LEGHORN (Italian, Livorno; Hebrew, ):

Seaport city of Tuscany. Its Jewish community, although the youngest among the large communities of Italy, was for some time the foremost because of the wealth, scholarship, and political rights of its members. The first traces of a Jewish settlement are found about 1583. The endeavors of the Medici to promote the growth of the city and of the harbor brought in many new settlers; and the Spanish Maranos persecuted by Ferdinand II. also found a refuge here in 1590. In 1591 and 1593 all persons desiring to settle at Leghorn, including Jews, were assured the most extensive rights and privileges. Many Jews were attracted by this promise; and the community of Pisa received the privilege of founding a branch at Leghorn with a synagogue and cemetery. In 1597 the Jews of Leghorn received as a community autonomous rights.

Rights and Privileges.

The community had complete jurisdiction both in civil and in criminal cases. In 1593 a special judge was assigned to the Jewish court, from whose sentence appeal could be made only with the permission of the grand duke. As controversies arose regarding the extent of the jurisdiction, it was decreed that the infliction of severe penalties, such as sentences of death and penal servitude, should be confirmed by the public court. The Jewish court was abolished in 1808, when Tuscany was incorporated into the French empire; it was revived in 1814, its jurisdiction, however, being confined to questions relating to marital law. In 1822 such cases also were assigned to the municipal courts, the directors of the community retaining the privilege of giving advisory opinions. Since 1866 the "Codice Civile" and civil marriage obtain in Leghorn as throughout the kingdom.

Synagogue at Leghorn.(From a photograph.)

The Leghorn community had the right of succession in all cases where the deceased died without natural or legal heirs. This privilege was likewise abrogated in 1808 by the French laws, and was never restored.

When the Jewish community was established (in 1593) the directors were empowered to grant safe-conducts and immunity as regards previous crimes and debts to all Jews who settled at Leghorn, and the latter were accepted as citizens by the communal directors on a majority vote of two-thirds. The right of immunity in the case of previous crimes was soon abrogated, while that of immunity from debt was limited in 1786 to debts that had been incurred more than four months previously; and this rule continued down to 1836. The right of naturalizationhowever, remained in force until 1859, when the Jews received full citizenship.


From the beginning the Jewish community had the right to impose taxes for the purpose of defraying its expenses. This right was confirmed in 1715, 1782, and 1814. In 1829 it was even amplified. The taxes were as follows:

  • (a) "Ẓorke ẓibbur," ½ per cent of their income, payable by all Jews living at Leghorn, or engaged in trade or commerce there, and having a yearly income of more than 1,500 lire.
  • (b) "Diritto nazionale," a duty on all goods imported or exported by Jews through the port of Leghorn, at the rate of ⅛ per cent for resident and ¼ per cent for non-resident Jews. Merchants were required to keep a special column in their books for this tax.
  • (c) Beginning with 1767, a special tax upon private synagogues, in order to prevent their multiplication.
  • (d) Special tax on meat slaughtered according to the Jewish ritual. In recent times all these taxes have been gradually abolished, and a single tax, "sussidio obbligatorio," covering all the needs of the community, has been substituted.
Constitution of 1780.

When the municipality received its constitution in 1780, Jews were declared eligible to the municipal council, though they were excluded from the magistracy; but as house-owners they had the right to send a deputy to the latter, which deputy took part in the government of the city, and had the same privileges and salary as the Christian magistrates. The municipal constitution of 1808 abrogated this privilege; but it was renewed in 1816 and remained in force down to 1845, when Jews became eligible to all municipal offices.


The administration of the community, which in the course of time underwent material changes, was entrusted at its foundation in 1593 to a council of five members, designated "capi" or "massari della sinagoga." They had to be prominent, well-to-do merchants; they were elected for one year, and were not immediately reeligible. In consequence of irregularities during an election, it was decreed in 1637 that the massari should be designated by lot by the community of Pisa; but owing to repeated irregularities new methods were adopted in 1642, and five massari were appointed from a council of fifty persons who had been chosen from among all merchants and house-owners over twenty-five years of age. In 1667 in addition to the massari there was a council of twelve deputies, who were elected for life. There was furthermore a council of forty "able and capable citizens" in three commissions, from whom the massari were chosen. In 1693 a great council of sixty members, having all the rights of a modern parliament, was introduced; of this council twenty members sat in rotation each year, the entire body being convened only on important occasions. By this constitution (i.e., the constitution of 1693) the administrative corporation was divided into two bodies, one legislative and the other executive. It, however, remained in force only a short time. In 1715 another body of officers was introduced, when the grand duke appointed three members of the great council as censors for a period of two years. They were empowered to examine the books of the community and to supervise the expenses. On the extinction of the house of Medici the Duke of Lorraine confirmed the constitution, with slight modifications, and it was again confirmed in 1803 under the short-lived kingdom of Etruria. During this whole period the important principle prevailed that all the members be obliged to accept communal offices, and the administration be aided by a chancellor appointed and salaried by the grand duke.

Recent History.

The privileges as well as the constitution of the community were temporarily abrogated in 1808, when Tuscany was incorporated with France. Leghorn received the consistorial constitution drafted by the Sanhedrin of Paris in 1806, and was made the seat of a consistory for the Mediterranean district. Two rabbis and three laymen were appointed members of this consistory Sept. 6, 1810. In 1814 the old constitution was revived, and the grand duke appointed three massari for a period of three years and a council of forty for life. In 1861, on the establishment of the kingdom of Italy, the old constitution was entirely abrogated; and during the following interregnum the community was governed by three members. In 1881 the community was finally reorganized, with new statutes in conformity with the principles obtaining in most of the Italian communities.

The Jews of Leghorn suffered no persecutions, nor were any restrictions imposed upon them, during the entire time of their residence in the city. Their industry and ambition as well as their connections with the East contributed greatly to the development of commerce and industry. Thus Leghorn grew from a small fishing-village into a rich and powerful commercial center. The Jews dominated part of the commerce. A traveler of the seventeenth century says that the Christians had to keep holiday on the Sabbath on their account. The community, which consisted mainly of Spanish and Portuguese immigrants, retained the ancient traditions. Down to the nineteenth century communal business was transacted partly in Portuguese; the Spanish ritual was observed in the synagogue; important hafṭarot were translated into Portuguese; and sermons were delivered in that language. The Jews preserved also the gentility and self-confidence characteristic of them in their Spanish homes. In 1603 they built a synagogue which is still one of the finest architectural monuments of the city.

The rabbinate of Leghorn, continually acquiring new learned members from the East, and through its connections with the Sephardim of Amsterdam and London, was widely known for its scholarship. Many of the merchants also devoted themselves to study, taking up under the guidance of their rabbis medicine, astronomy, philosophy, and the classics, in addition to Jewish science. Of the numerous Jewish scholars who either were natives of Leghorn or lived there for some time may be mentioned: Solomon Ayllon, Ḥayyim Joseph David Azulai, Elijah Benamozegh, David Castelli, Benjamin Espinosa, Jacob Ḥagiz, Malachi ha-Kohen, RaphaelMeldola, Sabato Morais, Jonah Nabon, Immanuel Ḥaj Richi, and Hezekiah da Silva. The present (1904) chief rabbi, Dr. Samuel Colombo Coën, has published several sermons.

Through its connection with the East, Leghorn was always a center for cabalists, especially at the time of the Shabbethaian controversies; and even in recent times cabalists and mystics found support and encouragement in the city.

The community evinced interest in the general welfare, especially by ransoming prisoners landed at Leghorn. The members were also charitable toward their unfortunate coreligionists in foreign countries. In 1648 they levied a special tax for the benefit of the Polish Jews; and more recently they were among the first to join the Alliance Israélite Universelle. At various periods the Jewish community of Leghorn numbered 10,000 persons; as late as 1848 it was estimated to number 7,000. As the commerce of the city declined, many emigrated; and to-day (1904) there are about 3,000 Jews in the city. The community, formerly so wealthy, has become very impoverished.


Among the many philanthropic foundations the schools, which were once widely famed, are especially noteworthy. Besides the chapels, of which there are a number in addition to the large synagogue (two being named after the rabbis Ergas and Azulai), the following institutions may be mentioned: (1) Beneficenza Israelitica, organized in 1683 by the levying of a special tax and intended for the relief of the communal poor as well as for the ransoming of prisoners. Subsequently its operations were limited to giving pecuniary relief to the indigent. It has been enriched by many legacies. The trustees are at the same time trustees of the communal schools, Pie Scuole Israelitiche di Livorno, which, richly endowed, were the pride of the community, and excited the admiration of educators and travelers. As early as the beginning of the nineteenth century there were two Jewish schools, an elementary school with three grades and a higher school with six grades, having at that time together a fund of 86,000 florins. The schools subsequently received bequests from the Franchetti family. At present they include a kindergarten ("asili infantili"), an elementary school for boys and girls, a drawing-school for boys learning a trade, and a trade-school for girls. Instruction is given both in secular and in religious subjects. Connected with these schools is a rabbinical seminary ("istituto rabbinico"), which gives instruction in advanced Hebrew, rabbinical science, and theology, in addition to the regular college course. Included in the bequests made to these schools, which are among the wealthiest Jewish educational institutions in existence, are a large legacy by Samuele del Mare (1885) and a foundation for distributing prizes for scientific works. (2) Spedale Israelitico, founded in 1826 by Solomon Abudarham, and enriched by many bequests from his relatives and from the Franchetti family (building opened in 1863). (3) Moar Abetulot ("maritare donzelle"), founded in 1644 by prominent Spanish families for providing brides with dowries, and affording relief to impoverished members. The membership and government of this institution are hereditary; and, being in the nature of a family foundation, it has preserved the genealogies of all its members. (4) Malbisc Harumim, Vestire Poveri, instituted in 1654, for clothing the poor, especially the teachers and pupils of the Jewish schools. (5) Opera Pia Franco, founded by Joseph Franco in 1772 for the promotion of rabbinical studies, giving dowries to poor brides, and the support of Jews in Palestine. All these foundations have been recently obliged to change their statutes and government in conformity with the Italian law for the administration of philanthropic institutions.

Between 1650 and 1657 there was at Leghorn a Hebrew printing-press, and in 1703 another was established there; these together have issued many prayer-books, especially for the East, in addition to many cabalistic works.

  • Antologia Israelitica, i., ii., Leghorn, 1901;
  • G. B. Depping, Die Juden im Mittelalter, pp. 372-373;
  • I. Rignano, La Università Israelitica di Livorno e le Opere Pie da Essa Amministrate, ib. 1890;
  • Vivoli, Annali di Livorno, iii., iv. For the schools: Allgemeene Vaterlandsche Letter, pp. 353 et seq., Oefeningen, 1805;
  • Sulamith, ii. 1, 145 et seq.;
  • Zunz, G. S. i. 94;
  • comp. Corriere Israelitico, xi. 141.
  • On the printing-press: Steinschneider, Jüdische Typographie, pp. 62-63. For the rabbis: Mortara, Indice.
D. I. E.
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