Casale Monferrato

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CASALE MONFERRATO , town in Piedmont, N. Italy. Jews first settled in Casale Monferrato during the 1430s. By the beginning of the 16th century, there was a small but well-organized community whose members engaged in commerce and loan-banking under the aegis of the Paleologi. Changes in the regime in 1536 led to anti-Jewish riots during which Jewish homes were pillaged. However, under the Gonzaga dukes (1536–1708) the rights formerly enjoyed by the Jews in Casale Monferrato were renewed. They were obliged to wear the Jewish *badge (a yellow cord sewn into the cape) and pay heavy taxes, in exchange for which they were permitted to engage in commerce, lend money on interest, and farm customs dues. A blood accusation was circulated in 1611, but no grave consequences ensued. Special privileges were granted in 1688 to the wealthy Clava (Katzigin) and Jona families. At that time the Jewish population numbered about 500 to 600. After Casale Monferrato passed to the dukes of Savoy (1709) the privileges formerly accorded to the community remained in force. During the 18th century the position deteriorated: in 1724 a ghetto was established in Casale Monferrato; the Jews were forced to sell their real estate and their economic situation was undermined. The Jews were granted equal civic rights during the French occupation of the area (1799–1814) but these were abrogated in 1814, and Jewish residence was again restricted to the ghetto. In 1848, the Jews were granted complete emancipation. The community then numbered about 850. Subsequently, the Jewish population in Casale Monferrato decreased because of migration to the large cities. The synagogue of Casale Monferrato, the "Oratorio Israelitico," was built in 1595. Its graceful arcades, recently restored frescoes, and numerous inscriptions make it one of the most interesting in N. Italy. In 1931 the Casale Monferrato Jewish community had 112 members. During the Holocaust period, 19 Jews were sent to extermination camps directly from the town and another few dozen inhabitants may have been deported from other places. After the war 44 persons remained in the community, which was reduced to a membership of 20 by the end of the 1960s. In the early 21st century a congregation of two dozen or so Jews, mostly from Milan and Turin, still worshipped at the local synagogue.


L. Ottolenghi, Brevi cenni sugli israeliti casalesi e sul loro sacro oratorio (1866); G. Levi, Le iscrizioni del sacro tempio israelitico di Casale Monferrato (1914); S. Foà, Gli ebrei nel Monferrato nei secoli xvi e xvii (1914); idem, in: rmi, 15 (1949), 113–21; Milano, ibid., 28 (1962), 181–202; Milano, Bibliotheca; J. Pinkerfeld, Battei ha-Keneset be-Italyah (1954), 31–33. add. bibliography: R. Segre, "Gli ebrei e il mercato delle carni a Casale Monferratonel tardo Cinquecento," in: E.M. Artom et al. (eds.), Miscellanea di Studiin memoria di Dario Disegni (1969), 219–37; A. Segre, Memoria di vita ebraica; Casale Monferrato, Roma, Gerusalemme 1918–1960 (1979); M.M. Modena, "'Il Sefer Miswot' della Biblioteca di Casale Monferrato," Italia 4 (1985),1–108; A. Segre, Racconti di vita ebraica; Casale Monferrato, Roma, Gerusalemme, 1876–1985 (1986); C. De Benedetti (ed.), La sinagoga degli argenti; arte e spiritualità ebraica a Casale Monferrato (1991); G. Levi, Benedetto tu sia al tuo entrare: le iscrizioni del sacro tempio israelitico di Casale Monferrato (1994).

[Daniel Carpi]