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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
In the Thirteenth Century.
City in central Italy; capital of the province and former duchy of the same name. The Jewish community of Ferrara was one of the most flourishing and important in Italy, and it gave to Judaism a number of prominent men. It would seem that Jews existed at Ferrara in 1088, but not until the thirteenth century was their number large enough to give them a status in history. In 1275 an edict was issued in their favor, with a clause providing that neither the pope nor the duke nor any other power might relieve the authorities of their duties toward the Jews. The community must have been of importance at that time, because many well-known men became residents of the city with the view of winning members of the community to support one side or the other of the controversies then raging among the Jews. Thus Hillel of Verona regarded Ferrara as a desirable field for his efforts in defending Maimonides' philosophy, and at the same time Solomon Petit considered the city a suitable place wherein to conduct his fight against it. The tosafist Moses ben Meïr was probably an older contemporary of these two rabbis (Zunz, "Z. G." p. 57). Moses' father, or son, Meïr ben Moses, was rabbi at Rome and a friend of R. Isaiah di Trani, and is known for his liturgical compositions (Vogelstein and Rieger, "Gesch. der Juden in Rom," 1:376). Of the existence of Jews in Ferrara during the fourteenth century the only evidence is furnished by the name of a rabbi, Solomon Hasdai, who was active at Bologna also.
Under the Dukes of Este.
Under the dukes of Este in the fifteenth century the community developed rapidly. It was the aim of these rulers to strengthen the economic condition of their country by attracting settlers. The growing need of credit facilitated the settlement of Jews, who probably were at first admitted here, as to other states of Italy, as money-lenders, though they afterward became active as retailers, manufacturers, and tradesmen. The Jews were allowed autonomy; and the government appointed a special judge to adjudicate matters between Jews and Christians. Though the Jews were permitted to dwell anywhere in the city, most of them lived together in certain streets, which were collectively called "La Zuecca." The community of Ferrara was at that time large enough to be represented at the rabbinical congresses of Bologna (1416) and Forli (1418). It was the duty of Elhanan ben Menahem Portaleone and Joseph Hezekiah ben Moses, delegates at Forli, to see that the enactments of the congress were carried out, and that the money necessary to secure papal intervention was paid at the proper time. The Jews of the Romagna shared in the privileges granted by Martin V. in 1419 to secure to the Jews generally the protection of their rights. Fanatical priests, it is true, constantly sought, by threats of excommunication, to incite the populace against the Jews, to prohibit the sale to them of provisions, and to break off all relations with them; but upon the combined requests of the archduke Lionel and the Jewry, Nicholas V. assured the latter the fullest protection and forbade all further incitation to trouble on the part of the priests. The same pope was also petitioned in 1451 by Duke Borso for immunity for having extended to the Jews, who had lived there "from time immemorial," the privilege of further residence, and for having granted them permission to build synagogues. In return for the legal protection which Borso accorded the Jews, the state imposed high taxes upon them, while the princes no doubt borrowed money from them without paying interest. The Jews were further called upon on various occasions to undertake special tasks. In 1456 Borso forced them, as a penalty "for insults to religion," to lay out at their own expense a long avenue of poplars. The dukes of Este not only protected the Jews, but even offered an asylum to those who were persecuted. Thus in 1473 Duke Ercole I. declared, probably in answer to the pope's request for their expulsion, that in the interest of the duchy he could not spare them, and that he would therefore relieve them not only from all special burdens, but also from the payment of the sums formerly extorted as taxes by papal legates. On account, however, of the magnificent buildings which were beingerected, the burden of the ordinary taxes had become so heavy that Alfonso I., in confirming (1505) the privileges of the Jews of Ferrara, decreed that the communities of the province should bear a part of that burden.
The expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal proved to be a matter of great importance to the community of Ferrara. Ercole I., at the instance of his wife, Eleanora of Naples, granted to twenty-one families which had landed at Genoa the privilege of settling in his territory and of leaving it at any time. They were allowed to follow any trade, to farm the taxes, and to be apothecaries; and the duke even promised to secure for them papal permission to practise medicine among Christians. Their baggage was to be admitted free of duty; but, since the revenues were farmed, and the matter was out of the jurisdiction of the state, the customary rates had to be paid on merchandise. The refugees were to share all the privileges of the other Jews, with the exception of establishing loan-offices, though afterward permits were granted even to do this. On Nov. 20, 1492, the fugitives received their passports, and on Feb. 1, 1493, the final agreement was made. Among those who signed this compact were members of well-known families, like the Naḥhmias, the Abulafias, and the Francos. The immigrants were physicians, merchants, and artisans.
Settlement of Maranos.
The kind treatment of the duke soon attracted to Ferrara other fugitives, among whom were many Maranos from Portugal, who now openly professed Judaism. The Christian population gladly received the newcomers (all of whom they called "Portuguese"), since they were wealthy and intelligent citizens through whom the flourishing city entered into new commercial relations and was taught new industries. By their share in the commerce of the Spanish colonies, from which they brought Spanish wools, silks, and crimson, as well as of India, whence pearls were imported, they greatly developed the commerce of the city. They likewise stimulated the export trade by their transactions with Maranos in Flanders, Lyons, Rome, Naples, and Venice. The population of Ferrara grew rapidly at this time. Under Ercole the city doubled in population, and there was a rapid development of industries, especially in silk and cloth. The Jewish community of Ferrara is said to have consisted of 3,000 souls. The fact that the sum paid by it—5 per cent of the total property of the Jews—as "Turks' tax" amounted to one-third more than that paid by the community of Rome, is an indication of its development and increasing resources.
It is true, however, that the Estes could not free themselves from all the prejudices of the time. They, also, regarded it as a "mark of respect" for the Jews to be distinguished from the Christian population; thus Alfonso I. "in grazia loro" decreed that the Jews and Maranos should wear the Jews' badge, an "O" with an orange-yellow stripe a handbreadth wide. A "monte di pietà" (pawn-shop)—one of the institutions established by Christian socialism in opposition to the Jews—was opened at Ferrara in 1507, without, however, ruining the Jews there as in other places. Religious disputations, also, were forced upon the Jews. Ercole I., his wife, and his brother compelled Abraham Farissol to dispute with several monks (after 1505), and to write his arguments in Italian, so that his opponents might examine and refute them. Under Julius III. the Inquisition was allowed to proceed against the Jews, and as a result the Talmud and other rabbinical writings were burned (1553).
The compact between Ercole II. and the arch-enemy of the Jews, Pope Paul IV., made the condition of the Jews worse. Taxes for the maintenance of the House of Catechumens at Rome were then rigorously exacted. Isaac Abravanel II., whom the Estes highly esteemed as a physician and philanthropist, was imprisoned on a charge of treason, but was found innocent and released.
But the princes were not so blind as not to perceive the beneficial effect of Jewish immigration upon the general welfare. In 1534 Ercole II., especially emphasizing the loyalty of the Jews, confirmed them in all their former privileges, allowed the Maranos free admission to his territories, and granted them permission to openly profess their ancestral faith. At a time when hatred of the Jews was strongest and the fiercest persecution was general, Ferrara remained a bulwark of religious liberty, an asylum for "heretics"; the expelled Jews of Naples and Bologna found a refuge there, as did also the Maranos from Ancona, the duke assuring them perfect religious freedom. When Pius II. wished to abolish the pawn-shops, Alfonso II. decidedly opposed the step, because he felt that the interest of his country demanded their retention.
The Earthquake of 1570.
In 1570 (Feb. 16-17) a terrible earthquake visited Ferrara, "on which occasion many houses and about twelve churches, monasteries, and nunneries were destroyed. Under the ruins of the houses about 200 persons met their death, but not a single Jew perished. The wealthy and liberal Jews who owned houses, courts, or enclosed gardens, opened them and received every one who came, so that some of them harbored no less than 100 strangers; they cared for the needs of the poor, provided fuel for them, and clothed and fed them" (Joseph ha-Kohen, "'Emeḳ ha-Bakah"). The Jews felt themselves so closely connected with the house of Este that when in 1581 Princess Leonora, the friend of Tasso, fell sick, they offered public prayers in the synagogue for her recovery. She herself was a friend of the Jews and repeatedly protected them. Her husband, Alfonso II., also showed his good will toward them; during the famine of 1590 he distributed bread among 2,000 Jews and 200 Spanish and Portuguese Maranos.
The prosperous condition of the Jews, which rested on the favor of the ruling prince, came to an end when, in 1597, the last Este died without leaving any direct male heir. The pope claimed the duchy, and received it after a short resistance, Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini taking charge of it in behalf of the Curia. Amidst the shouts of rejoicing which greeted the papal legate upon entering the city, the cry was heard: "Down with the Jews!" Great anxiety took possession of the community, especially the Maranos, who dreaded the rule of thepope; and about one-half of the Ferrara Jews migrated to Modena, Venice, and Mantua, so that the census of 1601 showed only 1,530 Jews in a total population of 32,860.
The new ruler, however, proved himself more just than the Jews had anticipated. The cardinal soon became convinced of the importance of the Jews for the commerce and industry of the city; and he granted to the Maranos a respite of five years, which he had obtained with great difficulty from the pope.
On Feb. 17, 1598, was issued a constitution which provided that the Jews in the city and duchy of Ferrara were to be tolerated only on condition that, commencing with May 24, both men and women wore the Jews' badge. Permission to engage in trade was renewed; but the farming of taxes, the keeping of animals, and the acquisition of real estate were prohibited. Within five years all property in the hands of Jews was to be sold—a provision which was carried out in 1602. The number of synagogues was limited to one for each rite; and for the permission to sustain them the Jews had to pay a tax to the House of Catechumens. They were allowed to have only one cemetery (public obsequies being entirely prohibited), and to use Hebrew books only when provided with the imprimatur of the censor. Every new arrival had to report himself to the authorities within three days. Lending money on interest and banking were forbidden to the Jews, being permitted to the monte di pietà exclusively. This provision, however, failed as early as 1599; and the excited population was quieted only when the Jews were again allowed to open banks, a privilege which remained in force till 1683. Other enactments tending to mortify the Jews and to lower them in the eyes of the populace were issued, and finally the severest measure which the papacy ever adopted against the Jews—the institution of the ghetto—was extended to Ferrara (1624). A commission of twelve noblemen appointed to protest against the proposed measure gained nothing except a short respite. During 1626-27 the Via Sabbioni, Via Gattamarcia, and Via Vignatagliata, where the greater part of the Jews had lived for many years, were enclosed by five gates erected at their expense. All Jews were obliged to take houses there that they might be better protected and guarded. The regulations for taking possession of lodgings by the Jews and the newly established "jus ḥazaka" were published in sixteen paragraphs. Among the decrees enacted by the papacy, likewise "in the interest of the Jews," was one ordering one-third of the male members of the community of the age of twelve years and upward to be present at the delivery of sermons directed toward their conversion. The church in which these sermons were preached was at a considerable distance from the ghetto, and on the way thither the victims of intolerance were often grossly insulted. On this account a more convenient place was chosen in 1695. Forced baptisms, likewise, were not unknown. Jurisdiction in the case of difficulties between Jews and Christians was still exercised by the "giudice dé savi"; and the efforts of the bishop in 1630 to have the powers of that officer annulled proved vain. Furthermore, until 1708 the Jewish authorities were allowed jurisdiction within the community, appeal from their decisions being permitted only in cases where more than five scudi was involved. In that year, however, the united efforts of the lawyers were successful in securing the abolition of this partial autonomy.
It was natural that such treatment should reduce the wealth of the Jewish population more and more; the ghetto was too poor; and high rents oppressed the impoverished community. Petitions to limit the number inhabiting the ghetto and to reduce the taxes were flatly refused. The result was that the debts of the community and the interest charges grew from year to year; and the richer Jews, obliged to make ever greater sacrifices, emigrated. According to a greatly overestimated report of the papal legate made in 1703, among the 328 families was one whose wealth amounted to 80,000 scudi; ten others possessed between 5,000 and 8,000 scudi; while 148 tradesmen were unable to pay taxes, and 72 lived on alms ("R. E. J." 16:249). Naturally, the repressive laws produced among the general population a malicious disposition toward the Jews. In 1648 a Jew sentenced for murder was frightfully tortured. The populace seized the opportunity to commit greater outrages in the ghetto; and similar excesses are reported in the years 1651, 1705, 1744, 1747, and 1754.
On such occasions, it is true, edicts to protect the Jews were issued by the papal legates; but, on the other hand, the populace was reminded of the existing strict laws, and all intercourse with Jews and all services to them were forbidden. Thus at Ferrara the rigid Roman decree of 1732 referring to the Jews was introduced; and in 1733 an edict was issued prohibiting the employment of Christian servants and enjoining a strict censorship of Hebrew books. Jews might neither travel nor visit fairs without the permission of the Inquisition; and in their journeys they were to wear the Jews' badge. This last provision, however, was abolished in 1735. That in spite of such cruel laws and mental torment the community nevertheless continued to exist was due to the discrepancy between the law and its execution. The population was often more friendly than the papal government to the Jews; and the officials quite frequently failed to enforce the laws.
Under French Rule.
These conditions changed in 1796 with the entry into Italy of the French troops, who proclaimed in Ferrara "the rights of man," so that all civil disabilities were removed from the Jews. On Oct. 3, 1796—during the New-Year festival—the French civil and military authorities visited the four synagogues, where they were received with joy, being escorted back in triumph. The attacks made by the Catholics against the emancipation of the Jews were successfully refuted in pamphlets. The Jews were admitted into the municipal guard; and in 1797, at the instance of the French general Latner, the gates of the ghetto were torn down. The Jews proved themselves worthy of their new rights and duties, and in a short time the municipal guard included nine Jewish officers and the municipality four Jewish officials.
The reign of liberty was, however, of short duration. On May 23, 1799, Austrian troops entered the city; the fury of the populace was directed against the Jews, who had to be protected by the soldiers, and for a whole week dared not leave the ghetto. The community was sentenced to pay a fine of 5,000 scudi, and all the ancient laws were enforced. In 1802 the French returned as bearers of liberty; and equality of rights showed itself in the election of three Jewish representatives to the council of the Italian republic. Full liberty was given for religious worship; and in 1803 the clergy was advised not to receive Jews too hastily for baptism. The Vienna Congress of 1814-15 restored the papal government; but times had changed, and a new, liberal spirit permeated the nations. In 1815 Pius VII. demanded the removal of the Jews from public offices, but did not otherwise interfere with their liberties. On the whole, he showed a friendly disposition.
Under his successor, Leo XII., the tendency again prevailed to torture and to kill the Jews, on the plea that "they had tortured and killed Jesus." The ghetto gates were restored at the expense of the Jews, and closed on Jan. 13, 1826; many of the old enactments were enforced, especially the prohibition against keeping Christian servants. The military guarded the ghetto to see that no one lighted fires for the Jews on the Sabbath and on festivals; but, more humane than the pope, the soldiers themselves took pity on them and lighted the fires. Under such circumstances many Hebrews left for the more tolerant Tuscany. In 1827 several more of the provisions of the old laws were renewed. The Jews were prohibited from leaving the city without permission, from having intercourse with Christians, and from owning real estate after the short time allowed for its sale had elapsed. When Leo died the entire population felt relieved; and the vehement hatred against the medieval papal régime showed itself clearly in the revolutionary days of 1831, when the gates of the ghetto were again torn down, and the Jews received all rights as citizens. What remained of the ghetto was enclosed by chains.
Gregory XVI. was on the whole friendly disposed toward the Jews, but even his government allowed them no liberties. When in 1837 a public funeral procession took place on the occasion of the burial of Rabbi Reggio, the community was severely punished. Nevertheless the liberal national movement made rapid progress. The Jews enjoyed the friendship and esteem of the better classes of Christians; they participated more and more in public affairs; and the most respectable "casinos" received them as members.
Hopes Under Pius IX.
With the election of Pope Pius IX. all the dreams and hopes of the noblest and best were expected to be realized. Italy was to be freed and united. His accession was hailed with general jubilation, the Jews being no less enthusiastic than their fellow citizens. Dr. Moses Leone Finzi of Ferrara caused an allegorical painting to be executed for the occasion with the inscription: "Mild in punishment, a god in forgiveness—such is the true picture of Pius." Supported by the citizens, the Jews asked to be granted emancipation. The cardinal legate, Ciacchi, thereupon ordered the removal of the ghetto gates, and only the pillars were allowed to remain. These, also, were destroyed on March 21, 1848, by the professors and students of the Athenæum amidst great jubilation on the part of the noblest and best of the citizens. General fraternization and removal of all religious differences was the watchword of the time. Borsari wrote in defense of the Jews; the Circolo Nazionale, which advocated the union of Italy, sent Salvatore Anau as delegate to Turin, and afterward elected him a member of the constitutional national assembly at Rome; while four Jewish representatives were elected to the new provincial diet. Equality was obtained; and the sacrifices of the Jews for the national cause were justified. To be sure, the hour of final deliverance had not yet come. In 1849 the pope was reinstated by the Catholic powers, and Austrian troops were charged with the protection of his dominions. The Jews suffered most from the change; for they lost their briefly enjoyed liberty. They had to resign all offices and to withdraw from all societies, and even the old prohibition against leaving the city without permission was enforced. In 1857 Pius IX. visited the city. A deputation which asked for the abolition of this decree was kindly received, and the old law was soon abolished. This was the last time that the community was compelled to ask a favor of the pope; for in 1859 the Assemblea Nazionale delle Romagne at Bologna ratified the incorporation of Italy with the kingdom of Sardinia under the scepter of Victor Emmanuel II.
All civic differences between Jews and Christians were immediately removed. The extension of the Piedmontese constitution to the kingdom of Italy admitted the Jews of Ferrara to full citizenship. That emancipation was complete was shown by the fact that some Jews were at once elected to the Consiglio Comunale. The first Jewish member of the Parliament was Leone Carpi of Bologna, who had had to pay with a long exile for his patriotic participation in the national movement. Another sign of the changed conditions was the attendance of the highest authorities at the services held in the synagogue to commemorate the reception of the duchy into the kingdom of Italy. Since 1861 the community has evidenced its warm patriotism in all matters pertaining to the new kingdom, and has given to the state a number of deserving citizens. In 1891 the Jews of Ferrara numbered 1,465 in a total population of 68,000.
The Constitution of the Community.
The Jewish community of Ferrara had to develop under the legal conditions described above. It is not known at what time it was first organized nor what its first constitution was. The first record of its activity dates from the congress held at Forli in 1418. At that time the community possessed all the usual institutions of an organized commonwealth. In 1452 it exchanged its old cemetery for a new one. In 1469 Jacob ben Elijah of Cagli donated to the community a book of prayer, accompanying it with a deed of gift. In 1481, through the generosity of Sev (Ze'eb) Samuel Melli of Rome, it secured in the Via Sabbioni a house to be used as a synagogue, which still serves thesame purpose. The same benefactor left a legacy in 1485, the income of which was to be used for giving gratuitous instruction in Hebrew and in the Jewish religion, as well as for the support of the poor; and after Melli's death in 1486 the community organized its first benevolent institutions. The immigration from Spain and Portugal brought the community a large increase in eminent, wealthy, and highly educated members; but at the same time it brought discord and difficulties. The Spanish Jews not only retained their own ritual and erected special houses of prayer, but in every respect formed a separate community of their own. They had their own rabbi, their own Talmud Torah, and in 1550 laid out their own cemetery. In 1531 a house of prayer according to the German rite was built.
The "Università degli Ebrei."
The prevalent distress and continued persecution warned the factions in the community to unite, and union was easily brought about where the interests of the whole coincided. Isaac ben Judah Abravanel, grandson of Don Isaac, rendered great service in this connection after 1550. Though true to Spanish traditions, he was everywhere recognized as leader on account of his noble character and his unselfish devotion to the interests of the community; and he represented the community at the Ferrara Congress of 1554, which adopted resolutions that became binding upon the Jews throughout Italy. After the earthquake the need of a new organization for the community asserted itself. On April 5, 1573, there was held under the leadership of Don Isaac Abravanel a meeting which suggested that the entire community, under the title of "Università degli Ebrei di Farrara," be placed under the control of eighteen delegates to be elected by lot, such delegates to choose annually from among themselves a president and a treasurer; that each member who possessed more than fifty scudi should be obliged to contribute toward the communal funds; and that a commission of eight members, among them three rabbis, be appointed to fix the sum to be raised and to make the assessment. These propositions having been agreed to, the community was at once organized, and Abravanel was elected president.
The payment of the first assessment was effected by each member placing his share in a sealed box, and declaring under oath that it was the correct amount due from him. Although at first intended for three years only, this method proved so practical that it continued to be followed for centuries. The next beneficial result of the new organization was the union of the German synagogue with the Italian, and of the Bolognese with the Neapolitan, Naples having a short time before expelled the Jews, who had then been received by the dukes of Ferrara.
Under the popes the community had to limit the number of its synagogues. The laying out of cemeteries was also made difficult. The administration of the community was in the hands of a large board of sixty-two members and of a smaller one of ten, assisted by the rabbinate. Their main care was that of the finances. Besides the ordinary taxes, the community was obliged to pay high rents for the houses in the ghetto, whether inhabited or not, and whether the tenants themselves were able or unable to pay the rentals. It thus came about that at the end of the papal régime the community had a debt of 32,450 scudi. Added to this, the ever-increasing pauperism made necessary the expenditure of larger sums in charity. In spite of great expenses, however, instruction of the young was not neglected. In 1626 the school was reorganized; besides the income from the Melli legacy, it received congregational support. In 1630 it was united with the Italian synagogue. To defray all charges the taxes were naturally very high, and many wealthy people on this account left the city. The board, therefore, obtained in 1632 the right to prevent any one removing his wealth from the city without permission, and it was later on decided that those who should leave be required to pay 2 per cent on their property toward liquidating the communal debts. These resolutions brought about continual friction; but they were nevertheless carried out, no doubt on account of the impoverished condition of the community. Outside Jews who did business in Ferrara had to pay a trade-tax. The executive board of the community, called "massari," found their efforts warmly seconded by the papal legate; and obedience to them on the part of Jews was often ordered by the authorities.
The changes under the rule of the French necessitated a new organization. The members formed themselves into a Società dei Pagatori, within which four committees were formed: (1) for the payment of debts; (2) for administering the ghetto property; (3) for benevolence; and (4) for worship and instruction, the recommendation being made that special attention be paid to instruction. In the budget of 4,000 scudi there was needed 2,000 scudi for charity alone; for the interest on debts, 1,500. The new society entered upon its existence in 1798 under the leadership of Angelo Pacé Pesaro; in 1807 some changes were made in its organization; for example, the expenditure of a certain sum in monthly pensions for soldiers was added to its budget. In 1808 the community became a part of the French consistorial organization, which continued to be in force till 1815.
With the return of the popes was restored the ancient form of administration, including the former obligations of the "gazaka" and the former taxes. Two massari represented the community in extra-communal affairs. Communal activity showed itself especially during the famine of 1854 and the cholera epidemic of 1855.
Upon the union of Ferrara with the kingdom of Italy the Ferrara community came under the Ratazzi law of Piedmont, by which it is still governed. The last relic of ancient times was the debt owing to the House of Catechumens, payment of which was demanded and made in 1865.
In ancient times many places of prayer according to the Italian rite existed in private houses. By the donation of Sev Samuel Melli the community received in 1481 a special synagogue building, in addition to which the old places of devotion continued in existence. After the year 1492 houses of prayer for the Sephardic rite were built, and with the permission of the Inquisition the German Jews also opened asynagogue in one of the existing houses of prayer (1532). Each congregation had its rabbi and its own charity-budget. About 1570 the community had ten houses of prayer; and the Jews regarded as a visible sign of divine protection that during the earthquake of 1570 churches and monasteries tumbled down, but "in none of the ten houses of prayer and small sanctuaries of the Lord in Ferrara was divine service interrupted. True, fissures appeared in the walls, but the people were not prevented from offering prayer in the morning and evening" (Azariah dei Rossi, "Ḳol Elohim," toward the end). In 1573 the founding of the Università degli Ebrei di Ferrara, a fusion of the German and Italian congregations, took place. Under the papal régime there was only one synagogue for each of the various rites; in 1603 the German synagogue was transferred to the building formerly occupied by the Italian. In 1798 the latter was separated from the Melli foundation and incorporated in the property of the community. In 1842 and 1867 the building in the Via Sabbioni, which had stood for centuries, was thoroughly renovated. The beautiful Spanish synagogue still has its own administration. Of the peculiar religious usages in the Ferrara synagogues Isaac Lampronti makes occasional mention in his "Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ." The synagogue according to the German rite possesses a manuscript list of the various minhagim, which is ascribed to Rabbi Olmo; another manuscript collection of Ferrara minhagim is in the city library of Frankfort-on-the-Main.
Under the Melli foundation the community received an annual income wherewith to provide a teacher for the poor. From this was developed the Talmud Torah, in which elementary instruction was supplemented by advanced courses in the rabbinic academy. The Spanish had their own Talmud Torah, which, through the efforts of Isaac Lampronti, was united in 1739 with that of the general community. The great attachment of the pupils for these institutions is shown by legacies to the library and to the funds for poor pupils of the Talmud Torah. Not only was instruction given in Hebrew and in the Jewish religion, but the teaching of Italian was likewise gradually introduced; the latter, however, was abolished after 1859, when the general schools were opened to the Jews. Since 1849 the community has also had a kindergarten ("asili infantili"). At all times great care has been bestowed upon the development of the schools of Ferrara, the community as well as individuals making great sacrifices to this end. A large, costly library bears testimony to this day to the zeal with which studies were once prosecuted.
The oldest cemetery, situated beside the monastery of S. Girolamo, was in 1452 exchanged by the community for another in S. Maria Nuova. The purchase of a cemetery in 1626 was rendered very difficult by the Curia. The Spanish rented a special cemetery in 1550, and bought it outright in 1574; in 1600 they were obliged to lay out a new one, which was enlarged in 1647; sanction for a further enlargement in 1739 was obtained only with great difficulty. The tombstones were demolished by the populace, used as building material by the government, or stolen and placed in Christian cemeteries with new inscriptions. On this account no old inscriptions are preserved at Ferrara. In 1869 the community laid out a new cemetery, toward the expense of which the city contributed. The Spanish then united with the rest of the community and sold their old cemetery site. The Saralov family alone still possesses a burial-place in the old Spanish cemetery.
Foundations and Societies at Ferrara:
Samuel Melli of Rome left to the community for charitable purposes the income from his house in the Via Sabbioni, and also his goods and chattels. In 1626 the important society Arcicon Fraternità Ghemillud Assadim, afterward called "Misericordia," was organized to take care of the sick poor and to provide for burials. In 1661 the society of bearers ("kattaflm"), and in 1665 that of the grave-diggers ("ḳabbarim"), separated from the parent organization. In addition smaller societies were formed for the help of the sick and the dying, as the Marpe ha-Nefesh (1700), Beruḥe El (1750), Yedide El (1810). The many applications for charity made to the societies often caused pecuniary embarrassment, which was relieved through contributions from the community and from individuals. Since 1877 all these societies have been united under the name "Anshe Ḥesed," which organization, under the direction of the rabbi, is managed by a commission.
In 1718 Rabbi Jacob Daniel Olno established the society Ḥadashim li-Beḳarim, whose object was to provide for the daily minyan and study and to keep certain of the fasts. With this was afterward combined the duty of providing fuel for the poor and of aiding them in paying their rent. This society is subventioned by the community. The Raḥame 'Aniyim was founded in 1820 by pupils of the Talmud Torah to provide candles in cases of death; with this were afterward combined other organizations of pupils which looked after the welfare of the school and of their poorer fellow students, such as the Biḳḳur Ḥolim (1742) and the Malbish 'Arumim (1782); likewise the Shalom Rav, founded in 1698 by Rabbis Jacob and Angelo Zahalun for the purpose of delivering lectures on the Sabbaths, and enlarged by I. Lampronti to a charitable organization. Besides the regular members, the society, which was reorganized in 1856, admits ladies as honorary members.
The Raḥamim, a society for reading the Torah on holidays, was established in 1800 by persons who met every Sabbath for a repast, and who wished to give their society a religious character also. Siinah (e., Siyyua "Aniyim), or II Soccorso, was established in 1850 for the purpose of making small loans to merchants; afterward it distributed books and money as prizes to diligent pupils. A society known as "Maḥziḳe Umanut" or "Arti e Mestieri," founded in 1840, was dissolved, since under the existing laws Jews found no masters and no employment. In the same manner many religious and humane societies which originated in former centuries have been dissolved.
Besides these benevolent societies several legacies for the benefit of the poor are administered by the community. Joseppe Benedetto Alatino and Abraham Raphael Feglio (1755) left a legacy for poor brides. The Pesaro family made great sacrifices in 1737 in order to further the advancement of education. Angelo Pace Pesaro maintained the theological school in 1800 at his own expense. Leone Vita Pesaro left an income for the support of candidates for the rabbinate; in 1827 his descendants made this a permanent endowment, under the administration of the rabbi, for the support of theological studies and for the increase of the library.
Share in General Jewish Interests.
As in 1416 and 1418, so also later the Ferrara community took an interest in general Jewish matters. Twice it had the honor of being the meeting-place of an assembly of Italian Jewish notables. Shortly after the burning of rabbinical writings, June 21, 1554, fourteen representatives from Rome, Mantua, Ferrara, Bologna, Reggio, Modena, Padua, and Venice met under the presidency of Rabbi Meür Katzenellenbogen to deliberate on some important social questions and to strengthen the moral condition of the Italian communities. The resolutions of this conference have remained in force till the present time. In view of restrictions placed by the censorship laws upon the printing of Hebrew books, it was decided to publish no new book without the approbation ("haskamah") of three ordained rabbis. Every Israelite who bought books without an approbation was to be fined 25 scudi. It was also resolved that lawsuits were not to be brought by Jews in Christian courts without the permission of the community or rabbi. Decisions in civil suits were not to be recorded without the permission of the parties concerned. No rabbi might give a legal decision in the community of another rabbi unless the latter had previously given his permission and had refused to adjudicate the case himself. The enactment of R. Gershon concerning the perpetual right of lease was renewed and developed in Italy into the "jus gazaka," which was valid everywhere in the ghettos, even in the most ancient times. Gershom's prohibition of polygamy was also enforced. Whoever betrothed himself to a girl under ten years of age without the permission of the parents or guardians was to be excommunicated together with his witnesses. Finally, another clause was added, by which money-trading was condemned, and usury was threatened with severe punishment. The representatives of Ferrara who signed theprotocol were Elhanan ben Isaac da Fano, Samuel b. Mazliaḥ Finzi, and Isaac ben Joseph Abravanel.
Censorship of Jewish Books.
The destruction of Hebrew literature through the Inquisition likewise necessitated the interposition of the Ferrara community. After the Council of Trent the fate of Hebrew books was uncertain. On this account Abtalion ben Mordecai da Modena, rabbi of Ferrara, in 1581 visited Pope Gregory XIV. at Rome. After many interviews in Latin, one of which concerning the Talmud lasted more than two hours, he obtained a respite of the confiscation; but this did not remove the danger permanently. Under Sixtus V., who showed the Jews a toleration which seems incredible for that time, Jewish literature was again untrammeled. The Ferrara community bore its share in the sacrifices and the difficult negotiations which the passage of this measure had made necessary. It concurred in the resolution of the most prominent Italian communities to carry out through a commission a previous censorship of their own for Hebrew books; afterward at the Congress of Padua it was resolved to raise, by a special tax to be deposited in a central treasury at Ferrara in the care of Solomon da Fano, the amount necessary to cover the expenses of this censorship and of the reprinting of the Talmud. A commission sent to Rome under the leadership of Bezaleel Massari, which obtained permission to own and to print Hebrew books after a previous censorship and expurgation, included deputies from Ferrara. When new opposition to the printing of the Talmud arose, further sums were raised by the communities of Mantua and Ferrara, which pledged themselves to take 700 copies of the proposed Talmud edition. The commission for the expurgation of Hebrew books was formed in 1590, and, Ferrara having again raised the necessary funds, the ban against the Talmud was removed. That the Talmud was saved from the destruction to which it had been condemned was probably owing to the self-sacrifice of the Ferrara and Mantua communities (Stern, "Urkundliche Beiträge über die Stellung der Päpste zu den Juden," , Nos. 141 et seq.). All the later and less important attacks upon Jewish literature were easily repelled after this first victory.
It is not until the nineteenth century that the community again appears as representative of general Jewish interests. The Ferrara physician Bondi-Zamorain attended the Sanhedrin in Paris, and composed an ode in Hebrew and Latin for the opening of the council's first session. The Alliance Israélite Universelle as soon as it was organized found adherents at Ferrara, and, under the guidance of Rabbi Ascoli and Advocate Leone Ravenna, almost the whole community joined the new union.
In order to adjust the affairs of the Italian communityto the changed conditions, thirty-one delegates met at Ferrara on May 12, 1863; they protested energetically against the frequent forcible baptism of Jewish children, and resolved to ask the government for a reform of the laws of the community and for the right of the rabbis to grant divorces. They further proposed to make religious instruction obligatory, in order to promote a sense of religious duty; to disseminate good books on Jews and Judaism; and to found an Italian rabbinical seminary. Their resolutions remained without effect, however, and the congress which met at Florence in 1867, at which Ferrara was again represented, was equally unsuccessful.
Rabbis and Scholars.
The Jewish community of Ferrara takes pride in its possession of names held in high repute in Jewish history and in the world of letters. Moses b. Meïr of the thirteenth century, Solomon Ḥasdai of the fourteenth, and Elia di Ferrara and Menahem b. Perez Trabotti of the fifteenth deserve especial mention. In 1467 flourished the famous surgeon Jacob, court physician to the Estes, who brought Ercole I. through a serious sickness. In the sixteenth century the number of learned men must have been very great. In 1573 a rabbinical society was organized for the education of rabbis and teachers.
The Orientalist Emanuel Tremellius taught at the university; he was baptized, fled from Italy in 1542, and is said to have returned to Judaism at Heidelberg. A few years later Abraham Gallo (Francese Ẓarfati ?) held the professorship in Hebrew at the Ferrara University. The Marano Amatus Lusitanus was a professor of botany and anatomy, and also one of the prominent physicians of his time. Raffaello Mirami was a physician and mathematician. Many Jews attended the medical lectures of the famous Brasavola. Elia Pirro (about 1535) is often mentioned as a Latin poet. The sons and grandsons of Don Isaac Abravanel lived at Ferrara, and most of them are buried there. Don Isaac II. rendered especially important services to the community (see above); and of equal prominence for a long time was Donna Gracia Mendesia, who, with her daughters Gracia and Reyna, and her son-in law Joseph of Naxos, took refuge under the mild rule of the Estes. Under her protection lived the brothers Usque (see FERRARA, TYPOGRAPHY) and their relative, the poet Samuel Usque, author of the "Consolaçamas Tribulações de Ysrael" (c. 1565). Azariah dei Rossi, author of "Me'or 'Enayim," likewise lived at Ferrara; as did Abraham Colorni, architect and mechanician, whose services were sought by many courts of Italy and Germany, and Bonajuto Alatino, who in April, 1617, was compelled to take part in a public religious disputation.
During ghetto times there were among the rabbis of Ferrara several who were also famous as philosophical writers and physicians. Among these Isaac Lampronti occupies an honorable position; his fame is commemorated by a tablet placed by the city of Ferrara in 1872 in the wall of the house in which he had lived. Of merchants Moses Vita COEN was prominent and highly honored by the papal court. During the famine of 1764 he supplied the papal government with grain; a namesake of his, Moses Coen, was mayor of the city during the French occupation in 1799.
Leone Carpi and Enca Cavalieri are distinguished modern representatives of the community, and are also members of the Italian Parliament. Rossi and Angelo Castelbolognesi, travelers and explorers, should also be mentioned, as well as the Reggio family, all of whom belong to Ferrara.
The following is a list of the rabbis of Ferrara:
- Jacob b. Jekuthiel Corinaldo (beginning of sixteenth century).
- Judah Liwa (1511).
- David Levi.
- Zion Asher ben Eliakim Levi.
- Eliezer ben Samuel Ventura (1534).
- Menahem ben Perez Trabotti.
- Perez ben Menahem Trabotti.
- Solomon ben Moses Castelletto (1534).
- Johanan Treves.
- Joseph ben Ḥayyim (1546).
- David Darshan Isaac al-Ḥakim (1553).
- Ishmael Ḥanina.
- Abraham ben Daud da Modena.
- Solomon Modena.
- Jehiel II. ben Azriel II. Trabotti.
- Benjamin Saul ben Eliezer dei Rossi.
- Raphael Joseph ben Johanan Treves.
- Baruch Uzziel ben Baruch Forti (1557).
- Abraham ben Dia.
- Isaac ben Joseph da Monselice (first rabbi after the founding of the Academy).
- Moses ben Israel Finzi da Arezzo.
- Aaron ben Israel Finzi da Arezzo.
- Jehiel Nissim ben Samuel da Pisa.
- Ishmael Ḥanina ben Mordecai Rofe da Valmontano.
- Joseph Fikas of Fez.
- Benjamin ben Ephraim Finzi (close of the sixteenth century).
- Hezekiah ben Benjamin Finzi.
- Abraham ben Yaḳar (1590).
- Abraham Jaghel ben Hananiah da Monselice.
- Jacob Moses Ayash.
- Abtalion ben Mordecai of Modena (seventeenth century).
- Moses ben Menahem da Terracina.
- Eliezer David ben Ezekiel del Bene.
- Mordecai ben David Carpaneti.
- Hananiah Jaghel Monselice (1630).
- Judah Azael ben Eliezer del Bene (1650-65).
- Menahem Recanati.
- Pelatiah ben Hananiah Monselice.
- Isaac Jedidiah ben Samuel Borghi.
- Menahem ben Elisha Cases.
- Phineas ben Pelatiah Monselice.
- Hananiah Cases.
- Jacob ben Isaac Zahalun.
- Mordecai Recanati.
- Isaac Lampronti.
- Mordecai Zahalun (eighteenth century).
- Sabbato Sanguinetti.
- Raphael Emanuel Hai Rechl.
- Felice Umano.
- Joseph ben Isaac Jedidiah.
- Samuel Baruch ben Joseph Hezekiah Borghi.
- Elisha Michael Finzi.
- Jacob Daniel ben Abraham Olmo (1757).
- Jacob Moses Ayash.
- Joseph Mordecai Carpaneti.
- Samuel Bar Shalom Finzi.
- Nehemiah ben Baruch Coen.
- Isaac ben Close Israel Norsa.
- Moses Isaac Hai Pesaro.
- Jacob Hai Recanati.
- Judah Hezekiah della Vida (d. 1806).
- Joseph ben David Bassani (1827).
- Elhanan Sabbato Pesaro (1828).
- Issachar Ezekiel Reggio (1837).
- Leone Reggio ben Issachar (1870).
- Isaac Elijah Menahem Ascoli (1875).
- Benedetto Levi (1880).
- Giuseppe Jaré (....).
Ferrara contained a Hebrew printing-press as early as the fifteenth century. In 1476, almost contemporaneously with Reggio and Pieve di Sacco, Abraham b. Ḥayyim. () of Pesaro established a printing-press which competed with Conat's at Mantua. Abraham, however, produced (1477) only two works there, Levi b. Gershon's commentary on Job, and the greater part of the Ṭur Yoreh De'ah, begun by Conat in 1475 (see Zunz, "Z. G." pp. 218 et seq.). Abraham then removed to Bologna. In 1551 Samuel Gallus established a printing-house at Ferrara, and produced six works, Isaac Abravanel's "Ma'yene ha-Yeshu'ah" (1551) and five others (1552), the last being R. Meïr's "Hilkot ha-Re'ah." In the latter year Abraham Usque established a press, which existed until 1558. In the first year he printed only Judæo-Spanish and Portuguese works; but in 1553-58 he printed, according to De Rossi, twenty-seven Hebrew works, the first being Simon b. Ẓemaḥ Duran's commentary to the Sukkot "Hosha'not" and the last R. Pereẓ's "Ma'areket ha-Elohut." Steinschneider and Cassel (in Ersch and Gruber, "Encyc." section , part 28, p. 45) state that the "Amarot Ṭehorot" must be omitted, and the "Me'ah Berakot" and "Seder Ma'amadot" added to the list. Since 1558 only one Hebrew work is known to have been printed at Ferrara—at Filoni's printing house—viz., "Siddur mi-Berakah," the Italian liturgy (1693). The printers of this book were Joseph Nissim and Abraham Ḥayyim of Fano.
- G. B. de Rossi, De Typographia Hebrœo-Ferrariensi, Parma, 1780.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Ferrara'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/f/ferrara.html. 1901.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29