MESSINA , seaport in Sicily. Around the year 1171, Benjamin of *Tudela found 200 (families of?) Jews in Messina. Between 1279 and 1282 the community received the famous kabbalist Abraham *Abulafia, who gave instruction there to two disciples, Abraham and Nathan. In 1347 some Jews of Messina were accused of the ritual murder (see Blood *Libel) of a Christian boy and consequently sentenced to death, an event which was commemorated by a marble inscription in the cathedral. At that time, the Jews lived in a separate quarter called the Paraporto or Giudecca. Although the various communities in Sicily were under the jurisdiction of the *dienchelele, at one stage the Jews of Messina were exempt from it. Their community was administered by councillors (proti), who, with the assent of the elders, had the authority to excommunicate offenders against Jewish law. When he was dienchelele, Moses *Bonavoglia (Ḥefeẓ) of Messina intervened with Alfonso v in 1428 on behalf of the Sicilian Jews and succeeded in having the order concerning conversionist sermons revoked: in 1440 he constructed an assembly hall for the synagogue. In 1487–88 Obadiah of *Bertinoro was in Messina for some months. He gives a vivacious account of the conditions of the community in a letter to his father in Città di Castello. A manuscript of *Naḥmanides' commentary on the Pentateuch, revised and corrected by the scholars of Messina, formed the basis of the 1490 Naples edition. There were 180 Jewish families in the city in 1453. When the Jews were expelled from Sicily in 1492, some 2,400 of them left Messina. In 1728, permission was given for the return of Jews to Messina and the reestablishment of a synagogue, but the experiment was unsuccessful.
Elbogen, in: ri, 1 (1904), 108–11; G. De Giovanni, L'ebraismo della Sicilia… (Palermo, 1748), index; B. and G. Lagumina, Codice diplomatico dei giudei di Sicilia, 3 vols. (1884–1909), passim; E.N. Adler, Jewish Travellers (1930), 214; Roth, Italy, index; idem, Gleanings (1967), 291–7; Milano, Bibliotheca, index; Milano, Italia, index.
[Sergio Joseph Sierra]