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]
Messina (mās-sē´nä), city (1991 pop. 231,693), capital of Messina prov., NE Sicily, Italy, on the Strait of Messina, opposite the Italian mainland. It is a busy seaport and a commercial and light industrial center. Manufactures include processed food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and construction materials. Founded (late 8th cent. BC) by Greek colonists and named Zancle, the city was captured (5th cent. BC) by Anaxilas of Rhegium and renamed Messana. It became involved in several wars, particularly against Syracuse and Carthage, and was taken in 282 BC by mercenaries called Mamertines. The Romans answered an appeal for help from the Mamertines and intervened in Sicily, thus precipitating the first of the Punic Wars. Messina was subsequently allied with Rome, and it shared the history of the rest of Sicily. The city was conquered by the Arabs in the late 9th cent. AD but was liberated by the Normans in 1061. It developed a thriving silk industry (which declined in the 18th cent.). Messina later came under the rule of the Angevins, the Aragonese, and the Spanish Bourbons. A heroic insurrection against the Bourbons took place from 1774 to 1778. Garibaldi took Messina in July, 1860, but the Bourbon garrison resisted in the citadel until Mar., 1861. The city suffered a severe plague in 1743 and major earthquakes in 1783 and 1908. The earthquake of Dec. 28, 1908, destroyed 90% of Messina's buildings, including fine churches and palaces, and cost about 80,000 lives; afterward the city was completely rebuilt in conformity with standards for quake-resistant construction. In World War II, the Sicilian campaign ended with the fall of Messina to the Allies on Aug. 17, 1943. Of interest in the city are the Norman-Romanesque cathedral (rebuilt after 1908) and the National Museum. Messina has a university, founded in 1548.