Special to JTA Italian Supreme Court to Decide if Jewish Community Taxation is Constitutional

The Italian Supreme Court is expected to schedule hearings shortly to determine whether the so-called “mini-concordat” of 1930 which requires all members of the organized Jewish community to pay taxes to the community in addition to their municipal and federal. taxes is constitutional. The issue was brought to the courts by Jewish citizens of Leghorn involved in a dispute with the Jewish community there and by a Jewish immigrant from Libya who refuses to pay his taxes to the Rome Jewish community and refuses to withdraw from it.

The “mini-concordat” was concluded 50 years ago between the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and the Mussolini government. It recognized Jewish communities of Italy as self-governing entities which must levy taxes on their members to survive. The agreement is not to be confused with the Church-State Concordat which is up for long overdue revision.

If a Jewish citizen does not wish to pay the community tax, he is required by law to write a letter asking that his name be officially deleted from the membership list of the Jewish community in his town. This means that the citizen must give up synagogue membership rights to bar or batmitzvahs for his of her children, burial in the Jewish cemetery and free subscription to the monthly magazine, Shalom, among other communal services.

But Meir Nahum, a Jewish businessman from Libya who settled in Rome several years ago, believes he is entitled to remain a member of the Jewish community although he has stopped paying his taxes to it. Last week, the internal revenue service seized his dining room table and chairs which are valued at about $350 approximately twice the amount due the Jewish community before fines and legal fees were added. Nahum decided to contest the law and his case wound up in the Supreme Court.

FEAR COLLAPSE UNDER VOLUNTARY SYSTEM

In Leghom, a large city on Italy’s west coast, a group of Jewish citizens is not objecting to the taxes but to a regulation requiring an elected officer of the Jewish community to have a high school diploma. They contend that this is not even a requirement to become President of the Italian Stafe and are demanding the reinstatement of a community official whose resignation was demanded because he was “unqualified. “This case has also gone to the high court where it will figure in the constitutional test of the Jewish community’s authority under the 1930 concordat.

Both cases have received considerable publicity in the Italian press and have become on embarrassment to the Jewish community. While the system of community taxation may seem antiquated in terms of the free associations of Jews in other Western countries, many Italian Jews fear that the underlying structure and manifold services provided by the Jewish communities would collapse if contributions were mode voluntary.

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