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PISA:

Town in Tuscany, Italy, at the mouth of the River Arno; formerly a port of the TyrrhenianSea. The settlement of Jews in Pisa dates back to very early times; the first mention of a congregation is met with in the "Itinerary" of Benjamin of Tudela, who found twenty families there (c. 1165). The importance of Pisa as a commercial town renders it probable that the congregation continued to exist; and this supposition is directly confirmed by statutes of the republic issued during the thirteenth century, which exclude Jews from giving evidence, and command them to wear the Jews' badge. The population, possibly envious of the trade of the Jews, was hostile to them.

Some distinction was bestowed upon the congregation by the settlement of the Da Pisa family, whose members, by their eminence, education, and readiness to sacrifice, were extensively and benevolently active in behalf of the Jews. About 1400 Jehiel b. Mattithiah da Pisa founded a loan-bank in Pisa. He represented the congregation at the Congress of Bologna in 1415, and at Forli in 1418. His grandson, Jehiel, a Mæcenas of Jewish poets and scholars, was a friend of Don Isaac Abravanel, who was associated with him and who while still in Spain laid claim to his assistance for his oppressed brethren. At the same time, Jehiel himself was in danger; as elsewhere in Italy after l450, the Dominicans harassed the Jews in Pisa; and in 1471, apparently during the presence of Bernardin of Feltre in the city, an assault was made upon their houses. Numbers of fugitives from Spain and Portugal disembarked at the port of Pisa, among them the Yaḥya family. Isaac da Pisa, the son of Jehiel, took care of the fugitives and assisted them to find new means of support. The same intentions guided also his nephew, Jehiel Nissim b. Samuel da Pisa, who, in 1525, sheltered David Reubeni under his roof for several months, and furthered his enterprises, from which Jehiel expected much benefit for all Jews.

Pisa in the meanwhile had lost its independence and had become subject to the Medici, who, well aware of the advantages which the state would derive therefrom, permitted the settlement of Jewish immigrants from Spain and Portugal. When, about 1590, the Medici opened the harbor of Leghorn, they asked Jews to settle there also; and in 1593 the authorities of the congregation of Pisa, to which Leghorn was for the time being subordinate, were granted the privilege of naturalizing foreign Jews. The young congregation of Leghorn soon separated from that of Pisa and outnumbered the latter considerably. The Jews of Pisa fared as did those of other Tuscan towns. They were obliged to live in a ghetto, and were restricted in their rights; but in general they were treated kindly. With the entrance of the French, in 1798, the Jews were accorded full citizenship. The Restoration of 1814 acknowledged the independence of the congregation; the ghetto was abolished; and gradually the rights of the Jews were extended; but only the establishment of the kingdom of Italy (1861) brought full equality.

Old Tombstones from the Jewish Cemetery at Pisa.(From a drawing by Albert Hochreiter.)

Of rabbis and scholars in Pisa the following are known: Jehiel b. Mattithiah da Betel (14th cent.); Daniel b. Samuel Rofe b. Daniel Dayyan da Pisa; Raphael b. Eleazar Meldola (1750); Jacob b. Moses Senior; Eliezer b. Jacob Supino (about 1800); Judah Coriat; and A. V. de Benedetti. Active at the university were: Salvadore de Benedetti, the translator of Judah ha-Levi; Alessandro d'Ancona, for many years the dean; and Vittorio Supino, now (1905) also rector. David Castelli was secretary of the Jewish congregation in 1865. Pisa had temporarily a Hebrew printing-office in the eighteenth century.

In 1865 the Jews numbered 450; in 1901 there were 500 in a total population of about 61,300.

Bibliography:
  • Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section ii., part 27, p. 151;
  • Corriere Israelitico, x., xi.;
  • R. E. J. xxvi.;
  • Mortara, Indice, passim.
G. I. E.
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