Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Shalom, Rome: A Jewish Culture Guide

Despite periods of discrimination and anti-Semitism in the past, the Jewish community now is a thriving and integral part of the mosaic that is Rome.

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: July 2nd, 2013 in Culture » Society » News

Shalom, Rome: A Jewish Culture Guide

And we’re off, to anywhere and everywhere, as we say ‘Shalom’ every week to different global travel destination. World cities, provincial towns, and even the most unassuming of suburbs are infused with Jewish history and culture, some of which is waiting to be discovered.

For the pious follower, the curious traveler, or the intrepid adventurer, we’ll unearth the best of what to do and where to go. Be it an emerging subculture, a historical landmark, or simply a triumph of art in any form, Jewish experiences are found around the world; and likely as well in your backyard.

It may be in the destination, the journey, or the company, but there is much to uncover and celebrate near and far, so hurry up and get going.

Shalom, Rome


For over two millennia, Jews have resided in the “Eternal City”. The Jewish community in Rome is one of the oldest- not only in Europe, but also the world, and dates to the 2nd century BCE. Judah Maccabee sent envoys to the city in 161 BCE, and in the following decades, other delegations were sent to Rome, who established Jewish settlements. When Romans invaded Judea in 63 BCE, Jewish POW’s were brought to the city-state as slaves, which increased the population. By the second part of the 1st century CE, the Jewish community in Rome was firmly entrenched. However, as Christianity began to spread in subsequent centuries, Jewish persecution began to increase. During his reign, Constantine the Great (306 to 336 CE) limited the rights of Jews as Roman citizens. Subsequent emperors throughout the centuries further enacted decrees that restricted Jews. As Christianity established itself as the official religion of the Roman Empire, Jewish discrimination varied from pope to pope.

Although anti-Semitism was rampant throughout the Middle Ages, Rome’s Jewish population oft times held positions of esteem. Likewise, The Renaissance, by and large, was a prosperous period for Jews.


Roman Jewish Ghetto

Everything changed, however, during the Reformation. In 1555, Pope Paul IV decreed that all Jews must be sequestered in a Roman ghetto. Over 4000 people were forced to occupy a paltry 7 acres of land in the Travestere section of the city. Jews inhabited the Roman ghetto for the next three centuries. Not until the unification of Italy in 1870, were Roman Jews once again granted full citizenship and rights, and the ghetto dismantled.

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