City in central Italy; formerly the capital of the duchy of Modena. Of its Jewish community, which has been, during the last few centuries, one of the most important in Italy, there is no record until a comparatively late date. Although Jews were living in the territory of Modena as early as the year 1000, no reference to them as dwelling in the city itself occurs before 1450. There, as in so many other places, they seem at first to have been bankers who established themselves in Modena with the approval of the dukes of Ferrara, and they were treated exactly like the other Jews in the duchy. On the extinction of the house of Ferrara in 1598, the duchy did not come under the control of the States of the Church, but of a collateral branch of the house of Este. The Jews of Modena did not suffer to the same extent, therefore, as their coreligionists elsewhere, although they were subject to all the hardships of the ecclesiastical laws.
The Jewish community increased considerably in the seventeenth century, when it occupied an important position because of its rabbis and of the studies which were pursued there. Prominent among its scholars of this period was Abraham Joseph Solomon Graziano (d. 1685). Cabalistic thought predominated; and the community was one of the first to introduce the daily penitential services . The political status of the Jews remained uncertain, with the exception of a temporary improvement during the French Revolution; and the Jews were not emancipated until the city was incorporated with the kingdom of Italy in 1861. In 1845 Cesare Rovighi of Modena edited the first Italian Jewish periodical, the "Rivista Israelitica," which was published at Parma.
The following rabbis and scholars of Modena may be mentioned. Fifteenth century: Samuel of Modena, corresponded with Joseph Colon (Responsa, No. 128). Sixteenth century: Gershom b. Moses; Abraham b. Daniel Modena (1543), author of many liturgical prayers; Baruch Abraham da Spoleto b. R. Pethahiah (1584). Seventeenth century: Gershom b. Israel Chezigin, Menahem b. Elhanan Cases, Moses Israel Foà b. Vardama, Judah b. Jacob Poggetto, Abraham Rovigo b. Michael Raphael, Moses David Valle, Elijah Usili, Meshullam Levi, Naḥman b. Naḥman b. Joseph, Joseph Melli b. Joseph Israel,David b. Elijah Ravenna, the above-named Abraham Joseph Solomon Graziano (1685), Aaron Berechiah Modena, Ephraim b. Elijah da Ostra, Abraham Jedidiah b. Menahem Samson Basilea. Eighteenth century: Judah Maẓliaḥ Padua ( -1728), Manasseh Joshua Padua (1728), Ephraim Coen (1728), David Coen b. Abraham Isaac, Jacob Ḥayyim b. Reuben Yaḥya, Moses b. Levi Li, Abraham Ḥai b. Menahem Grassini, Abraham Vita Sinigaglia b. Solomon Jedidiah, Solomon Jedidiah, Abraham Vita II., Moses Elijah b. Solomon Jedidiah (d. 1849), Ishmael Coen b. Abraham Isaac, Ephraim b. Joseph Gallico. Nineteenth century: Elishama Meïr Padovani, Solomon Nissim, Solomon Teglio, Moses Ehrenreich, Solomon Jonah, Giuseppe Cammeo.
Since 1900 the monthly "L'Idea Sionista" has been published at Modena by Carlo Coniglia, professor of law in the university there. At present (1904) the Jews of the city number about 1,200 in a total population of 64,941.
- Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section ii., part 27, p. 156, s.v. Juden;
- R. E. J. xx. 35 et seq.;
- Mortara, Indice, passim.