Capital of the province of Bologna and of the division of Emilia, in northern Italy. As early as the beginning of the fourth century there were Jews in Bologna, but it is difficult to ascertain the exact date of their settlement. In 302 they had a cemetery, where, from malicious motives, two Christian martyrs were buried ("Ambrose," v. 302, ed. Rome, 1579). Nothing further is recorded of the Jews until 1171, when they were expelled from the city for unknown reasons. By the end of the thirteenth century Jews had again settled at Bologna, for they called from Forli the celebrated Rabbi Hillel of Verona. In 1308 they presented to Fra Aymerico, prior of the Dominicans, a Pentateuch written on vellum, and made in the form of a scroll like the copies used in the synagogue. Only the portions of this manuscript containing Numbers and Deuteronomy are now extant, and these are preserved in the university library. In 1700 it was still complete, with a Hebrew inscription erroneously asserting the manuscript to have been written by Ezra.
In 1366 the Jews were enclosed in a ghetto; but by the end of the fourteenth century they owned houses in all parts of the city and also held real estate. The two brothers Moses and Elia, of the Ne'arim family, came in 1394 from Rome to Bologna, bought houses, and founded one of the most beautiful synagogues of Italy. This family claimed to be descended from one of the four noble families carried captive by Titus to Rome. The two brothers were buried in a cemetery bought by themselves; the famous rabbi of Imola, Gedalia Yaḥia, mentions that he had seen their tombstones. In 1417 Albergati, bishop of Bologna, persecuted the Jews, and ordered them to wear the distinctive yellow badge; this command was withdrawn after a time, but renewed in 1458. In the same year a congress of rabbis was held at Bologna to consider the interests and security of the Jews, and it reassembled in the following year at Forli. (Its conclusions and ordinances, , have been published by Halberstamm; see the "Grätz Jubelschrift.") In 1419 a delegation was sent to Pope Martin V., who afterward issued a bull favorable to the Jews. Fra Bernardino da Feltre preached against them at Bologna in 1473, but without effect.Persecutions in the Sixteenth Century.
A series of persecutions began in the second half of the sixteenth century; in Sept., 1553, the Talmud, together with a multitude of other Hebrew books and even copies of the Bible, was publicly burned by order of Pope Julius III. In May, 1556, the Jews were again enclosed in a ghetto by order of Paul IV. A respite came under Pius IV. (1559-66). At that time the community of Bologna had eleven synagogues. In 1569, when Pius V. banished the Jews from the pontifical dominions excepting Rome and Ancona, 800 of them left Bologna. The Jewish cemetery was given to the monks of St. Peter, with the permission to disinter and burn the bodies ("Archivio Domaniale, Monache di S. Pietro," No. xxvi.); consequently some interesting sepulchral stones are preserved in the museum of Bologna. In 1586 Sixtus V. permitted the Jews to return, and in 1593 there were already more than 900 in the city. But in that year Clement VIII. again drove them out, and they departed, carrying with them the bones of their dead, which they buried in the small Jewish settlement of Pieve di Cento.
From 1593 to 1796 the Jews were forbidden to establish themselves at Bologna; a few at a time being allowed to stop in the city for two or three days by special permission. On Sept. 5, 1796, General Salicetti, the commissioner of the French Directory, issued a decree which accorded to Jews the same rights that were given to other citizens. The number of them in Bologna now steadily increased. When the city was restored to the popes in 1814, Pius VII. showed himself very friendly to them. Leo XII. made an effort to revive the oppressive laws, but did not cause much suffering at Bologna. Pius IX., liberal at first, afterward grew intolerant, and the Jews were made painfully conscious of this by the abduction of the boy Edgar Mortara, who had been secretly baptized by a servant during an illness, and four years later, in 1858, was forcibly taken from his family and carried to Rome. The offense created a great sensation throughout the civilized world. On Aug. 10, 1859, a decree of the governor of the Romagna (which had been united with the kingdom of Italy under Victor Emmanuel) proclaimed the civil and political equality of all citizens. The number of Jews in Bologna now increased rapidly, growing from 229 in 1861 to 350 in 1871. Formerly the dead were buried in the cemetery of the neighboring community, but later the municipality permitted their interment in the communal burying-place.
At the beginning of the twentieth century there were about 1,200 Jews in Bologna, these having come in part from the territory of Mantua, Modena, and other places. They have a synagogue and a chief rabbi. The ritual used in the synagogue is the so-called Roman (Zunz, "Ritus," p. 78).
The Hebrew printing-press was introduced at a very early time into Bologna, though the exact date is not known. Some bibliographers ascribe the first edition of the Psalms with the commentary of David Ḳimḥi (published Aug. 29, 1477, by Joseph Ḥayyim Mordecai, and Hezekiah of Ventura) to this city (Rabbinowicz in Merzbacher's "Ohel Abraham," No. 4041; compare De Rossi, "Annales," i. 14, and Steinschneider, "Cat. Bodl." col. i.). In 1482 Joseph b. Abraham Caravita (or Crovetta) set up a printing-press in his own house; and at this press Abraham ben Ḥayyim de Tintori printed the first edition of the Pentateuch, with Onkelos and Rashi, which was finished Jan. 26 of the same year (Zunz, in Geiger's "Wiss. Zeit. für Jüd. Theol." v. 38; Steinschneider, ib. col. i). It is supposed that the edition of the Five Scrolls with Rashi to the whole, and Ibn Ezra to Esther, was issued from Caravita's press, and in the same year (De Rossi, ib. i. 130; Steinschneider, ib. No. 1031). Again, in the sixteenth century a Hebrew printing-press was active, notably between the years 1537 and 1540, whena company of silk-weavers furnished themeans for this work. The following is a partial list of the publications during this period:
In 1537, Joseph ben David ibn Yaḥya's (the younger) "Torah Or" (Steinschneider, ib. col. 1477); Obadiah of Sforno's (the elder) "Or 'Ammim" (ib. col. 2076); (May 15), "Roman Ritual," together with Elijah Zaken's "Seder Ma'areket (ib. No. 2074); in 1538, Joseph ben David ibn Yaḥya's (the younger) commentary to the Five Scrolls and the Hagiographa (ib. col. 1476); Menahem de Recanati's "Pisḳe Halakot" (ib. col. 1737); Judah he-Ḥasid's "Sefer ha-Ḥasidim"; ed. Abraham ben Moses Cohen (ib. col. 1321); "Tefillot Latini," Italian in Hebrew characters, the text vocalized (ib. No. 2436); in 1539, Solomon ben Adret's "Teshubot" (ib. col. 2273); in 1540 (Oct.), "Maḥzor," Italian rite, with the commentary of Johanan ben Joseph Trèves to the whole and that of Obadiah Sforno to Pirḳe Abot (ib. No. 2579). For more detailed information, see De Rossi, "Annales Hebræo-Typographic i," § xv., passim; idem,"De Hebraicæ Typographiæ Origine," passim; M. Schwab, "Incunables Orientaux," Nos. 5, 23, 24, 467, 472, 473, 476, 484, 489, 495, 514; Freimann, in "Centralbl. für Bibliothekswesen," xix., part 3. In the university library of Bologna is a collection of about twenty-eight volumes of Hebrew MSS. which have been described by Leonello Modono in "Cataloghi Codici Orientali di Alcume Biblioteche d'Italia," Florence, 1878, pp. 323 et seq.