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Progress in Italy

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The Italian League of Jewish Communities has just published the first report of its activities during the period beginning June, 1933, and ending October, 1934.

The League originated as a result of the new laws governing Jewish communities in Italy and aims both to care for the combined Jewish religious and cultural life in Italy and to coordinate the activities of the individual communities. At the same time it is intended to be the most important, indeed, the only representative of Italian Jewry to the government and the outside world.

One of the principal purposes of the League was brought about by point six of the new law: “to participate in the general religious and social activity of Jewry by maintaining spiritual and cultural contacts with the Jewish communities abroad, and especially with those communities which, as a result of their tradition, are in close touch with Italian Jewry and with Italy.”


From the first report of the League, which is headed by Attorney Felice Ravena, noted figure in Italian Jewish life, it is evident that the principal effort has been bent towards giving moral, organizational and financial aid to various Jewish communities, particularly the smaller ones.

Many of the smaller Jewish communities, some of which have religious and cultural traditions which are very old (as for instance Alessandria, Mancalvo, Monferato, Sienna), are in danger of complete disappearance because their few Jewish families are, for both religious and economic reasons, moving to larger cities.

In those instances where a community seems definitely doomed to disappearance, the League has taken care that at least its archives and old libraries are preserved. This work has been intrusted to Professor Zonne of the rabbinical seminary of Florence. Professor Zonne is a Polish Jew who devotes all his time to research in Jewish manuscripts and is a bibliographical authority.


One of the more important contributions of the League was the transferring of the Florence rabbinical seminary to Rome and its complete reorganization. The 1934 budget of the League provided 70,000 lira for the seminary and two stipends for rabbinical candidates. A number of authorities have been added to the faculty of the seminary, which now includes Professor Freiman of Frankfurt am Main, Professor Cohn of Hungary, Professor Cosuto of Florence, (a member of the Imperial Academy of Science), and Professor Dante Lattes.

An attempt to establish a yeshiva for German Jewish students at Fiume, where Dr. Breuer of Frankfort was to settle at the request of the local Orthodox community, failed when the League opposed it on the ground that it furthered separatist activity while the new law sought unified work. The Fiume community leaders, motivated largely by economic difficulties, resigned, and the Jewish activities of Fiume are now being directed by a government official.


The Jewish community of Tripoli, which has problems peculiar to itself, has given the League much anxiety of a different nature. The community numbers some 16,000 souls. There is much poverty, which seems partly responsible for a rising number of mixed marriages, formerly a rarity among these people. Moreover, the group is spiritually and culturally backward and in need of much assistance.

With this in view, the League delegated Rabbi Dr. Castelhalaniesi of Padua to study the situation. He spent five months in the North African colony, attempting to unify the various community groups, to introduce religious instruction in the general elementary schools and to see to it that Jewish children are excused from school on the sabbath and on Jewish holidays. As a result of his efforts special classes have been promised for the Jewish children in schools where there are a considerable number of them, while where they are few they are simply to be excused on the days specified. If this arrangement is not kept by the authorities, the League will seek to establish special elementary schools for the Jewish children of Tripoli.


The League has also worked for German Jewry, its report shows. It has raised money for many who have been thus enabled to find definite occupation in Italian cities. About 400,000 lira were sent to the Central Aid Committee in London, 50,000 to the technical school at Haifa. The agricultural school maintained, with the consent of the authorities, by the Italian Fascist Organization, at Sienna, where twenty German Jews are being prepared for work in Palestine, received 20,000 lira. In addition, some 300,000 lira were expended by the Italian Relief Committee to aid German refugees in various ways.

As previously reported, the League, with the consent of Premier Mussolini, participated in the Jewish World conferences in Paris, London and Geneva, where Professor Sacerdoti was chosen a member of the executive committee which is to call the forthcoming World Jewish Congress.

The League has also intervened with Premier Mussolini on behalf of the German Jews, and with other leaders as well. Both for the German Jews and for the Jews in the Saar and in Austria they were thus able to procure assistance, the report indicates.


Altogether the document indicates a definite, positive, active approach to the problems presented to the League, and lists achievements which deserve publication. Italian Jewry needs a strong spiritual national force, an organization which can care for its cultural and religious needs, for the education of its you in the traditional Jewish spirit.

The League of Jewish Communities was created for this purpose, and from its first report seems to have this well in mind in attacking the problems of the 60,000 Jews of Italy.

“We endeavor to make our report help in strengthening the cultural worth, with the aid of which we were able to live through long centuries of martyrdom and which should give us the strength to continue to work and fight, in order that we may impart to our children the spiritual wealth we have received from our fathers, thanks to the countless sacrifices they have brought,” the document declares.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund