FLORENCE

FLORENCE (It. Firenze) city in Tuscany, central Italy. There is no evidence of a Jewish community in the Roman City of Florentia. Early medieval documents preserved in the Florence Archives mention names that can be Jewish. The first evidence of a Jewish presence is dated to the 13th century. However, only in 1396 did the Commune of Florence allowed Jews to practice banking in the city and therefore to settle there.   Representatives of the Jewish communities in Italy, assembled in Florence in 1428, obtained a letter of protection from Pope Martin V. In 1430 the municipal authorities invited Jewish bankers to set up shop, as they believed that they would be easier to control than their Christian counterparts. The first loan license was granted in 1437. Soon various Jewish families, such as the Da Pisas, Da Rietis, and Da Tivolis settled in Florence. Generally, the Jews met with hostility from the populace, while the aristocracy, especially the Medici family, protected them. The obligation to wear the jewish badge was frequently enforced and then suspended. Jews lived mainly on the other side of the Arno. A Via dei Giudei still exists in the area. There, until World War II, was possible to see the remains of a synagogue. The Jewish cemetery, within the city walls, was situated on the present Lungarno della Zecca. There were anti-Jewish demonstrations in 1458 and 1471. Further threats of violence were restrained with difficulty when bernardino da feltre preached in Florence in 1488, and he was escorted from the city. However, the Medici often protected the Jews. In 1477 Lorenzo the Magnificent successfully stopped an attempt to expel the Jews from the city. On Lorenzo's death in 1492, the Jews of Florence faced new difficult times under the Republic. After the triumph of Savonarola a Monte di Pietà was established, the Jewish bankers were compelled to transfer there their loan-bank licences. Later the Jews were expelled. In 1493 a Jew, falsely accused of having damaged the face of Giovanni Tedesco's statue of the Virgin in Orsanmichele Church, was brutally executed. The Medici returned to Florence in 1512, and in 1514 Jewish moneylenders were recalled. In 1527 the Medici were again banished, and the Jews received orders to leave, their expulsion being delayed. On the accession of Alessandro de Medici as duke (1531), the anti-Jewish enactments were abolished. However, only with Cosimo I (1537–74) and his wife Eleonora of Toledo, who were on friendly terms with the abrabanel family of Naples (afterward of Ferrara), did the Jews of Florence enjoy a long period of peace. It was on Jacob Abrabanel's advice that the duke authorized an appeal, directed primarily to Jews, promising wide privileges to merchants willing to settle in Florence. In 1551 Cosimo made an official proclamation which granted various concessions to Levantine Jews. However, years later Cosimo consented to the burning of the Talmud in the cities within the duchy (1553). On the other hand, he offered refuge to many Jews who left the papal states as a result of Pope paul iv 's repressive measures, which he refused to implement in Florence. Cosimo modified his attitude when seeking to obtain the pope's agreement to his assumption of the title of grand duke. Under Pius V, he introduced the badge (1567) and established a ghetto (1571), both in Florence and Siena, the only two cities where Jews were authorized to live. The ghetto of Florence was planned by no less a personage than Bernardo Buontalenti, the Grand Duke's architect. It occupied a square area bounded to the east by Via dei Succhiellinai (Via Roma), to the south by Piazza del Mercato Vecchio, to the west by Via dei Rigattieri (Via Brunelleschi). In the central square stood two synagogues, serving the Spanish-Levantine and the Italian communities, respectively. So far the development of Jewish intellectual life corresponded to the rich attainments of Florentine culture. Jewish men of letters were highly esteemed at the court of Lorenzo de' Medici (1449–92) by contemporary scholars and writers. elijah delmedigo , johanan alemanno , and abraham farissol were closely connected with these circles of scholars and humanists. The banker Jehiel b. Isaac of pisa has been termed the "Lorenzo the Magnificent" of the Jewish community, and eminent scholars assembled at his home. Christians such as giannozzo manetti , Marsilio Ficino, Girolamo Benivieni, and pico della mirandola were thus introduced to Hebrew language, literature, and philosophy. The 15th and 16th centuries were a fruitful period for Jewish literature and poetry, and other branches of Jewish learning, even though the community did not number much more than 100 families. The establishment of the ghetto terminated this renaissance. The number of Jews in Florence substantially increased, however, as they were forced to leave the provincial towns of the duchy and reside in the capital. The legislation of 1571 restricted Jewish trade to secondhand goods and strictly enforced the ghetto system. Ferdinand I, the successor of Cosimo I, who became Grand Duke in 1587, granted a series of privileges to Levantine Jews and they were allowed to live outside the ghetto. Italian Jews, however, were not only confined to the borders of the ghetto but were also excluded from the city's guilds. In 1670 a fire destroyed the northern area of the ghetto. The damaged Italian synagogue was partly rebuilt. Under the rule of Cosimo III, the ghetto was extended to accommodate a growing population. In general the position of the Jews was more favorable than their legal status warranted. In 1737 the Habsburg-Lorraine inherited the Grand Duchy of Tuscany from the defunct dynasty of the Medici. The situation of the Jews soon changed for better. Thus in 1750 the community was allowed to purchase the two buildings housing the synagogues. Certain civic rights were conferred on the Jews by the Grand Duke Leopold I (1765–90), one of the champions of the Enlightment in Europe, including the right to vote for the municipal council (1778). The first solely Hebrew printing press in Florence operated from 1734 to 1736, when Francesco Mouecke published a number of liturgical items. Isaac b. Moses di Pas printed there from 1744 to 1755. G. Campiagi printed a number of Hebrew books between 1778 and 1838, as did Rabbi G.V.A. Coën around 1828. When widespread popular disturbances broke out in 1790 against the reforms introduced by the ruler, the ghetto was attacked. The Jews of Florence received their complete emancipation with the entry of the French Revolutionary army (March 25, 1799), which was subsequently forced to depart. In 1800 the French returned and the Jews regained their freedom. Florence, as well as Tuscany was annexed to Napoleonic France. Thus in 1808 a decree established consistories to govern the   life of the Jewish communities in Tuscany, as in neighboring France. After the restoration of the grand dukes (1814), Jews continued to enjoy wide toleration, albeit with some discrimination. Jews were permitted to own real estate and to work as physicians and pharmacists, but were barred from the legal profession and were excluded from military service. In this period various Jews, mainly from the Pontifical States, immigrated to the more tolerant Florence. Florence Jews as well as the Jews of the rest of Tuscany attained equality in 1848 under the constitution granted by Grand Duke Leopold II. Finally, in 1859, when Tuscany was incorporated in the Kingdom of Sardinia (from 1861 the Kingdom of Italy), the Jews were recognized as equal citizens of the new kingdom. In 1859 two Jews, the D'Ancona brothers, held prominent positions in the provisional government of Farini before Tuscany was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. In 1864 Florence became the capital of Italy (until 1870). This probably influenced the community's decision to build a new synagogue. The building was erected in 1872, in the new district of the Mattonaia, in Via Farini 4. It was a building in the Moorish style, crowned by a huge dome. The original planner was the architect Marco Treves, later joined by Mariano Falcini and Vincenzo Micheli. The synagogue was twice visited by royalty: by Umberto I in 1887 and by Vittorio Emanuele III in 1911. Not all of Florence's Jews lived in the area. Thus in 1882 two small synagogues were opened in Via delle Oche 4. In 1899 the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano was transferred from Rome to Florence and placed under the guidance of samuel hirsch margulies . Through him and his pupils the community became the center of Hebrew culture in Italy. In 1931, 2,730 Jewslived in the community. -Hebrew Printing The first solely Hebrew printing press in Florence operated from 1734 to 1736, when Francesco Mouecke published a number of liturgical items. Isaac b. Moses di Pas printed there from 1744 to 1755. G. Campiagi printed a number of Hebrew books between 1778 and 1838, as did Rabbi G.V.A. Coën around 1828. Publications appearing in Florence included Rivista Israelitica (1904–15), and Settimana Israelitica (1910–15), and the newspapers Israel (from 1916) and Rassegna Mensile di Israel (from 1925); both later appeared in Rome. (Umberto (Moses David) Cassuto / Josef Levi (2nd ed.) -Holocaust Period The German occupation of Florence occurred on September 11, 1943. The perilous situation of the Jews immediately caused Rabbi Nathan Cassuto, son of the famous scholar umberto cassuto , to seek assistance from the local clergy, and especially from the archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa. Cassuto was concerned not only for the Florentine Jews but also for those refugees, mostly of East European origin, who after the announcement of the armistice between the Italians and the Allies on September 8, had followed the Italian Fourth Army occupying southeastern France on its retreat back into Italy. Many of the refugees were women and children. The Jewish-Christian relief committee that was born following the contacts between Cassuto and Dalla Costa became operative at the end of September 1943. This relief committee consisted of Cassuto himself; Father Cipriano Ricotti, prior of the Monastery of San Marco; Don Leto Casini, priest of Varlungo; Matilde Cassin (Rabbi Cassuto's young assistant, who attended to the contacts with the Florence monasteries and convents where the Jewish refugees were lodged); Eugenio Artom, a lawyer; Giuseppe Castiglioni, a lawyer; Guido De Angelis; Prof. Aldo Neppi Modona; and Giuliano Treves. Vital support to the relief committee was provided by raffaele cantoni , who was in Florence following the dismissal of Mussolini as prime minister on July 25, 1943. Cantoni provided the committee with money, food, and clothing that were later distributed among the Jewish refugees lodged in the monasteries and convents. Giorgio La Pira, mayor of Florence after World War II, helped greatly in the search for monasteries and convents willing to take in the Jewish refugees. The refugee committee was active for two months, from the second half of September to the second half of November 1943. The German raids against Jews in Tuscany began early in November 1943. On November 5 they took place in Siena and Montecatini. On November 6 the SS broke into the synagogue in Florence, seizing the custodian and a few refugees just arrived from France. They were deported to Auschwitz on November 9. On the evening of November 26, the SS invaded the premises of the Azione Cattolica, an Italian Catholic organization situated in Via dei Pucci, where a meeting of the Jewish-Christian relief committee was taking place, seizing Nathan Cassuto and other committee members. That same night, an SS unit with the active cooperation of a squad of Fascist soldiers invaded three monasteries in Florence: the convent of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Maria in the Piazza Carmine, where they seized 30 women and many children; the monastery of the Ricreatorio di San Giuseppe in Via Domenico Cirillo, where they arrested about 20 men; and the convent of the Sisters dell'Apparizione in via Gioberti, where they seized additional women and children. On the evening of November 29, as a result of betrayal, the Nazis apprehended, in the Piazza della Signoria, Anna Cassuto, the rabbi's wife; Saul Campagnano, Cassuto's brother-in-law; and Raffaele Cantoni. Most of the Jews arrested during the raids of late November 1943 were taken to the San Vittore prison in Milan, from where, on January 30, 1944, they were deported to Auschwitz. Cantoni managed to escape from the train, but the others arrived on February 6, 1944. The relief activities of the Jewish-Christian committee continued clandestinely, but on a reduced scale, until the liberation of Florence in August 1944. About 243 Jews were deported from Florence, of whom only 13 returned. Eight Jews were murdered in circumstances related to their arrest, and four died while fighting with the partisans. (Massimo Longo Adorno (2nd ed.)   -Contemporary Period At the end of the war, 1,600 Jews were left in Florence. This number was reduced by 1965 to 1,276 out of a total of 455,000 inhabitants as a result of the constant excess of deaths over births. In 1962 the two oratories in Via delle Oche were sold. In 1970 there were approximately 1,250 Jews in Florence, including some in the surrounding area. By the turn of the century the number had dropped to around 1,000. In the floods of 1966, the muddy waters of the Arno River inundated the beautiful synagogue, causing great damage to the sacred objects and library. Today the synagogue is of the Sephardi rite, but there is also an Ashkenazi prayer house. The community had a kindergarten, an elementary school, and a high school as well as a rest home for elderly people, and a kosher restaurant. A review, Ebrei d'Europa, is published irregularly. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Milano, Bibliotheca, index S.V. Firenze; Roth, Italy, index; U. Cassuto, Ebrei a Firenze nell' eta' del Rinascimento (1918); Roth, in: Israel (Apr. 17, and May 1, 1924); H.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus be-Italya… (1956), 88. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M., Bini, "Edificazione e demolizione del Ghetto di Firenze: prime ricostruzioni grafiche," in: Architettura judaica in Italia: ebraismo, sito, memoria dei luoghi (1994), 285–301; A. Boralevi, "Prime notizie sull' istituzione del Ghetto nella Firenze medicea," in: Potere e lo Spazio: riflessioni di merito e contributi (1980); U., Caffaz, "La cultura ebraica, Firenze nella cultura europea del Novecento," in: Atti de Viesseux (1993), 231–41; G. Carocci, Il Ghetto di Firenze ed i suoi ricordi (1886); M., Cassandro, "Per la storia delle comunita' ebraiche in Toscana nei secoli' XV–XVII," in: Economia e Storia, 4 (1977), 425–49; U., Fortis, Ebrei e sinagoghe; Venezia, Firenze, Roma, Livorno, Guida pratica (1973); L. Frattarelli Fisher, "Urban Forms of Jewish Settlement in Tuscan Cities (Florence, Pisa, Leghorn) during the 17th Century," in: WCJS, 10 (1993), 48–60; D. Liscia Bemporad, "La Scuola Italiana e la Scuola Levantina nel ghetto di Firenze: prima ricostruzione," in: Rivista d'Arte 38:5, IV, II (1986), 3–49; idem, "Firenze, nascita e demolizione di un ghetto," in: M. Luzzatti (ed.), Il Ghetto ebraico, Storia di un popolo rinchiuso (1988); V. Meneghin, Bernardino Da Feltre e i Monti di Pietaà e i banchi ebraici (1974); P. Pandolfi, Ebrei a Firenze nel 1943, persecuzione e deportazione (1980); R.G. Salvadori, Gli ebrei toscani nell'eta' della Restaurazione (1814–1848) (1993); idem, Breve storia degli ebrei toscani (1995); Memorie della persecuzione degli ebrei con particolare riguardo alla Toscana, ANED-ANFIM (1989); E. Salmon, Diario di un ebreo fiorentino, 1943–1944 (2002); M. Longo Adorno, Gli ebrei fiorentini dall'emancipazione alla Shoah (2003); S. Minerbi, Unebreo fra D'Annunzio e il sionismo: Raffaele Cantoni (1992).

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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