TRAPANI , city in Sicily. Documents suggest that 200 Jews, constituting one-tenth of the town's inhabitants, lived in Trapani in 1439. Their share of the taxes, however, was one-sixth, and from 1426 they had to provide one-third of the guard for the town walls. The affairs of the community were directed by the prothi ("notables"), assisted by 12 elders. In 1484 the community adopted the unusual system of having the outgoing prothi appoint their own successors. Like all the Jews in Sicily, the Jews of Trapani were under continuous pressure to pay special levies to the sovereigns. In 1404 King Martin urged the prothi to proceed energetically against Jewish tax defaulters through excommunication, denial of circumcision for their sons, and exclusion from burial in the Jewish cemetery. Two years later he reconfirmed the privileges of the Jews, in consequence of the exceptional contributions they had paid. The brothers Samuel and Elia Sala, who in 1402 had been granted special privileges for services rendered to the royal house, were commissioned in 1405 and 1409 to negotiate the peace between the rulers of Sicily and Tripoli. In the meantime they ransomed the bishop of Syracuse from the Saracens. The Jews of Trapani made their living from trade, including shipping merchandise to Tunisia, and many worked in the manufacture of coral jewelry. The number of Jews obliged to leave Trapani at the expulsion in 1492 (see *Sicily) is estimated at about 300. In 1492, at the time of the expulsion many wealthy Jewish families left Trapani, but they returned a few years later as *Neofiti (baptized Jews). In 1499 the city negotiated the taxation of Jewish property that remained after the expulsion specifying that it concerned the newly converted Jews, and referring to the "assets, debts, silver, gold, jewels, and other things of the said former Jews, at present baptized." Shortly after its establishment in 1500, the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily concentrated its efforts against the converted Jews of Trapani and many were prosecuted. Inquisitorial registers list 80 converts living in Trapani after the expulsion.
Milano, Bibliotheca, index; Milano, Italia, index; Roth, Italy, index; Lagumina, in: Archivio Storico Siciliano, 11 (1887), 446–7; G. Di Giovanni, Ebraismo della Sicilia… (Palermo, 1748). add. bibliography: A. Precopi Lombardi, "Le comunità ebraiche del Trapanse," in: Italia Judaica, 5 (1995), 463–500; C. Trasselli, Siciliani fra quattrocento e cinquecento (1981); E. Ashtor, "The Jews of Trapani in the Later Middle Ages," in: Studi Medievali, 25 (1984), 1–30; A. Sparti, Fonti per la storia del corallo nel medioevo mediterraneo (1986); F. Renda, La fine del giudaismo siciliano (1993); A. Scandaliato, "Momenti di vita a Trapani nel Quattrocento," in: N. Bucaria (ed.), Gli ebrei in Sicilia dal tardoantico al medioevo, Studi in onore di Monsignor Benedetto Rocco (1998), 167–219; S. Simonsohn, The Jews in Sicily, 1–6, index; H. Bresc, Arabes de langue, juifs de religion. L'evolution du judaïsme sicilien dans l'environment latin, xiie–xve siècles (2001); N. Zeldes, The Former Jews of this Kingdom. Sicilian Converts after the Expulsion (1492–1516) (2003).
[Sergio Joseph Sierra /
Nadia Zeldes (2nd ed.)]