Today there are 30,000 Jews in Italy. There are 15,000 Jews in Rome, 10,000 in Milan, 1,600 in Turin, 1,400 on Florence, and 1,000 in Leghorn (Livorno). There are also a few hundred in Bologna, Genoa, Trieste, and Venice, and a smaller number in Alessandria, Ancona, Asti, Ferrara, Gorizia, Mantua, Merano, Modena, Naples, Padua, Parma, Perugia, Pisa, Siena, Spezia, Vercelli, Verona, Viareggio, and Casale Monferrato.
The Jewish Community of Rome is both the oldest Jewish community in Italy and Europe. The first Jews arrived in Rome in 161 B.C.E.. They came as ambassadors of Judah Maccabee to ask for Roman protection against Antiochus IV. Later on, many Jews moved to Rome because its position on The Mediterranean Sea was favorable for trading. They lived in Trasteverse, were all the strangers lived because The Roman Empire did not yet rule over Judea. In 70 C.E., Emperor Titus destroyed The Second Temple, Jerusalem, and Judea, and The Jews escaped in 2 groups. 1 group went to the Mediterranean area and became The Sfaradim. Another group went to Northern Europe and became The Ashkenazim. Titus brought a third group of Jews to Rome as slaves. They joined the local tradition. This tradition is The Nusach Italki, The Italian Rite, and is comparable to The Ashkenazic and Sfardic Rites.
During The Middle Ages, many Jews moved from Trastevere to the area around Ponte Fabricio. The Roman Catholic Church discrimnated against The Jews. The Jews were seperated and isolated from the rest of the population. In 1215, The Church forced The Jews to wear a distinctive device on their clothes.
In 1492, when the Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain expelled The Jews from Spain and The Reign of The Two Sicilies (Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia), Pope Alexander VI Borgia allowed these Jews to live in The Papal State. In 1555, the following Pope, Paul IV, established The Ghetto in Rome. In 1516, The Government of The Republic of Venice also made The Jews live in a ghetto rather than expel them. The area of The Ghetto in Rome was very small and surrounded by a wall with 5 gates. It was unhealthy and constantly flooded in The Winter. The Jews were permited to leave The Ghetto in the daytime but they had to be recognized as Jews. Ghettos in general were always in the middle of cities and surrounded by walls, and Jews could only leave them in certain times of the day. Jews were only allowed 2 professions: selling old clothes and lending money. Inside The Ghetto in Rome there were 5 synagogues, Scola Catalana, Scola Castigliana, Scola Siciliana, Scola Tempio, and Scola Nova. The objects from these synagogues are exhibited in a museum on the site of The Ghetto. The Ghetto was demolished in 1870 after the unification of Italy. The Jews then became Italian citizens.
In the early years of Benito Mussolini's Fascist movement, it was not characterized by anti-Semitism. Indeed, some Italian Jews were enthusiastic Fascists until the alliance of Italy with Germany, and even after it. Nazi pressure to implement discrimination against Jews was for the most part ignored or enacted half-heartedly. The appearance of Anti-Semitism in Mussolini's speeches, however, was a hint of the tragedy that was to come.
In 1938, The Italian Racial Laws discriminated The Jews again and striped them of their citizenship. In 1931 there were 48,000 Jews in Italy. By 1939 up to 4,000 had been baptized, and some thousands more chose to emigrate, leaving 35,000 Jews in the country. During World War II, Jews were interned in labor camps in Italy, but when The north of Italy was effectively occupied by The Germans in 1943, the threat to Jews became critical. In spite of German efforts to deport Italian Jewry to death camps, the willingness of much of the Italian population to shelter Jews meant that many Nazi efforts were stymied. However, during the German occupation (September, 1943 until June, 1944), 2,091 Jews were deported mainly to Auschwitz. Only 16 survived. In 1944, 335 Italians, including 75 Jews, were massacred in the caves outside of Rome (Fosse Ardeatine). Rome was declared an "Open City" during World War II because of the prescense of Pope Pius XII in the city. The Nazis did not touch the monuments including the synagogue which was sealed and reopened after the war. By the end of the war, The Nazis and some Italian Fascists had murdered 7,750 Jews.
A number of Ashkenazim from Eastern Europe, mainly Holocaust survivors, came to Italy after World War II. In more recent years, Italian Jewry has been bolstered by some 3,000 Libyan Jews who moved to Italy in The Late 1960's and Early 1970's.
In 1982, after Simchat Torah, there was a terrorist attack in the syngaogue. A 2 year old boy was killed and many people were injured. Since then they have had security provided by The Italian Police. Today there are several synagogues, from The Ashkenazic, Sfardic, and Italki Nusachim spread out all over Rome.
Prior to World War II, a small number of Jews, mostly originating from France, lived in Monaco. During The Holocaust, the government protected its Jewish citizens by changing records which would have revealed their Jewish identity. In the period following the war, Jewish families have come to settle in Monte Carlo primarily as retirees from France and The United Kingdom. In addition, North African and Turkish Jews have joined the community.
The Association Culturelle Israelite de Monaco, established in 1948, is the official Jewish representative body. The community maintains a synagogue in a house converted for that purpose. A community rabbi is employed who also oversees Monte Carlo's kosher food store, and teaches at the community's Hebrew School. B'nai B'rith, WIZO, and several other organizations are active.
Most of Malta's Jews are of North African origin due to Malta's close proximity to North Africa. It is a small commuity numbering around just 60 people. A synagogue opened in 1984.
The first Jews in Gibralter were Sfaradim who had crossed the border from Spain in The 14th Century. Many more followed in the ensuing centuries. When The British took possesssion, Jews were banned. Later they were allowed in as traders and in 1749, they were granted full permission to live there. Many North African Jews later arrived. The community flourished and the population rose to 2,000. After World War II, some of the community returned after being evacuated to The United Kingdom.
Andorra does not have a long Jewish history. There are currently about 15 Jewish families. The first synagogue was established in 1997. It leans towards The Minhag Sfaradi but is also influenced by its Ashkenazic members. There is also a community center.
Jewish merchants made their home in Cyprus during The Roman Empire. They were expelled after a revolt which destroyed the town of Salamis. Small Jewish communities were established in Nicosia, Limassol, and other towns during Medieval times but the community was never large.
Cyprus was seen as a possible "Jewish Homeland" by the early Left Wing Zionists. At the end of The 19th Century, agricultural settlements were established but they were not successful. Theodore Herzl himself tried to persuade The British Goverment to allow Jewish rule over Cyprus in 1902 but he was not sucessful in his attempt.
In The Early 1930's, some German Jews managed to escape to Cyprus.
After World War II, The British established detention camps for Holocaust survivors from many European countries who were caught attempting to enter what was then The British Mandate of Palestine. From 1946 until the founding of The State of Israel, The British incarcerated over 50,000 European Jewish refugees on the island.
Since the establishment of The State of Israel in 1948, only tiny numbers of Jews have lived in Cyprus. At different times, The Israeli Embassy has served as the place for some communal activity, such as religious services.
Israel had diplomatic relations with the British protectorate of Cyprus from Israel's earliest days, initially at consular level. These ties were expanded when Cyprus attained independence in 1960. Israel has an embassy in Nicosia.
There was a small community of Jews in Luxembourg in The Middle Ages that faces massacres and expulsions. Jews only began to resettle there several hundred years later. When Napoleon annexed Luxembourg, he heralded the rebirth of the community. By 1823, a synagogue had been built but the commuity remained small. In 1899, another synagogue was built.
In The 1930's, the Jewish population grew from 1,500 to 4,000, thanks to the immigration of Jews escaping Nazi Germany. Evacuations to France and efforts by Christian rescuers enabled the majority of these Jews to survive. Some 720 Jews were eventually deported, of whom 690 were murdered.
The Post-World War II population is dominated by returning Luxembourgers and their descendants, but recent Jewish immigrants have also made their home in the country.
The Consistoire Israelite, established by Napoleon, is constitutionally recognized as the community's representative to the government and is the organ through which the chief rabbi and one communal functionary are appointed. Both are financed by the government.
The community's main synagogue is situated close to the town center of Luxembourg City. Orthodox traditions are followed. Kosher food is not locally produced, but families who observe kashrut obtain meat and other foodstuffs from Brussels and Strasbourg.
Full diplomatic ties were established between Israel and Luxembourg in 1949. Israel's ambassador to The Grand Duchy resides in Brussels. Israel also has a Consulate General in Luxembourg City. Since 1948, 84 Luxembourg Jews have made aliyah to Israel.
There was a small community of Irish Jews that was expelled in 1290 along with the Jews from the rest of The British Isles. After The Jews were allowed to return, the community slowly grew again. A few Marranos settled in Dublin. There wasn't a strong community until 1822 when there was a significant influx of Jews from England and Eastern Europe. Immigration continued and after 1881, large numbers arrived from The Russian Empire. They mainly settled in Dublin due to its postition on The East Coast. Some of them settled in Ireland intentionally but others were decieved by their boat captains in thinking that they had landed in America.
In 1901, there were 3,800 Jews in Ireland. It is estimated that the highest amount of Jews in Ireland was at one time 8,000. Jews played a role in the struggle for Irish independence, and The Constitution of The Irish Republic, adopted in 1937, recognizes Jews as a minority and accords special status to The Irish Chief Rabbi.
Today, The Jewish Community of Ireland is almost exclusively concentrated in the capital city of Dublin and numbers around 1,000. Irish Jewry has been experiencing a great decline over the past 30 years, in part due to economic stagnation and a lack of opportunities. During this period, young Jews emigrated to The United Kingdom, Israel, and The United States. This has halved the community's population and diminished its activism.
The Jewish Representative Council of Ireland brings together various Zionist, youth, and women's organizations. The Chief Rabbi of Ireland supervises the republic's synagogues. All of them are in Dublin except for one in Cork. Past Chief Rabbis of Ireland have included Rabbi Isaac Herzog and Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, whom respectively, became The Chief Rabbis of Israel and of The British Commonwealth. The Chief Rabbi also supervises the kashrut of Dublin's kosher butcher. There are also several synagogues in Dublin.
There is a Jewish school, including a high school called Stratford that also has many Non-Jews among its student body and faculty. The Dublin Jewish News is published four times each year. The Jewish Museum in Dublin presents the history of Irish Jewry.
Robert Briscoe played an important role in the struggle for Irish independence and was twice Lord Mayor of Dublin. Apart from being an Irish patriot, he was also a Jewish patriot. He was a friend of Vladimir Jabotinsky and greatly aided The Zionist Revionisist Movement in its struggle for a Jewish state. His experience in clandestine military activity inspired The Irgun Tzvai Leumi, the Jewish underground.
Israel's first Ambassador to Ireland arrived in 1994. Since 1948, 673 Irish Jews have made aliyah to Israel. An Israeli President, Chaim Herzog, was born in Ireland.
Until The 12th Century, when Portugal emerged from Spain's shadow, Portuguese Jewry had a parallel history to Spanish Jewry. Jews worked with the Portuguese kings in developing the country. However, they were heavily taxed and had to live in special areas. But the community still flourished since they were free to practice their religion as they pleased.
Persecution began during the period of The Black Death. The Catholic Church was a key instigator of the riots which broke out against The Jews.
In 1492, when The Jews were expelled from Spain, many Jews fled to Portugal. However, the spreading influence of The Spanish Monarchy resulted in the expulsion of The Jews from Portugal on December 5, 1496. The Portuguese Dynasty feared that the departure of The Jews would economically cripple the kingdom so they forced conversion of tens of thousands of Jews to Christianity. The status of these Conversos, whether or not they welcomed "their" forced faith, was never fully accepted by "The Old Christians". In The 16th Century, an Inquisition was introduced that remained in force until 1821. The number of Conversos declined throughout these centuries of limbo, and many escaped to Western Europe and The Americas. By the time The Inquisition ended, the number of Conversos was unknown.
Jews have begun to come back into Portugal during since The Mid 1800's. Communities were permitted to settle there in 1892. This was reconfirmed at the time of The Portuguese Revolution in 1910. Prior to World War II, 380 Portugese Jews were in the country, together with some 700 Jewish refugees from other parts of Europe. During the war, neutral Portugal served as an escape corridor for thousands of refugees.
Today there are 900 Jews in Portugal. Lisbon is the main center of Jewish life, but there are some 200 Conversos in Belmonte who are in the process of returning to Judaism. A still smaller Converso community is found in Oporto.
Today's community has a Sfardic majority, but there is also a sizeable Ashkenazic group made up of post-war migrants from Germany and Poland. The Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa is the organization which unites local communal groups and links communities throughout the country. In Lisbon there are both a Sephardi and an Ashkenazi synagogue, but only the former is active. There are also synagogues in both Belmonte and Oporto. Kosher food can be obtained in Lisbon and Belmonte.
In recent years, a number of Portuguese have traced their roots back to Conversos. Some of these individuals, primarily in Belmonte, but also in Oporto, Macao, and Ortiga, have decided to return to Judaism.
In 1977, Portugal and Israel established diplomatic ties, and the consulate general in Lisbon was raised to the rank of an embassy. Portugal opened an embassy in Israel in 1991. Since 1948, 248 Portuguese Jews have emigrated to Israel.
An ancient synagogue, in Rua de Joaquim Jacinto, built between 1492 and 1497, and which has been re-opened as a museum, can be found in Tomar. There are also remnants of a Jewish quarter in Castelo de Vida. The Faro Jewish Cemetary and Museum is the only remaining vestige of the first Post-Inquisition Jewish presence in Algarve.
Today there are about 40,000 Jews in Belgium. The largest communities are Brussels, with 23,000 Jews, and Antwerp, with 15,000 Jews. Significantly smaller communities are located in Arlon, Liege, Mons, Ostende, Charleroi, and Ghent.
Jews first settled in Belgium in The 13th Century. They suffered a similar fate to other Medieval European Jewish communities, including being blamed for The Black Plague and suffering expulsions. The Sfaradim were the first Jews to resettle in Belgium, settling mainly in Antwerp. Conditions for The Jews improved after The French Revolution and more Jews settled in Belgium. The diamond center of Antwerp was developing rapidly at that time, attracting many Jews from Eastern Europe. Today, the involvment of Jews in the diamond exchange is such that the lingua franca of The Antwerp Diamond Exchange is Yiddish.
By 1939, the Jewish population grew to more than 100,000, many of them refugees from Central and Eastern Europe who were hoping to reach The New World. Some succeeded, but many were still in Belgium when The Germans invaded. During four years of Nazi occupation, and with the help of Belgian collaborators, 25,631 Jews were assembled in the transit camp in Mechelen (Malines) and were deported to death camps. Very few of them survived. Today, a national monument stands in Anderlecht in Brussels to their memory, listing the names of the victims.
The Comite de Coordination des Organisations Juives de Belgique is the community's roof body. Since Brussels is the capital of The European Union, the Belgian community also takes a special interest in issues on the European level. In addition, The World Jewish Congress has a Brussels office, and The European Union of Jewish Students is headquartered there.
The Antwerp community is traditional, tightly-knit, and features a large Haredi element. It is seen by some as "the last shtetl in Europe". Antwerp has some 30 synagogues, all Orthodox. A number of these also serve as houses of study for the Haredi sects, which are present in the city. Indeed, Antwerp has one of the largest communities of Haredim in The Diaspora. It includes Hasidim who follow the traditions of Belz, Ger, Czortkow, Lubavitch, Satmar, and Vishnitz. There are more than 10 synagogues in Brussels, including one Sfardic synagogue. The Chief Rabbi of Belgium is appointed by the community, and he officiates at the country's main synagogue near the heart of old Brussels. Both The Chief Rabbi and the main synagogue are funded by the government. Antwerp has an abundance of kosher restaurants, food stores, and Jewish bookshops. Kosher facilities are relatively sparse in Brussels.
The constitutional recognition of minority religions means that the various levels of government welcome independent schooling systems and provide funding for religious schools. There are seven Jewish schools in Antwerp and four in Brussels. The great majority of Jewish children in Antwerp are educated in the Jewish school system and receive an intensive religious education.
Among the main publications of the Brussels community is Regards. In Antwerp the leading Jewish newspaper is The Belgisch Israelitisch Weekblad. Individual organizations also produce magazines addressing particular agendas, such as the 2 publications focused on Israel, Israel Aujourd'hui and La Tribune Sioniste, and Los Muestros which is dedicated to Sfardic culture.
Belgium and Israel enjoy full diplomatic relations. Brussels is also the seat of the Israeli ambassador to The European Union. Since 1948, 4,000 Belgian Jews have emigrated to Israel.
The Jewish Museum in Brussels has both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The Mechelen transit camp can also be visited.
For British Jewish History, go to http://www.jonathan5742.com/Right_Wing_Zionist_Homepage/UnitedKingdom.htm.
For Scandinavian Jewish History, go to www.jonathan5742.com/Right_Wing_Zionist_Homepage/Scandinavia.htm.
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