Expulsion of the Jews from Sicily

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The expulsion of the Jews from Sicily began in 1493 when the Spanish Inquisition reached the island of Sicily and its population of more than 30,000 Jews.

History of the Jews of Sicily and the Spanish Inquisition[edit]

History of the Sicilian Jews[edit]

At the time of expulsion from Sicily, the Jewish community in Sicily dated back to early Roman times, and they were relatively untroubled on the island until the acceptance of the Crown of Aragon in Sicily in 1412. A great number of Jews had reached Sicily after Pompey's 63 BC sacking of Jerusalem.

After the enslavement under Roman rule, Jews in Sicily eventually assimilated into society, working in professions such as philosophy, medicine, artisanal pursuits, and farming.

The exact number of Jews in Sicily at the time of expulsion is not certain, However, some have put the number of Jewish refugees at 36,000.[1] Also, in 1492, it is known the Jewish populations of Palermo, Messina, and several other cities were considerable, and that there were Giudeccas, or Jewish settlements, in over 50 places in Sicily, ranging in anywhere population from 350 to 5,000. At their height, Jewish Sicilians probably constituted from five to eight percent of the island's population.[2]

History of the Spanish Inquisition and Jewish Expulsion[edit]

The maximum extent of the Crown of Aragon, including Sicily.

Muslims had ruled much of the Iberian Peninsula since the first invasion in 711. By the late Middle Ages, Christian kings had begun to wage war on the Moors and recapture some of the peninsula. After the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon to Queen Isabella I of Castile, the Moors were finally forced out of Granada in 1492, completing the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula.

In 1479 Sicily and Malta came under Aragonese rule. In 1492, as part of an attempt to maintain Catholic orthodoxy and purify their kingdom of Moorish influence, Ferdinand and Isabella ordered the forced expulsion or conversion of all Jews on pain of death. The date of the expulsion was extended from 18 September 1492 to 12 January 1493, in order to allow the extortion of opportunist tax levies.

Many Sicilian Jews fled to neighboring Calabria where the Spanish Inquisition caught up with them again fifty years later. Not all of the Sicilian Jews departed. A small number of Sicily's Jewish community converted to Catholicism and remained on the island. [2]

The great part of the Sicilian Jewish community fled to countries of the former Ottoman Empire, especially to Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. The settlements of these Jews were in Greece and Turkey great enough to build own congregations and to print some own publications.[3][4]

The Jews have never returned en masse to Sicily. However, in 2005, for the first time since the Expulsion, a Passover seder was conducted in Sicily (in Palermo), held by the Milanese progressive Rabbi.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ http://www.michaelfreund.org/10311/jewish-sicily
  3. ^ "Chronika" Vol. 57, Periodical of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, Athens March 1983, Greek transl. from Goldschmidt, D. In "Sefunot" Vol. 13, Jerusalem, Ben Zvi Institute 1971-1978 (Hebrew) „Prayerbooks of the Jews of Greece“.
  4. ^ Nosek, B. Italian and Sicilian Piyyut in contemporary Context and its unique Contribution to further poetical Output Bedřich Nosek, CSc. Mgr. Sylva Ondrejičková Praha, 2011 (Czech)

External links[edit]