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A reader’s journey through Jewish Italy.

World War II

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Italian dictatorship had already stripped Jews of civil rights and had expelled Jews who did not have Italian citizenship. When Italy entered the war in 1940, many Jews appealed to Mussolini and to the king, reiterating their loyalty to their country and requesting to be able […]

Twentieth Century

At the beginning of the 20th century, Jewish integration into Italian society appeared well on its way, as prime minister Luigi Luzzatti took office as one of the world’s first Jewish heads of government in 1910. Another Jew, Ernesto Nathan served as mayor of Rome from 1907 to 1913. Italian Jews volunteered in large numbers in […]

Nineteenth Century

The Jews’ return to medieval servitude after the Italian restoration did not last long. The Revolution of 1848, which convulsed across all of Europe, brought some improvements in the condition of the Jewish minority. Although this was followed by the restoration of the Papal States only four months later, in early 1849, the persecutions and […]

Napoleonic Era

The French Revolution abolished discrimination based on religion or origin; the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen guaranteed freedom of religion and free exercise of worship, provided that it did not interfere with public order. The conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte spread the modern ideas of revolutionary France. Under the influence […]


When Jews were exiled en masse from Spain in 1492, a great number of them took refuge in Italy, where they were given protection by King Ferdinand I of Naples. Don Isaac Abravanel was even granted a position at the Neapolitan court, which he retained under the succeeding king, Alfonso II. The Spanish and Portuguese […]

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, the fate of Jews in various parts of Italy was an alternation between prosperity and persecution. There were expulsions from Bologna in 1172 and from Trani in 1380. Under Norman rule, the Jews of southern Italy and Sicily enjoyed greater freedom. They were considered the equals to Christians and were allowed to […]


The fate of the Jews in Rome and Italy fluctuated, with partial expulsions being carried out under the emperors Tiberius and Claudius. After the Jewish revolts of 66 and 132 AD, many Judean Jews were brought to Rome as slaves and eventually freed through payment by Roman Jews. These revolts caused increasing official hostility from […]