Documents attest the presence of Jews in Florence back in the 14th century, but the establishment of a Jewish Community occurred after 1437, the year Cosimo il Vecchio de’Medici encouraged Jews to come to Florence as money lenders.
In 1570 a Medici duke, under pressure from the Pope, enclosed the Jews in a Ghetto in the center of town where Piazza della Repubblica now stands.
In 1861, citizenship was extended to the Jews of Tuscany and in 1882 the building of the magnificent Synagogue was completed.
In 1938 the Fascist regime enacted racial laws which deprived Jews of work and schooling, among other restrictions and dubbed them an inferior race. In September 1943, the Nazis effectively seized control of a large part of the country. Some Jews saved themselves by fleeing abroad while others went into hiding and were sheltered by the local population. In total, 9000 Italian Jews were deported or killed, more than 500 of them were from Florence.
After the war the Jewish school was reopened and the Synagogue was renovated.
The Jewish Community of Florence today
Has about 1000 members, most of them of Italian or western Sephardic origin. Others are from Israel, the United States, Eastern Europe and North Africa. Members of the Orthodox Conference of European Rabbis, with an Orthodox Rabbi, vary from the strictly to the less observant. The services follow the Spanish and Portuguese rituals and are held on the premises of the Moorish-style Synagogue, built in 1882.
Major holidays are marked by appropriate services where visitors are welcome. In addition, Bar and Bat Mitzvah as well as weddings are celebrated in the splendid Synagogue by Jews from all over the world. The Community offers a range of services for its members and visitors such as cultural events, Kosher facilities, Mikveh, nursing home, Jewish cemetery, etc.