A commercial city and an important seaport, situated at the head of the Adriatic; ethnographically Italian, but politically Austrian. Although no consecutive history of the Jews of Triest has ever been written, much information concerning them may be gleaned from unpublished documents preserved in the municipal records. The city was originally an insignificant town, and first gained importance after it placed itself under Austrian control in 1382. Even before that time, however, a small colony of Jews had settled there, and one of them, the city banker, was permitted to reside in the great square of the city. It appears, moreover, that certain banking establishments existed at Triest under the management of Jews from various parts of Italy, although the earliest Jewish inhabitants of the city seem to have been Germans, since the Ashkenazic ritual was adopted in the first synagogue. This building was situated in the most ancient portion of the ghetto at the head of the Via dei Capitelli, where the structure traditionally regarded as the synagogue was still in existence thirty years ago. Strictly speaking, however, it has been many years since there has been a ghetto at Triest, as the Jews have always enjoyed exceptional favor there, being allowed to live in any part of the city and being exempt from wearing the Badge. With the growth of Triest the center of the Jewish quarter changed to what is now the Piazza delle Scuole Ebraiche, where an Ashkenazic synagogue was erected. This edifice, together with all the ancient records, was destroyed in a conflagration, and was subsequently rebuilt. A new synagogue, with the German ritual, was erected about 1787 to meet the requirements of the rapid growth of the community. This building, a magnificent structure for its time, is still standing. The first floor is now used as a synagogue by the Jews who have immigrated to Triest from Dalmatia and the East; they adopt the Sephardic ritual. A number of years later a synagogue was built especially for the Sephardim in a central part of the city on the site of an ancient cemetery in the Via del Monte, near the Talmud Torah (to which is annexed a Jewish public school) and the Jewish hospital. The oldest gravestones in this cemetery are between 140 and 150 years old, showing that the Jews must formerly have possessed another burial-place. A new cemetery, recently enlarged, was opened about seventy-five years ago on a site allotted by the municipal government at some distance from the city and in the vicinity of the other cemeteries. Triest likewise has an orphan asylum, a convalescent home for aged invalids, and many charitable societies, the principal one being the wealthy Fraternità della Misericordia, while the Beneficenza Israelitica also disburses large sums of money. The community has recently acquired a site for a new temple, the plans for which are already in process of preparation.
The Jewish population of Triest has recently been increased by a large number of German and Hungarian families, attracted thither by commercial interests. Among the noted Jewish families of the city are the Parentes, Morpurgos, Hirschels, Salems, and Minerbis. Aaron Parente was president of the chamber of commerce of Triest, and was succeeded by his son Solomon, while Baron Elio Morpurgo and his son Mario have been presidents of the Austrian Lloyd. Caliman de Minerbi has been vice-podestà, and the Hirschel family was received at court at a time when the Jews of other cities were persecuted and despised. At present Jews control the principal banks and commercial institutions and the chief insurance companies. The rabbinate of Triest has recently included such noted men as Formiggini, Levi, Treves, Castiglione, and Marco Tedeschi. The city ranks high in the history of Jewish literature as the birthplace of Samuel David Luzzatto and his cousin, the poetess Rahel Morpurgo; of Giuseppe Lazzaro Morpurgo, an economist and Hebrewpoet; of Saul Formiggini, who translated Dante's "Inferno" into Hebrew; of Samuel Vita Zelman, poet and author of the "Yelid Kinnor"; of Moses Tedeschi, rabbi and author of "Ho'il Mosheh" (a commentary on the entire Bible), of a dictionary of synonyms, and of other works; and of Aaron Romanini and Vittorio Castiglione, Hebrew poets of high reputation, the latter being also the author of a number of literary, philosophical, and pedagogic works in Hebrew and Italian, and the present chief rabbi of Rome. The population of Triest is now (1905) 180,000, including 5,000 Jews.