SAN NICANDRO , small town near Bari, S. Italy. San Nicandro became noteworthy when 23 peasant families there adopted Judaism. About 1930 a winegrower, Danato Manduzio, inspired by a dream, began to preach the truth of the Mosaic law and the necessity of conversion to it. A self-educated man and a tenacious apostle of his new mystical beliefs, he and his followers finally adopted Judaism, despite the threats of the local clergy, the hostility of the Fascist authorities, and the dissuasion of the rabbinate in Rome, which feared that they, too, might suffer from the new anti-Jewish policy of the government. It is probable, however, that contact with members of the Jewish Brigade in the region (in Garagano and Foggia) in the 1940s and Zionist ideas reinforced the movement. The conversion of Manduzio and his followers was formally recognized in 1944. In 1948 Manduzio died. The following year the group moved to Israel where they joined the moshav *Almah in Upper Galilee. Not all of them, however, remained there and the group split up. In 1992 few of the remaining inhabitants were still adhering to Judaism and, according to a visitor to the area, it was mainly the women who continued to celebrate certain Jewish holidays in a private house that served as a synagogue (tempio). They tended to interpret biblical commandments rather literally, in a way that may be termed as "karaitization." But although they still observed some kashrut laws, they had little contact with rabbinical authorities, did not circumcise their sons, and the men declared they could not refrain from working on the Sabbath. In the early 2000s the group was not recognized as Jewish by rabbinical authorities.
E. Cassin, History of a Religious Phenomenon (1959); P.E. Lapide, The Prophet of San Nicandro (1953); J. Ben-David, in: jjso, 2 (1960), 244–58. add. bibliography: C. Cividalli, "Ritorno a San Nicandro," in: rmi, 39 (1973), 226–36; E. Trevisan Semi, "A Conversion Movement in Italy: Jewish Universalism and Gender in San Nicandro," in: T. Parfitt (ed.), Judaising Movements. Studies in the Margins of Judaism (2002), 65–85.
[Giorgio Romano /
Nadia Zeldes (2nd ed.)]