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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Italians of Today Could Have Jewish Ancestors

Nadene Goldfoot
Jewish settlement in Italy had started over 2,000 years ago from the Roman period to today.  Prisoners of war and slaves during the Roman-Jewish wars in Judea from 63 BCE -135 CE were brought to Rome.  In 70 CE Titus destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and had brought many Jews as slaves along with their Menorah which the Romans had stolen from the Temple.  Jews already living in Rome paid a ransom to liberate them.  At that time there were 10 synagogues in Rome that the Jews had built.  Judah Maccabee sent ambassadors to Rome in 161 BCE and they signed a treaty with the Roman Senate.  So Jews were in Italy from before the Christian era to today.  Jews were first settled there in the 2nd century BCE in Rome and were there to greet the Jewish ambassadors.  They were there  afterwards in the southern ports and along the trade routes.  Jews were known to live there in at least 40 places before the close of the Classical Period.

Catacombs give us evidence of their way of life and the high degree of cultural assimilation.  Their lives deteriorated with the Christianization of the Roman Empire in the 4th century (300's).  They were protected by the Popes against the worst excesses and their fundamental rights were maintained.

In the Dark Ages (500-1100) , the great center of Jewish life was in the south, in Bari, etc.  These places played a great part in bringing talmudic scholarship to Northern Europe.  The southern Italian communities were mainly involved in wholesale trade, but eliminated by the Venetians later, and in handicrafts like dyeing and silkweaving. Bari was the 2nd most important economic center of mainland southern Italy after Naples.  It was a city that came under Roman rule in the 3rd century BCE.  Their port for eastward trade was mentioned in 181 BCE and was the center of the fishery business.

In Sicily, there was a large proletarian community of manual laborers.  At the end of the 13th century, persecution in the kingdom of Naples drove large numbers of Jews to Christianity.  During this period, Jewish loan-bankers began to be invited for the public convenience into the towns of central and northern Italy.  This was the origin of the famous communities of Florence, Venice, Mantua, Ferrara, etc. 

In 1492 the Spanish authorities expelled Jews from Sicily and in 1541, from the kingdom of Naples where they never again returned.  During this period Jews in other areas lived well and comfortable and were influenced by the Renaissance of 1400-1600.

The Counter-Reformation with Pope Paul IV's bull cum nimis absurdum of 1555, their life deteriorated.  This is when the Italians created the GHETTO and oppression in Rome and the Papal States with this horrible policy which was later copied all over the country.  The GHETTO PERIOD lasted until the end of the 18th century (1555-1799).  Ghettos were started in Venice where Jews were segregated in 1517.  The concept of living in a quarter where only Jews could live behind locked gates, such as the ghettos were, started from the Lateran councils of 1179 and 1215 which forbade Jews and Christians to live together in close contact.  From the 15th century, the friars in Italy began to press for the effective segregation of the Jews so that Pope Paul IV ordered that Jews in the Papal States should be forced to live in separate quarters.  This was carried into effect in Rome and became the rule throughout Italy into the next generation.  They were overcrowed but not allowed to expand and frequently had fires because of this.  This was often accompanied by forced baptism and the wearing of the Jewish badge, ssermons to convert and occupational restrictions.  It was abolished in Italy in the French Revolutionary Period of 1789-99 but reintroduced locally in the 19th century and came to an end when Rome united with the kingdom of Italy in 1870.

Most Jews were found to be living in Ancona from 1300 CE on, Livorno from 1577, Roma, Venezia and Sicily in the south. 

Emancipation came at the time of the French Revolutionary Wars of 1796-97 but was canceled on the fall of Napoleon in 1814 and was reestablished with the consolidation of united Italy in 1840-70.  In the next generations, Jewish emancipation was more complete in Italy than in any other country of Europe.  Jewish positions  on the whole was maintained in the early years of Fascism in 1922, but it 1938, after Mussolini ended an alliance with Nazi Germany, a thoroughgoing anti-Semitic policy was adopted.  Jews were removed from office and many emigrated from Italy. 

Italy did not practice the Nazi brutality, but during the German occupation of northern Italy in 1943-45, violent persecution began and some thousands of Italian Jews were deported to the death camps.  Some 3,000 Italian Jews have settled in Israel.  The Jewish population in 1990 in Italy showed 34,500, of whom 15,000 live in Rome and 10,000 in Milan.  There must be many Gentile Italians with Jewish ancestors as well. 

Reference:  The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia excellent information
I Maccabees in Bible


F Déry said...

Didn't the Talmud talk about a connection to Romans and Spartans ?

Think about it.
Your god that you can't name, but is the base of many jewish names as yehu-,
he has a close similarity with Jupiter (Iouus or Jove).
Juno (Iuno) is the female counterpart.
Didn't God have a female counterpart Asherah that was worshipped as the Queen of Heaven?

Nadene Goldfoot said...

There would be knowledge about Rome as we lived in Rome, forcibly probably as slaves and otherwise after 70 CE (AD for you). No, our concept of G-d has no shape and certainly not in the form of an idol or statue. We use the letters hay, vuv, hay yud to designate G-d. We do not even like to use the term G-d,because we don't like to overuse the word; thus the omission of the "o". I would say a coincidence in using names with a Y which in Roman would be to use the letter J or I. Roman influence would only have occurred in around from 40 BCE to 132 CE when Rome had occupied Judah. This is far after the Torah (5 books of Moses) was written or the Tanakh (Bible), for that matter. No on Asherah being worshipped as the Queen of Heaven. The Shekhinah, or divine presence is in kabbalistic literature. It became a technical term for the 10th Sephirah which represents the "feminine" aspect of the Godhead in Kabbalistic symbolism. The 10th Sephirah is a term in Kabbalistic mysticism used in the 12th century CE to designate the 10 potencies or emanations through which the Divine manifests itself. It's very complicated and the prerequisite for studying this is you must be over 40 and deeply immersed in our religion as a background for understanding. Otherwise it's something that will just go over your head. No idols to worship is our belief. We don't even draw pictures of G-d. No counterpart worshipped. One. One G-d. Ekhad. One. A oneness.