The first traces of a Jewish presence in Soragna date back to 1543, when the papal chamberlain granted Giuseppe Colombo di Giacobbe, from Jena, permission to open a lending bank.

In 1547, the notary records of the local feudal lord registered a debt with Jsepe hebreo banker in Soragna, which resulted pay interest of 18%.

The following year, the Jews of Soragna appear again in a petition, filed by a number of coreligionists from Parma and Piacenza, to postpone, by one year, the expulsion ordered by the Commissioner of Borgo S. Donnino. They agreed not to conduct lending, but only to regulate previous transactions. The extension of residence permits was granted for two months.

In 1553, the Jews of Soragna asked and obtained from the new Spanish rulers reconfirmation of a 10-year license they had received in the past from feudal authorities. These  permits granted greater freedom than that accorded by Francesco II Sforza. In fact, among other privileges, Jews were allowed to buy and sell homes, as well as other real estate.

In 1555, after the restrictions imposed by the bull of Paul IV, and the subsequent expulsion of the Jews from Parma, the 1562 bull of Pius IV maintained the prohibition against residing in Parma and Piacenza, but allowed the lending in some parts of the state, including Soragna. This privilege was renewed again in 1578.

After a short time, the Jewish population of Soragna expanded. The feudal lord, in addition to dispensing operating licenses, guaranteed enforcement to insolvent debtors, without the need to undertake procedural actions.

In 1584, the Marquis Diofebo Meli Lupi regulated, in detail, the lending procedures. Lenders were entitled to keep books in Hebrew, provided that correspondence was kept in Italian. In return for money, lenders could receive hay and wheat, but only for family use. Finally, the Jews were allowed to buy houses in Soragna, to dwell and hold religious services and to buy land to bury the dead. They were also free to move elsewhere, with a notice of six months, and allowed the redemption of pawns.

The general population incurred severe financial penalties if anyone kidnapped Jewish children for the purpose of conversion. Jews did not have to wear a badge and had full authority to take money borrowed from coreligionists.

In 1606, Pasotto Foa was sentenced to a fine and three lashes (later pardoned) for wounding a Christian, with whom he played sbaragliino, while Vitalino Foa was involved in a brawl that broke out during a card game (for which a Christian was sentenced).

In 1749, Philip of Bourbon ordered a secret census of the Jews in his duchy. According to this document, 5 Jewish families were living in Soragna, a total of 26 people. The Uditore Lucio Bolla noted that their homes were all located on the main street and that were intermingled with those of Christians.

Economic activities, in addition to lending, included animal and land trade, goose feathers for mattresses and yarn, thread and ropes, as well as the brokerage. Also in this period, several plots of land and houses were owned by Jews.

The network of Jewish banks in Soragna – and in the nearby towns such as Fiorenzuola, Colorno, Bussetto, Cortemaggiore – was authorized by the Holy See, between the end of 1500 and the middle of 1600.

In the 18th century, there are several public calls aimed at preventing anti-Jewish expressions during the carnival. However, in 1791, riots instigated by the clergy broke out because of a controversy concerning an edicola with a Madonna located on the wall of a house owned by a Jew. The edicola had been closed down by the Holy Office and then reopened by the new Christian owner when the Jew still lived there.

Conversions are also documented throughout the history of the community: Beniamino Fano in 1683; two young sons of Angelo Foa in 1687; and finally, in 1746 , Simone Cases.

In Soragna, a ghetto was neither established nor requested. On a map from 1749, the synagogue is located in the so-called Casa Grande deli Hebrei, where it had been functioning presumably since the second half of the previous century. Service took place according to the Sephardi rite.

Today, the 17th century Aron ha-Kodesh resides in the synagogue of the Knesset in Jerusalem.

Source: Italia Judaica