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AGRIGENTUM (; see Steinschneider, "Cat. Bodl." col. 1532; Luzzatto, "Hebr. Bibl." 1862, pp. 22, 46; now Girgenti):

A town on the south coast of Sicily; was the seat of a large Jewish congregation as early as the time of Pope Gregory the Great (590-601). There is no information of the origin and age of this settlement and of its further history, and only the most meager details are available. Its internal management (see I. Loeb, in "Revue des Études Juives," xiii. 187 et seq., xiv. 262 et seq.) and its relations with the non-Jewish population, as well as the social standing and mode of livelihood of its members, were no doubt identical with those prevailing all over Sicily. In the fifteenth century this congregation was still reckoned one of the most important in the island (Zunz, "Zur Geschichte," p. 495, and Güdemann, "Erziehungswesen," ii. 290). At that time it seems to have had an active intellectual life. The names and writings of several authors, whose chosen field was the Cabala, have come down to us. David of Agrigentum wrote a mystical commentary upon a special prayer ("Codex Oxford," 696, 8); and we have from Joseph ibn Shraga an extensive cabalistic commentary on passages from the Bible, Talmud, and Zohar, and on certain prayers ("Codex Bodl." 1663, 3, 4, 1666, 2221, 7, and "Codex British Museum," addition 27,014: compare Luzzatto). Ibn Shraga certainly, and David probably, had emigrated from Spain. With the year 1492, in which all Jews were banished from the island, the history of this congregation came to an end.

Bibliography:
  • Giovanni di Giovanni, L'Ebreismo della Sicilia, Palermo, 1748;
  • Zunz, Z. G. pp. 485, 494-496, 506;
  • further literary notes in Güdemann, Geschichte des Erziehungswesens u. der Cultur der Juden in Italien während des Mittelalters, pp. 268-292, 337-341, Vienna, 1884;
  • Picone, Memorie Storiche Agrigentini, Girgenti, 1865;
  • Kayserling, Gesch. d. Juden in Port. p. 70.
M. Br.
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