Jewish Reform in 19th Century Italy

This paper examines the development of Jewish reform projects in the frame of the political emancipation of Italian Jews and its role in shaping their religious debate in the 19th century. Jewish reform movements arose in Europe as a part of a larger debate concerning the necessity of improving and adapting the traditional frames of Jewish life to the new status of the Jews as emancipated citizens. Nonetheless, it is still commonly assumed that Italian Jewry was spared the upheavals and the religious strife that tore apart Jewish communities across the Alps as a consequence of their emancipation. This research aims at challenging the current assessment of Reform in Italy in the 19th century as a marginal aspect of the history of an allegedly well-integrated Italian Jewry, overall indifferent to religious matters. To do so, it focuses on the intellectual trajectory of six individuals, who elaborated some of the most radical reform projects of Judaism of the time, trying to assess their institutional impact in the life of Italian Jewish communities.