~RECENTLY COMPLETED IN 2017~

Western Mediterranean Kosher Cruise
aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines: Epic
The Brand New Epic is Stunning!

July 2-9, 2017 (7 Nights - Kosher Cruise)


  SCHOLAR IN RESIDENCE:
  Rabbi Sergio Slomianski
  (see below)



  Click HERE for more information on the Exceptional NCL Epic


Itinerary

 

DAY

PORT

ARRIVE

DEPART

Sun., Jul. 2 Barcelona, Spain (EMBARK) 6:00 pm
Mon., Jul. 3 At Sea
Tues., Jul. 4 Naples, Italy 7:00 am 7:00 pm
Wed., Jul. 5 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 6:00 am 7:00 pm
Thurs., Jul. 6 Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy 7:00 am 7:00 pm
Fri., Jul. 7 Cannes, France 8:00 am 6:00 pm
Sat., Jul. 8 Palma, Majorca, Spain 1:00 pm 8:00 pm
Sun., Jul. 9 Barcelona, Spain (DISEMBARK) 5:00 am
 

Book today and you can choose great amenities such as free Wi-Fi or Onboard credit!*

*Based on NCL promotions at the time of booking.

brochure

2018 Western Mediterranean Kosher Cruise

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Accommodations

Select the Cabin Category you would like, and then scroll to the bottom of this form to select the number of travelers and submit it.



• Rates are subject to change without notice.
• All rates are per person based on double occupancy.
• Gratuities not included – unless indicated.
• $1000 per person deposit due at time of booking.
• Single rate is 170% in all categories.
• 3rd/4th person rate (all Categories) is $1910 (adult or child).
Capacity for 3rd/4th passenger may not be available for all cabin categories
• Travel insurance is strongly recommended.
• These rates do not include port charges and taxes of $110.33
• This rate does not include prepaid gratuities:
   $13.99 per guest per day for any category up to a Mini-Suite stateroom
   $16.99 per guest per day for any suite or Haven category

Cancellation policy:
Bookings are refundable less $100 administration fee per person until 130 days before sailing. Less than 130 days: 100% of total - no refund.

We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance.
Number of travelers in your room:



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Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic
 
Norwegian Cruise Lines

Explore the history of the Mediterranean, feel the balmy breezes of the Bahamas and the Caribbean, or just sit back and relax while you cruise across the Atlantic. Whatever you choose to do, Norwegian Epic is sure to dazzle. Awarded Best Cruise Ship Entertainment by Frommer’s, Norwegian Epic keeps the bar high with two new Broadway shows: Ballroom Blitz and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Not only is Norwegian Epic offering world-class performers but a new wave of accommodation as well - from Studios, designed and priced for the solo traveller, to the private Haven. Add more than 20 different dining options and you'll understand why this is Freestyle Cruising on a truly grand scale.


What makes the Epic an unbelievable experience:

  • World Class entertainment
  • State of the Art Spa Services
  • Full Sports Complex
  • 33 foot high Climbing Wall
  • First Aqua Park at sea
  • 3 Water Slides including the 200 foot Epic plunge
  • Bowling Alley
  • Full size Batting Cage
Norwegian Epic also has some of the most innovative and flexible accommodations ever - from our new Studios specifically designed and priced for the solo traveler and exclusive access to The Studio Lounge to our private Villas.


Gross Tonnage: 155,873 grt.(One registered ton equals 100 cubic feet)
Length: 1,080 ft
Draft: 28.5 ft
Maximum speed: 22 knots
Passenger capacity: 4,100 (double occupancy)
Dedicated: 2010
Refurbished: 2015



Testimonials
Norwegian Cruise Lines





Rabbi Sergio Slomianski
Rabbi Sergio SlomianskiRabbi Sergio Slomianski was born in Mexico City. He has a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Administration from the State University of NY and a Masters Degree in Talmudic Studies of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, NJ where he obtained his Smicha. He also attended other prestigious institutions in Israel and the US.

He has been the Rabbi of the Ashkenazi community in Mexico City for over 20 years leading varied rabbinical and religious activities and institutions affiliated to its infrastructure. He has been the leader of the renown project "Siyum HaTorah Mexico" for close to 12 years, which unites the entire community in order to complete the whole Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim, Talmud and Mishna Brura in a years' time culminating in a big celebration which has drawn more than 1,300 and includes a festive dinner and hosting leading rabbinic speakers and scholars from around the world.

Rabbi Slomianski has given lectures in different forums in Mexico and around the world, appearing in local television and radio programs. He produces weekly articles through the Kehila Press and contributes to other publications as well. His lectures can be found via internet on tutorah.tv.

Rabbi Slomianski is married to Sheila Kovalsky originally from Chicago and has 3 married daughters and several grandchildren.

Major Cruise Questions


What is included in the price of my cruise?

Virtually everything, with the exception of certain items of a personal nature, for which there is a fair and reasonable charge. Your cruise fare includes shipboard accommodations, ocean transportation, standard meals, services and onboard entertainment.

What's not included

Items that are of a personal nature, for which there is a fair and reasonable charge. Not included in the cruise fare are items that are of a personal nature including gratuities, shore excursions, airfare, telephone calls, faxes, spa treatments, salon services, photographs, laundry and valet service as well as wine, liquor and other beverages.

Will I need a passport or visa?

You are responsible for obtaining all necessary travel documents and for complying with Customs and Immigration requirements. Guests with out proper travel documents will not be allowed to board the vessel. If for some reason you must leave the ship mid-cruise, you will be denied re-entry into the U.S. unless you possess a valid U.S. passport and no refund of cruise fare will be given to any guest failing to bring such documentation. All major cruise lines encourage all guests to obtain passports as soon as possible to avoid backlogs. For more information, please visit the U.S State department website at www.travel.state.gov.




WHAT TO PACK –
Most of the time, you'll feel comfortable in casual resort wear including light cotton clothing for all cruises. It is advised to bring breathable clothing to maximize your comfort.

Be sure to also bring:
• A lightweight clothing. It is generally in the 70’s and 80’s on these sailings
• Baseball hats, sunglasses, lots of sun lotion, coverups and swimwear. You can find the most gorgeous private beaches!
• Casual exploring outfits. No need to be fancy on the at the ports of call.
• Flip flops are always super handy on the beach.
• One or two pairs of dress shoes to accompany your dinner outfit
• Always go on www.weather.com for more info. You can get a 10 day forecast.

WEATHER –
Temperatures in these gorgeous locations tends to be on the warmer side. Think in the 80’s and brisker at night. Please always go onto www.weather.com for more information.

PORT HIGHLIGHTS AND EXCURSIONS –
Kosherica offers some beautiful Jewish interest excursions in these ports as detailed below:
• Barcelona – visit the Jewish quarter and learn about the incredible Jewish history followed by a bus tour to take in some of the magnificent architecture that Barcelona is famous for.
• Rome – learn about the 23 centuries of Jewish history in the first part of your tour which includes the Jewish Ghetto and breathtaking synagogue. Enjoy some delicious Kosher gelato before heading off to your city tour including the Forum, Palatine Hill, Arch of Titus and the Colosseum.
• Florence – you’ll start off with a stop at the magnificent Tower of Pisa where you’ll get a chance to take some once-in-a-lifetime pictures. The tour then continues into Florence where your guide will walk you through the Jewish and Renaissance history. This is followed by a beautiful walking tour through the amazing Piazza where you’ll also have plenty of time to shop!
• Venice – this pre-cruise walking tour is full of information about the incredible Jewish Ghetto in Venice. You will venture through the Cannaregio district discovering hidden and curious corners and then continue towards S. Giovanni e Paolo, considered one of the most beautiful campo of Venice. Then again through hidden path of the city and you will end up in S. Marc's square - the most prominent place in Venice.





Cruising Tips

Air Travel

Passports will be required for any air travel from the Caribbean as of January 23, 2007. ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport.

Cruise Travel

As early as January 1st, 2008, subject to U.S. Government amendment, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda may be required to present a valid passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security.

Can I phone home?

Ship-to-shore telephone service is available 24 hours a day while the ship is at sea or in port from your stateroom. You'll find a telephone and dialing instructions in your stateroom.
If you need to be reached by people at home, have them call or fax the ship directly; or they can contact you via email through your own Internet Service Provider which you can then access via the Internet Café.


Is internet service available?

You can send and receive emails through your own service provider in the Internet Café for a nominal charge.

How do I plan my on-shore activities?

Naturally, you are free to explore many of the ports of call on your own, however, a variety of shore excursion are arranged for you convenience. Each excursion is carefully researched by our Shore Excursion Staff to ensure your experience ashore is as enriching and enjoyable as your stay aboard. You may pre-book your excursions online by selecting Personalize Your Cruise. You will need to enter your booking number and your name as it appears on your reservation. The excursion selected will be debited to you onboard account . Or, if you prefer, you may purchase the shore excursion onboard at the Shore Excursion Desk. Shore Excursions are subject to availability and not available on all ships and sail dates.

What about laundry and dry cleaning services?

Complete valet services including laundry, pressing and dry cleaning, can be arranged through your stateroom steward/stewardess and billed to your shipboard account.


For more information about our amazing cruises – click HERE.

For General Packing tips click HERE.

Click HERE for upcoming cruise dates.

Travel Documents


You are responsible for obtaining all travel documents as well as compliance with Customs and Immigration requirements. You will be required to comply with all government imposed security measures, which may change without notice.

Visa Requirements:


All passengers are responsible for obtaining all necessary travel documents and for complying with Customs and Immigration requirements.

Please check current VISA requirements with the appropriate embassies or consulates prior to departing on your cruise vacation. Kosherica is providing this application for your convenience.



Kosherica is not responsible for the accuracy of information provided herein. Please contact www.visahq.com with any questions.


Guests without proper travel documents will not be allowed to board the vessel. If for some reason you must leave the ship mid-cruise, you will be denied re-entry into the U.S. unless you possess a valid U.S. passport and no refund of cruise fare will be given to any guest failing to bring such documentation. Kosherica encourages all guests to obtain passports as soon as possible to avoid backlogs. For more information, please visit the U.S State department website at www.travel.state.gov.

Destination Information

BARCELONA

Known for its cosmopolitan restaurants, modernist architecture and pleasant Mediterranean climate, Barcelona – the second largest city in Spain (after Madrid), and capital of the province of Catalonia – also has a rich Jewish history that deserves to be explored by all interested tourists.

Long before the tumultuous expulsion of the Jews in 1492, Jewish culture thrived throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Indeed, during an era justifiably known as the Golden Age, Spain’s large, influential, and prolific Jewish community produced many luminaries. Through their great works of poetic, biblical and kabbalistic writings, these poets and rabbinic scholars exercised a profound influence on the development of Jewish philosophical thought, and halachic and liturgical practice. Their insights later spread throughout the Sephardi and Ashkenazi worlds. Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Judah Halevi, Abraham Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, and Nachmanides are just a few eminent names. In one way or another, each remains inextricably – and simultaneously – linked with the heritage of Spanish Jewry and the practice of contemporary Judaism.

While Barcelona was never the largest Jewish center in Spain, it figured prominently in Spanish Jewish history. In 1263, Barcelona was the site of a famous disputation presided over by King James I of Aragon. Nachmanides, whose familial link to Barcelona, Catalonia’s largest city, traced back to his grandfather, Isaac ben Reuben, was called to defend Judaism against Pablo Christiani, an apostate, who had worked vigorously to force the Jews to convert to Christianity. Although the Spanish monarch declared him the victor of the debate, the negative reaction of the Christian authorities ultimately led Nachmanides, the leading rabbi of Catalonia, to leave Spain for Jerusalem during the height of the Crusades.

This medieval Jewish legacy is not lost in contemporary Barcelona. Montjuïc (Catalan for “mountain of the Jews”) remains a towering presence over the city. It is home to the 1992 Olympic stadium and the National Museum of Art of Catalonia, among other important Spanish cultural sites. However, in the high middle ages, Montjuïc was the site of a Jewish cemetery, after which the mountain was named.

Recently discovered tombstones are now stored in the Provincial Archeological Museum.

Montjuïc overlooks Barcelona’s harbor where, standing prominently at the center of the Plaça de la Porta de Pau (Square of the Gate of Peace), a tall monumental column is topped with a statue of Christopher Columbus.. The monument marks the spot where Columbus returned after his first voyage to the Americas. Whether this statue can be deemed a Jewish site depends on whether one accepts the popular and compelling legend that Columbus, who set sail on August 3, 1492, just days after the expulsion began, was a converso, whose ancestors were among the Spanish Jews forced to convert to Christianity to save their lives, but who secretly maintained traditional Jewish practices.

That fateful year not only marks Columbus’s arrival to the Americas but also the tragic expulsion from Spain of perhaps as many as 200,000 Jews.

Their absence lasted for centuries, until a modest number began returning in the mid-19th century.

SOME 4,000 Jews who reside in Barcelona today are served by several synagogues, including Chabad, Comunidad Israelita de Barcelona (Orthodox) and Comunitat Jueva Atid de Catalunya (Reform). A site of unique importance to any Jewish tourist, only opened to the public in 2002, is not only the oldest synagogue in Spain but is considered – alongside the synagogue of Rome’s ancient port of Ostia – to be the oldest in Europe.

In the heart of Barcelona’s medieval Gothic area, not far from the popular pedestrian promenade of La Rambla, is the ancient Jewish quarter known as the Call (likely from kahal or kehilla, Hebrew for community).

The main street of the Call was Carrer de Sant Domènec, where kosher butchers worked and leading members of the community resided. It was also the location of the historic Sinagoga Mayor de Barcelona, the city’s former great synagogue, believed to date back to Roman times. Surviving documents from the synagogue include a record from 1267, when King James I authorized the raising of the building’s height.

Other records indicate that four synagogues existed in Barcelona in the 14th century. Of these, only the Sinagoga Mayor has been found, reclaimed, and restored. For years, the building served many functions, except that of a synagogue. In the late 17th century, apartments were built on top of the structure.

In the late 20th century, a study on the Call area led to the rediscovery of the synagogue, its subsequent purchase, its management by the Call Association of Barcelona (founded in 1997 to support the synagogue recovery project) and its careful restoration.

Excavations during this time revealed a foundation and Roman wall structure dating back to the reign of Emperor Caracalla, who, in 212 had granted full Roman citizenship to the Jews of the empire.

These early ruins are now visible to visitors through a glass floor.

In 1263, following Nachmanides’ distinguished participation at the Barcelona disputation, King James I reputedly visited this synagogue. Indeed, one of Barcelona’s – and the synagogue’s – longest-serving leaders was Rabbi Shlomo ben Adret (the Rashba), a former student of Nachmanides whom he succeeded as rabbinical authority over the Jews of Catalonia.

Among the most prolific writers of Jewish legal opinions, the Rashba, born in Barcelona in 1235, earned a reputation as one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. He served as rabbi of Sinagoga Mayor de Barcelona for more than 50 years.

Documents recounting the synagogue’s history indicate that it functioned until 1391. That ominous year, the unofficial start of the Spanish Inquisition, which became official in 1481, saw fierce anti-Jewish riots throughout Spain. On August 5, 1391, many Jews of Barcelona were massacred, leaving those who survived no recourse but to flee, convert and practice their faith in secret. The tragic events of 1391 also meant the effective, centuries-long end of public Jewish life in Barcelona. Although most Jewish buildings remained standing the community’s surviving Jews had dispersed. Today, however, Barcelona‚s modest-sized Jewish community thrives, and the Sinagoga Mayor is again open to the public as the Shlomo Ben Adret Synagogue.

Guided tours of the synagogue are available in English and Hebrew. Two rooms are open to tourists. To visit this remarkable synagogue – at Carrer de Marlet 5, just off Carrer de Sant Domènec – descend down six feet of stairs (the street-level of Roman times), and enter through the small door. On the right side is the foyer of the synagogue, designed according to the building style of ancient Rome upon which the medieval walls were constructed.

The room to the left is the heart of the medieval synagogue. There, one can see two large windows aimed in an easterly direction towards Jerusalem.

The holy ark, in which the Torah scrolls were kept, has now been placed between the windows to show where the original once stood. A large, iron menora now stands toward the south of the room. It was donated by artist Ferrá Aguiló in memory of his Spanish Jewish ancestors.

The historic synagogue is also available for bar/bat mitzvas and other special occasions. On August 10, 2003, a Montreal couple became the first to celebrate their wedding there after more than six centuries (just five days after the 612th anniversary of the 1391 massacre).

The writer is a freelancer in Vancouver. This article first appeared in the Jewish Independent.

ROME

Rome is not only modern Italy’s largest and most populated city but it is also home to one of the oldest Jewish communities of the entire Diaspora. Following the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE, many Jews, deported from Judea by Emperor Titus, arrived to Rome as slaves. There, they joined a small Jewish community established some two centuries earlier. The first Jews to arrive were reputedly diplomatic envoys sent by Judah Maccabi in the second century BCE, giving rise to an organized Jewish community in continual existence from the Roman Republican period to modern times.

Jewish life in Rome was not without its challenges. Jews faced partial expulsion by both emperors and popes, were compelled to pay tithes, and, in the middle ages, were forced to wear badges identifying their Jewish status. Despite alternating waves of acceptance, oppression, and persecution, Rome’s Jews successfully preserved their communal identity and their own customs. Their presence secured, Rome's Jews had become very much a part of Italian society.

By the early twentieth century, not only did a Jew, Luigi Luzzatti, briefly emerge as the prime minister of Italy (1910-1911), but another Jewish politician, Ernesto Nathan, served as mayor of Rome (1907-1913).

The Jewish community of Rome was as diverse as it was ancient. Jewish followers of the Italian rite (Italki) were joined by Ashkenazi Jews from northern Italy, Sephardic Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, Jews from medieval France, and, more recently, Jews from Iran and Libya. Indeed, throughout the course of Roman- Jewish history, the Jewish community was varied, with each community – whether Italian, Spanish, or even German – maintaining some cultural independence through the establishment of a separate synagogue for their members.

However, the religious rites and minhagim (customs) of the original Roman-Jewish community remain a strong feature of Roman-Jewish life that has persisted over the more than two-thousand-year presence of the Jews in Rome.

Today, Rome has a Jewish population of about 15,000 people served by about a dozen Ashkenazi and Sephardic Orthodox synagogues. However, none is more ornate, nor as large, as Tempio Maggiore di Roma – Rome‚s Great Synagogue˜whose liturgy reflects the Orthodox Italki rite, as practiced by Italian Jews since early Roman times.

Given the ancient heritage of Rome’s Jewish community, it is little wonder why Pope John Paul II, in 1986, chose to pay his respects to the Jewish people at Rome’s Great Synagogue, where the chief rabbi of Rome continues to officiate.

Accessible to tourists who must first pass through a security gate (vigilantly maintained ever since 1982’s violent attack on the synagogue left dozens wounded and a child dead), this synagogue should not be missed on anyone’s tour of the Eternal City. While Rome’s Great Synagogue is not the oldest in Italy or elsewhere (in Europe, the ancient Ostia synagogue, excavated at Rome‚s ancient port, and Barcelona’s Sinagoga Mayor retain this distinction), it remains a monumental architectural achievement.

Constructed following Italian unification that made Rome the capital of Italy in 1871, the present synagogue replaced the former Ghetto Synagogue (destroyed, for the most part, by a fire in 1893) that had housed, under one roof, five different scole (the Italian-Jewish term for synagogues). These five scole reflected the different Jewish rites cohabiting in Rome‚s Ghetto, which, following Italian unification, King Victor Emmanuel II dismantled while giving the Jews full citizenship. Within a single building, three of the synagogues had practiced the Italian rite (Scola del Tempio, Scola Nuova, and Scola Siciliana), and two, the Spanish rite (Scola Catalana and Scola Castigliana). Following a three-year period of construction, the new building was completed in 1904. After more than a century of service to the Jewish citizens of Rome, it retains an esteemed reputation among Rome‚s many famous architectural projects.

Designed by Italian architects Vincenzo Costa and Osvaldo Armanni, Tempio Maggiore – the new “Great Synagogue” – reflects an eclectic combination of the Italian style and Assyrian-Babylonian motifs so as not to mimic Christian churches. The former “five scole” were replaced by this large Great Temple, retaining the Italian rite, and, beneath, a smaller synagogue retaining the Spanish rite.

The Tempio Maggiore is both massive and decorative. The impressive marble-lined interior, viewed with a full upward gaze, is awe-inspiring. In a city famous for its round domes, the building is topped by a unique square dome, the only such dome in all of Rome. This visual distinction makes Rome’s main synagogue easily identifiable from many viewpoints throughout Italy’s capital.

THE JEWISH Museum of Rome should also not be missed. Opened in 1960 to house the vast collections of Rome‚s Jewish community, the museum is located at a side entrance to the Tempio Maggiore, at Lungotevere de’Cenci 15. The many exhibits include art objects, documents, and other artifacts that illustrate Roman Jewry’s more than two thousand years of history. The museum offers escorted tours of the remarkable collections and the synagogues (but interior photography is prohibited).

Each room has a theme. Room 1 has precious Renaissance velvet coverings decorated with Baroque-era golden thread, embroidery and lace. Room 2 contains tombstones from the Roman catacombs and the synagogue of Ostia, as well as medieval manuscripts. While Room 3 displays objects reflecting the mainstays of the Jewish year and holiday observances, Room 4 contains liturgical items donated by the Jews of the ghetto to their various synagogues. Room 5 displays objects that narrate the history from the period of Jewish emancipation to the present era. Room 6 documents Libyan Judaism, specifically how the Jewish community of Libya has contributed to the Roman-Jewish community.

In 1967, Libyan Jews fled from Tripoli and Benghazi to Rome as refugees where they added a new layer of culture to Rome’s Jewish traditions. Room 7 displays more objects focusing on what life was like in the Ghetto of Rome.

The Great Synagogue – overlooking the Tiber River, situated between Via Catalana and Lungotevere de’Cenci – is adjacent to Rome’s historic Jewish Ghetto. Walking along Via del Portico d’Ottavia, one of the Ghetto’s main streets, the contemporary tourist is transported back to an earlier time. Surrounded by old neighborhood buildings, one gets a feel for what daily life might have been like within the former Ghetto. Today, this street, among others in the Ghetto (as the neighborhood is still known), is filled with locals and tourists alike. It is a fascinating area in which to stroll, filled with several kosher restaurants, bakeries, and Jewish shops.

No visit to Rome is complete without a glimpse of the Arch of Titus, situated on the highest point of the Via Sacra, leading to the Roman Forum. Depicting the end of the Jewish Wars (66-70 CE) and the Roman destruction and pillage of the Temple in Jerusalem, the arch’s carved reliefs illustrate the sacred menora being carried off to Rome (where its ultimate location has been lost to history).

Few Jews choose to walk under the arch due to the oppressive symbolism, but it is a worthwhile reminder of the precarious existence of the Jews since antiquity. Indeed, Rome’s ancient Jewish past, like its present, serves as testimony to Jewish tenacity and survival.

Arthur Wolak is a freelance writer in Vancouver. This article first appeared in the Jewish Independent.

Florence

Jewish merchants, doctors and bankers began settling in Florence in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. In 1396, the Commune of Florence permitted Jews to practice banking in Florence. An assembly of the Jews of Italy met in Florence in 1428 and gathered funds to give to Pope Martin V in return for his protection. City authorities requested Jewish bankers in 1430 because they believed that they would be easier to control than their Christian counterparts. In 1437, the Jewish community was officially established because of the need for Jewish moneylenders in the city.

The fate of the Jewish community was tied to the fate of the Medici family in Florence. Lorenzo il Magnifico defended the Jewish community from expulsions and from the aftermath of vitriolic sermons given by Bernardino da Feltre. A Catholic theocracy was installed in the 1490's under the Dominican friar Girolama Savonarola, who decreed that both the Jews and the Medici family be expelled from Florence. A loan from the Jewish community to the republic postponed the expulsion for a short period of time. The Medicis returned to power in 1512 and the Jewish ban was lifted, until the next Medici expulsion in 1527. Alessandro de Medici regained influence as a duke, in 1531, and abolished anti-Jewish acts

In 1537 Cosimo de’Medici gained power in the Florentine government. He sought the advice of Jacob Abravanel, a Sephardic Jew living in Ferrara. Abravanel convinced Cosimo to guarantee the rights and privileges of Spanish and Portugese Jews, and other Levantines who settled on his borders. This was the start of the growth of the Sephardic Jewish community in Florence. Refuge was given to Jews from other papal states who left due to Pope Paul IV’s anti-Jewish measures, which were not enacted in Florence. Once Cosimo received the title of grande duke of Tuscany, his policies toward the Jews changed for the worse. He forced Jews to wear badges in 1567, closed the Tuscan border to non-resident Jews in 1569, shut down Jewish banks in 1570 and established a ghetto in 1571.

Jewish religious, social and cultural life continued to flourish inside the ghetto. Two synagogues were built, an Italian one in 1571 and a Spanish/Levantine one at the end of the 16th century (the ark from this shul can be found today at Kibbutz Yavne in Israel). There were also Jewish schools, a butcher, a bakery, a ritual bathhouse and other social and philanthropic organizations. The Jews were allowed to elect their own council and the rabbinical courts had jurisdiction, recognized by the state authorities, over all legal problems. Jews had a special status in criminal law; they were not tried by common judges, only by the Supreme Court of the Republic. Restrictions were placed on Jewish trade in the ghetto barring them from selling wool or silk or trading in precious objects.

A certain level of tolerance existed for the Jewish community, despite being forced to live in the ghetto. During the rule of Cosimo’s son, Ferdinand I, Jews were allowed to expand their trade to the East. Some of the wealthy Levantine Jews were even permitted to live outside the ghetto; however, the Italian Jews were not allowed to leave the ghetto or join any of the city’s guilds and had to work as second-hand dealers. This unequal treatment led to disagreements between the two communities, which were eventually resolved.

The community decreased in size and, by the 18th century, the community numbered less than a thousand individuals.

The Jews of Florence were emancipated and given civic rights when Napoleon’s army entered the city on March 25, 1799. The grand dukes were restored in 1814 and Jews had to return to the ghettos. In 1848, the ghetto was abolished and a new city center was constructed; Jews also achieved equality in the constitution under Grand Duke Leopold II.

In 1861, Florence became part of the kingdom of Italy and Jews were recognized as citizens. The ghetto was demolished at the end of the 19thcentury, when the city started a redevelopment program. Plans for the great temple were approved in 1872, but it took eight years to build and was not inaugurated until 1882. The building of the temple far away from the old ghetto marked the beginning of assimilation of Florentine Jews.

The rabbinical college of Padua (Collegio Rabbinco Italiano) was transferred to Florence and placed under the leadership of Samuel Hirsch Margulies in 1899. Samuel Margulies (1858-1922) was not accepted by the community, at first, because of his Zionist views, but he became popular with the young generations. Rabbi Margulies worked at the head of the institution until his death in 1922. His student, Carlo Alberto Viterbo, helped turn Florence into a hub of Jewish culture.

Nearly 3,000 Jews lived in Florence in 1931. The Nazis occupied Florence in the autumn of 1943. Most Jewish families in Florence lost a family member due to the Fascists or the Nazis. The first deportation took place on November 6, 1943, and a second one occurred five days later. Rabbi Nathan Cassuto, physician and spiritual leader of the Florentine Jewish community, was sent with the second group. In a third deportation, on June 6, 1944, sixteen elderly Jews were taken from the old age home to Germany.

The temple was damaged by the Germans in August 1944, when they detonated several mines in the interior. Some of the synagogue’s treasures, which were confiscated by the Nazis, were recovered. A total of 243 Jews were deported from Florence, only 13 returned. After the war, Florence’s Jewish population numbered 1,600.

The Jewish community began the process of rebuilding after the war. The synagogue was restored to its former glory. A home for the elderly was built in 1957 and a new school building was erected in honor of Rabbi Nathan Cassuto in 1964.

A terrible flood broke out in 1966 and damaged the synagogue, including furniture, frescoes, the historical library and 90 torah scrolls. Repair and restoration began immediately and today it is fully restored.

Today the community of 1,000 has two synagogues, the Sephardic temple and a smaller Ashkenazi prayer house, as well as a kindergarten, elementary school, high school, youth club, Jewish cultural center, a sports club, a home for the aged, a museum and chapters of B’nai Brith and ADEI-WIZO.

Jewish Tourist Sites
The Synagogue of Florence
flosyn4

The building, which used a Moorish style, was designed by three architects: Treves, Falcini and Micheli, who were inspired by Constantinople’s Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia. It opened to the public in 1882. The interior is inspiring with wood and bronze carvings, marble floors, mosaics and long stained glass windows. The Nazis used the Temple as a garage for military vehicles. There were two restorations, one after the Second World War and another after a devastating flood in 1966. A plaque commemorating the 248 Jews who were deported by the Nazis from Florence has been placed in the building.

The Jewish Museum
The Florence Jewish Museum was inaugerated in 2007 and is located in a building adjacent to the city's synagogue. The museum provides a history of the Jewish community in Florence from 1437 to the present and houses artifacts dating back to the 16th century. Its collection includes ritual objects, silver ornaments and embroidery.

The Ghetto
Florence’s ghetto no longer exists, but one can find streets or squares that were once within the walls. One inscription on the entrance door to the bathhouse read, "The Jews were separated from the union with Christians but not turned out." Another, above the arch in Piazza della Repubblica, says, "The old centre of the city restored from age-long squalor to a new life."



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