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CREMONA:

Italian city in the plain of Lombardy; capital of the province of Cremona. The beginnings of the Jewish community in this city appear to date back to the middle of the twelfth century, but the first authentic notice is of the year 1420, when the decurions of the city renewed some earlier privileges of the Jews. They lived in the Via Giudecca (now Via Zuecca), where there was a large synagogue, and in a few contiguous streets; and they had a cemetery in the vicinity, designated to-day as "S.Maria di Bethlem No. 2174." In 1456 Francesco Sforza took them under his protection because of their fidelity to the state. In 1466-68 they were so numerous that the citizens petitioned Princess Bianca Maria Visconti not to admit any more Jews. The treatment received by the Jews in the territory of Milan was generally just. Their chief occupations seem to have been in commerce, banking, and agriculture. They fared ill, however, under Spanish rule. Charles V. permitted the preaching friars to excite the populace against the Jews; but this permission was rescinded in 1541 by Guido Ascanio Sforza, chamberlain of Pope Paul III.

The first considerable disturbance in the ghetto of Cremona occurred when steps were taken to enforce the bull of Pope Julius III. ordering all Talmudic works to be burned (1553). It was in 1559 that the inquisitor-general of the city ordered the Jews to deliver to the Inquisition all their copies of the Talmud. Some of them obeyed; but deputies of the various congregations protested in a memorial, and the governor of Milan intervened in their favor. The Inquisition, however, remained obdurate, and the Dominicans came to its aid. One of these, Hieronymus of Vercelli, was a vicar acting as assistant to the inquisitor-general of Cremona; the other, Sixtus of Siena, was an apostate well known to the Jews from his previous fanatical preaching against them in various parts of Italy. As a result of their agitations, a censorship commission was organized, to which were appointed Vettoria Eliano, another convert, and a Jew named Joshua dei Cantori. The last-named had lived in a feud with Joseph Ottolenghi, a scholar who had opened a school in Cremona, had edited many Hebrew works, and had helped to make Cremona a center of Talmud learning. Joshua was ready to avenge himself on Ottolenghi and his friends by joining the Dominicans in their denunciations, and the commission gave a decision against the Talmud and rabbinical works. These proceedings finally wore out the patience of the governor; he yielded, gave orders that the Talmud should be burned, and ordered Spanish soldiers to aid in searching Jewish houses and the printing establishment for the proscribed works. In April or May, 1559, between 10,000 and 12,000 books were publicly burned. Seven years later, in 1566, Hebrew books were again seized, but were immediately restored by the Senate. When Pius V. ordered the Jews to wear the badge, and forbade the lending of money on interest, Cardinal Borromeo extended the application of these measures to all the Jews of Lombardy. In 1582 a Christian, having murdered a Jew, was punished on complaint of the community; whereupon the Christian citizens of Cremona sent a deputation to Philip II. requesting the expulsion of all Jews. When the Bishop of Cremona was elevated to the papacy in 1590 as Gregory XIV., the Jews were in danger of being plundered, and dared not leave their houses for several days.

Expulsion 1597.

On receiving the deputation from the citizens of Cremona, Philip II. ordered a census of the Jews, and in 1592 their expulsion. But this order was not carried into effect by Volasco, the governor of Milan; on the contrary, he lent his aid to Samuel Coen of Alessandria when the latter offered to carry a petition to Madrid. Coen succeeded in persuading the king to withdraw the order. The inhabitants of Cremona and Padua, however, offered considerable sums of money to Philip as an inducement to expel the Jews, and, advised thereto by his confessor, he acceded to their wishes. At the same time the Jews were accused of fraud in regard to the taxes, and were thereby deprived of the protection of the state. When the order of expulsion arrived, in 1596, the Jews were unable to leave because of the war in Lombardy between the French and the Spaniards, and the governor permitted them to stay until 1597. A new decree was then obtained from the king, ordering an immediate expulsion, and Volasco was forced to obey it. He tried to soften the lot of the unfortunate Jews by advising a gradual emigration, and by aiding and supporting them with money; he also, hearing that the fugitives were being molested and annoyed, strictly forbade any ill treatment or plundering. Only two families were allowed to remain until the trial in connection with the taxes was finished, and then, after a decision had been given in their favor, these too left. The fugitives went to Mantua, Modena, Monticelli, Reggio, Verona, and Padua. No Jews have lived in Cremona since that time.

In 1588 the community of Cremona numbered 456 persons and was well organized. It had supported in 1550 a Talmud Torah under the direction of R. Joseph Ottling. There was also a club for study, "Bet El," the by-laws of which, dated Nov. 26, 1582, are still extant ("Ha-Asif," iii. 220), besides a charitable society, "Ḥonen Dal," whose constitution dated from 1591, when the community was already threatened with danger. The reputation of the community extended beyond its borders. The consent of the rabbis of Cremona was obtained on the occasion of the proceedings against Azariah dei Rossi's "Me'or 'Enayim" (see "Rev. Et. Juives," xxxiii. 86). The community was always ready to render aid to the persecuted, as in the case of the Maranos of Pesaro (ib. xx. 70); and when the communities of Italy sent a deputation to Rome to protest against the burning of Hebrew books, that of Cremona was the leader of the movement.

For many years there was a Hebrew printing establishment at Cremona, and when the publication of certain works was interfered with in other places, Cremona shared with Mantua the work of completing them. For example, the "Ẓiyyuni," one thousandcopies of which had been in course of publication and had been burned during the Milan troubles of 1559, was brought out in 1560. In 1556-61 and 1565-67 Vincenzo Conti published here in excellent form several important Hebrew works—the Psalms in 1561, the Pentateuch and the Megillah in 1566 (?). The device of the publisher shows Hercules with the hydra and the motto "Superavit ac virtus." Several other books were subsequently printed at Cremona (for instance, by Christopher Draconi, 1576); the editions were often very large, 2,000 copies of the Zohar being issued in 1559-60. The Jews regarded their works as safe from the Inquisition in the territory of Milan.

Rabbis of Cremona.

The earliest known rabbi of Cremona was Menahem Immanuel b. Abraham Raphael Coen Rapa Porto(1519). Then followed: Joseph Ottling (Ottolenghi [?]; 1555); Eliezer b. Elia Ashkenazi; Abraham b. Abraham Basola; Isaac b. Gershom Gentili; Abraham b. Kalonymus Pescarolo; Raphael b. Isaiah delli Piatelli; Moses Menahem Coen Rafa Porto; Abab b. Elia Ẓarfati; Joshua Samvil ben Jekuthiel; David Aaron Norlenghi (1596); Nathan da Cremona; Joshua and Jacob b. Elhanan Heilbronn (), born in Cremona; Abraham Menahem Coen Porto, who worked as corrector at Cremona in 1574.

Bibliography:
  • Alessandria, in Jew. Encyc. i. 340;
  • a "pinḳes" of Cremona, and the statutes of the societies mentioned, in Cod. Montefiore College, No. 94 (see Jew. Quart. Rev. xiv. 178);
  • Joseph ha-Kohen, 'Emeḳ ha-Baka;
  • Cremona Illustrata, Milan, 1865;
  • A. Pesaro, Cenni sull' ex-Comunità Israel. di Cremona, in Vess. Isr. 1882, xxx. 302, 339, 366; xxxi. 4;
  • Is. Bianchi, Sulle Tipografie Ebraiche di Cremona del Sec. xvi., Cremona, 1807;
  • G. B. de Rossi, Annali Ebrco-Tipografici di Cremona, Parma, 1808;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 3097;
  • Mortara, Indice Alfabetico, s.v.
G. I. E. G. J.
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