

Guastalla again saw active service in 1866, and fought under Garibaldi at Como, Brescia, Lonoto, Salo, and Desenzano. He retired from the army with the rank of major and the insignia of Knight Commandant of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus. He was elected member of the Italian Parliament for Varese in 1865 and sat here for many years.

Hugo, Karoly (1808-1877), writer, born in Pest, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire) as Bernstein Hugo Karoly and he was also known also as Hugo Amber Bernstein. He attended high schools at Pest and Szeged and studied philosophy and medicine at the University of Pest. In 1830 he became a military surgeon with the Polish army in Warsaw. From 1840 on he published some poetry and several plays in German of which "Schauspiel der Welt" ("The World is a Drama") had some success.

In 1844, Hugo, who felt that the critics and the public were not doing him justice, began to edit the satirical magazine "Die Fuchtel". He began to write for the Hungarian stage, but they had to be translated from German since he hardly spoke Hungarian, and he met with more success than his earlier German plays. His "Bankar es baro" (1847), was performed sixty years after it was written. He also wrote: "Egy magyar kiraly" (1846); "Brutus es Lucretia" (1847); "Vilag szinjateka" (1847). The revolution of 1848 found him in Paris, France. His plays written for the French stage were never performed. After striving in vain for recognition for ten years, he left Paris, and once again tried his luck in Vienna, Budapest and Berlin. In Berlin he published Hugo Amber Bernstein oder das verkannte Genie, which won him an arrest, but he was released soon after when found to be suffering from a persecution complex. He was mentally unbalanced for the rest of his life. Hugo died in Milan, Italy.
Zevi, Tulia
Zevi, Tulia (1919-2011), journalist and communal activist, born in Milano, Italy, to a wealthy family. Her father was a well-known anti-fascist lawyer. She studied philosophy at the University of Milano, but she was unable to graduate on account of the racial laws imposed by the Fascist government of Italy in 1938. After the discriminatory laws were enacted the family decided to move first to Geneva, Switzerland, and then to Paris, France, where Zevi continued her studies at the Sorbonne. In summer 1939 the family moved to New York, USA.

In New York she made the first steps which led to her career as a journalist. She joined the organization ‘Giustizia e Liberta’ ["Justice and Freedom"], which published the journal ‘Italy against Fascism’, and took part in NBC broadcasts aimed at Italian partisans. In New York she met and subsequently married Italian architect and art critic Bruno Zevi. The couple returned to Italy in 1946, where Tulia reported on the Nuremberg war trials. Later she reported on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem, Israel. Between 1960 and 1993 she was a correspondent for Israel newspaper "Maariv" and also for the London "Jewish Chronicle".

In 1978 she was elected vice president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and then five years later she became president of the organization, the first time a women held the position. In 1986 she welcomed Pope John Paul II on his historic visit to Rome’s main synagogue. She held the position of president of the Union until 1998. In this capacity Zevi negotiated and then signed the convention which defined the relationship between the Jewish communities and the Italian state. In 1992 Tulia Zevi was awarded Italy's highest civilian honor, the Order of Merit. Then Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano hailed her "exquisite humanity and culture," and praised her work as an ardent anti-fascist. In 1998 she was chosen to be a member of the Italian commission of UNESCO. In 2007 she published her autobiography "Tio raccanto la mia storia" (“I will tell you my story”).

In her term of office Zevi chose to engage the Catholic Church in dialogue in order to make a clean break with the past when the Catholic Church and the papacy often took the initiative in humiliating and discriminating against the Jews of Italy. After her death the Vatican issued an almost unheard of expression of condolences and praising her for her part in “a sincere and fruitful dialogue” between Christians and Jews.