The Book of the Dead of the Jewish Community of Lugo di Romagna for the years 1658-1825

Friday June 26, 2020

Il Libro dei morti della Comunità Ebraica di Lugo di Romagna per gli anni 1658-1825 by Elena LOLLI.

Giuntina, Firenze, June 2020


Elena Lolli bookThis volume provides the Hebrew transcription and an Italian version of many parts of the Pinqas ha-nifṭarim or Register of the dead of the Jewish community of Lugo di Romagna, preserved in the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. This precious manuscript, which includes the death records of the Jews of the community for almost two centuries, from 1658 to 1825, in the first pages also contains the statutes issued by the Ḥevrat Gemilut Ḥasadim i.e. Good Works or Mercy Society, the charitable association in charge of the burial of the members of the community. This document, which survived, thanks to its acquisition by the American university before the Nazi-fascist bonfires, is of extreme importance and unique in Jewish archival heritage. The manuscript seems to have no comparable specimens due to the richness of narratives, biographical and bibliographic details relating to the activity of illustrious deceased, such as rabbis, intellectuals or bankers – and often also their wives – to whom the scribe dedicates real biographical factsheets. The records offer a precise overview of the rites and prayers, the night vigils celebrated at the home of the deceased, the description of his cultural interests, the works he wrote, his character and his merits. The data of individual members, including women, indicate with certainty professions and social characteristics, which help to clarify the dynamics of the integration of a Jewish group of northern Italy, well rooted in the territory where it lives and interacts with the Christian majority of which numerically reaches ten percent. The Jewish community of Lugo was formed, in fact, as an effect of the Devolution of the Duchy of Ferrara to the Pope, which occurred in 1598, when the new sovereign forced the Jews to concentrate only in three cities: Ferrara, Cento and Lugo. Through the palaeographic analysis of the different hands that have compiled the manuscript in two centuries and thanks to the Italian version of the most significant parts, the daily life of a small but important Jewish community of the Po Valley that in the era of the ghetto, between the 17th and 18th centuries, was one of the most important Yešivot, is reconstructed. Rabbis and intellectuals of the Jewish community of Lugo have left us, even if scattered throughout the world, in Israel, Europe and the United States, an incredible amount of Hebrew manuscripts, such as registers with the minutes of the Council meetings and of the brotherhoods, Talmud commentaries, treatises and prayers. The book includes statistical data on mortality, the indexes of the deceased in Hebrew and Italian, the reconstruction of genealogical trees of the most important families of the community and a photographic apparatus of some pages of the manuscript.

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