CESENA , small town in north central Italy, formerly in the papal states. Cesena was once a flourishing center of Jewish learning, whose notable scholars included the tosafist R. Eliezer, living there in the 13th century, Obadiah b. Judah *Sforno (1475–1550), a near contemporary of Isaac Emanuel de Lattes, and David de Rossi, who went from there to Ereẓ Israel and settled in Safed in 1535. During the 14th and 15th centuries a Jewish community of almost 40 members lived in Cesena, devoted mainly to loan activities and trade. Some of them were doctors. During the 16th century the Jewish community grew to more than 50. From about the 1440s they owned a cemetery and a synagogue.
The Jews were formally expelled from Cesena, as from the other small towns in the papal states in 1569, but there is documented evidence of exceptions: in 1590 the municipality gave the banker Emanuele from Terracina the permission to work and take up residence with his family and his partners in the town.
During the Napoleonic era, Jewish presence in the coast near Cesena is documented from 1799. At the end of 19th century, after the Italian unification, a small number of Jews came back to live in Cesena from Faenza, Pesaro, Lugo and Forlì. In 1938, after the institution of the racial laws, 12 familes (45 persons in total) were identified – at least one Jewish parent – and discriminated against (15 professing Jews). In 1943 nine of them were deported and died in Auschwitz.
Roth, Italy, index; Milano, Italia, index. add. bibliography: M.G. Muzzarelli, Ebrei e città d'Italia in età di transizione: il caso di Cesena dal xiv al xvi secolo (1984); G. Iacuzzi and A. Gagliardo, Ebrei a Cesena 1938–1944: una storia del razzismo di stato in Italia (2002).