12 October 2007

Italy: Jewish names of Sicily

There were Jewish settlements in Sicily since early Roman times, when Jews were brought there as slaves by the Roman armies, according to an interesting website, The Jews of Sicily.

An essay on The Jews of Sicily by a Dr. Cipolla is quoted here.

"The largest number of them was brought back by Pompey after he sacked Jerusalem in 63 BC and by Roman Proconsul Crassus who is said to have sold 30,000 of them as slaves." By the time of the Spanish Inquisition there were Jewish settlements, or so-called "Giudeccas" in 50 cities and towns of Sicily, as well as on some of the islands off the coast of Sicily. They varied in size from about 350 to about 5,000 people."

Another section of this site concerns Jewish names and provides detailed lists of family and given names. Click here for given names for 156 individuals. These are the family names represented:

ABADARA, ABRAC, ACTUNI, ADILI, ALLEGROTTU, ALLUXI, ALUXU, ANAF, ARNAC, ASUNSI, ATTUNI, AURIFICE, AZARINI, AZENI, BEN IOSEP, BENASSAI, BINA, BONET, BONU, CALABRISI, CANET, CATALANO, CHICHERI, CHIPPET, CHISPI, CUINO, DAT, ELEVI, FAUDALI, FICART, FINEI, FINENI, FISICO, FURNARI, GAZI, GIBET, GIRACHIO, GIRGENTI, GUILLELMO, GUINI, INSIZE, ISAC, IUZUFI, LA BONAVOGLA, LAURIFICE, LEVI, LINCIO, LISIA, LU MEDICU, LU PRESTI, LUMEDICU, LUPU, MARSILI, MATRIMORA, MILLAC, MIRA, MUGNAY, MUXA, MUXARELLA, NAGIRA, NALINI, NANU, POLIZZI, RABIKI, RASKISI. RAUSA, RUSSO, SABUTI, SACERDOTU, SALAMON, SAMUEL, SANZATO, SIMONIS, SIRACUSA, STOZU, SUFI, SUSAN, TAGUL, TOLU, VERI, VIGIVANI, VISA, VITA, XACCARUNI, XAFINI, XAMUEL, XANE, XARERI, XATTARINI, XIFUNI, XUNINA AND ZEL. Names spelled with X represent KH or CH in some cases.

At the same page, there's a pre-1492 list of 67 Jewish surnames and given names used in Sicily before 1492. These are the surnames:

ABBANASCIA, ABRAHAM, ABULAFIA, ABULRABBI, AMATO, AMERGI, AURIFICI, BALSAMO, BARONI, BEN NACHMAN, BEN SHALOM, BEN YIJU, BONANNO, BONAVOGLIA, BONFIGLIO, BRIGANDI, BRUNO, BURRADA, CAMPAGNA, CATALANO, CHANCHIO SACERDOTE, CHANINELLO, COMPAGNA, CONTI, COSTANTINO, DA BERTINORO, DI DIONISO, DI MINISCI, FERMO, FINZI, GAUDIO, GINI, HADAD, HASDAJ, LAGUMINA, MARINO, MARMICI, MAZZA, MEDICI, MONOMATO, ROMANO, SANGUINETTI, SCIVINELL, SIGILMASI, SIGTUNE, SPANGNOLO, STAITI, SYMINTO, TUDELA, TZARFATI AND ZACCO.

These names were extracted from a six-page paper - The Jews of Messina - by Professor Giuseppe Martino, who lives and works in Messina. The paper is in Italian (left column) with English translation (right column). He address documents in Sicily's archives 1200s-1400s, as well as some found in the Cairo Geniza concerning Sicilian Jewish families. Archival documents discussed are dated from the 1200s-1400s. One 1338 record concerns Jewish butchers in Messina. A 1475 indicates that every Messinan Jew who wanted to go to the Holy Land was assured safe passage after paying 200 ounces of gold. In 1468, plague killed 400 in the Jewish quarter.

When the Sicilian Jews were expelled in 1493, according to the article, some Messinan Jews went to Calabria, Naples and Rome, but the majority went to Constantinople, with other Sicilian communities, Calabrian and Puglian. In Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), there were three Sicilian-origin communities. The numbers indicate heads of families; the first number is the year 1603 and the second, 1623: Grande Sicilia (67,86), Piccola Sicilia (19, 92), Messina (72, 4).

There were many conversions, and some converts later ran afoul of the Inquisition: 1,149 were sent to jail, 441 burned at the stake. In Messina, there are 175 documented cases. Many converted only outwardly and secretly practiced Judaism for at least a century.

This is a very interesting site with extensive information on this community. An earlier Tracing the Tribe post on Sicily's Jewish connections is here.

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