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Jews and Judaism in the united Italy

· From opposition to integration ·

What  was meant by “making Jews Italian” in the period that followed the Risorgimento and the full emancipation of the Jews? By what procedure, from being a right obtained during the Risorgimento process, did Italian citizenship become full identification?  How did Italian Jews represent themselves at the time when they became citizens and learned to measure up to the State as individuals, whereas previously, at the time of their juridical inferiority, they had always confronted it collectively as a community? What problems did residual juridical differences present, or on the contrary, did the ideals of the Jewish world and those of the united Italy converge?

So far historiography has tackled this process essentially from the viewpoint of the State, from that of the minority's integration into the majority and, following in the footsteps of Momigliano and Gramsci, has highlighted the parallelism between the paths to the achievement of citizenship by Italians and by Italian Jews .

The book by the young scholar Carlotta Ferrara degli Uberti – Fare gli ebrei italiani. Autorappresentazione di una minoranza (1861-1918), (Bologna, il Mulino, 2011, 268 pages, € 25), in the footsteps of the historiographical renewal which has changed the historiographical panorama of the Italian Risorgimento in recent years and on the age of the different forms of nationalism (the explicit reference is to George Mosse and more specifically to Alberto Banti, of whom the young scholar was a pupil), then intends to face the Jewish dimension of this transformation, the way in which  from the end of the nineteenth century Jews portrayed to themselves and to the non-Jewish world their journey and their history. The picture that emerges from this study is that of a full integration and of a deeply interiorized citizenship, but not without a serious awareness of the difficulties and risks.

The Italian Jewish world overall seems to have adopted an active strategy of adaptation and transformation, a far cry from the passive assimilation which many people feared and which, for a long time, on the wave of the Zionist polemic in confrontations with emancipation, was the label that described its development between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.




St. Peter’s Square

Jan. 29, 2020