Synagogue Of RomeSynagogue Of Rome

  • Issue: May 2004
  • Designers: A.M. Maresca, A. Merenda
  • Stamp Size: 30.8 mm x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 575, 576 (one phosphor bar)
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: offset

The Jewish community of Rome is the oldest Jewish community of the western world. The Jewish settlement in Rome precedes the destruction of the second Temple of Jerusalem and has continued successively since that time. During the period of the Roman Empire the Jews lived a flourishing life. The Jewish community, a population of around 40,000 people, filled 13 synagogues to capacity. During the Middle Ages, the community remained faithful to its traditions, while involving itself in local culture and sciences. The community also served as an important bridge between the Latin culture of the Catholic Church and Islam. Following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, many exiles sought refuge in Rome. Their arrival infused the community with Sephardic customs side by side with the existing tradition. In 1555, Pope Paul IV forced the Jews of the Papal State into ghettos. A ghetto was built in Rome, in a slum area on the edge of the city, and new laws restricted the exit and entry of the Jews. This dark period of persecution came to be known as the "Age of the Ghetto" and lasted for 315 years.

During this period the Jewish population in the Roman ghetto ranged between 3,000 and 7,000 people. A decree mandating a single synagogue in the ghetto was circumvented by incorporating five separate synagogues (which, at the time, were known as "scholae") in the same building. There were two synagogues for the Italian community, two for the Sephardic community and one for the Sicilians. Overcoming adversity, Jewish life persisted, and while most were impoverished, a small number of Jews found their way into respected positions, managed to engage in trade with the Papal Court, and were involved in culture and arts.

The Jews of Rome were emancipated in 1870, when Papal rule was overthrown and Rome was incorporated into a united Italy. As part of the renewal process of the poorer neighborhoods, the Jewish ghetto was dismantled and the five scholae building was destroyed.

In 1904, a new impressive synagogue was consecrated on the site of the old scholae building. Designed by architects, Costa and Armanni, it was meant as a "monumental" symbol of freedom and equality, a vision of "severe and simple forms" which harmonize with the rest of the city. Without ancient models to work from, the architects relied on the contemporary taste of their time for Neo-Classic and Neo-Assyrian motifs. Today the 15,000 Jews of Rome are living all over the city, yet the Tempio Maggiore remains the core of Jewish life and interests where thousands of people gather for the High Holidays or to demonstrate against anti-Semitism or to support Israel. Pope John Paul 11 visited the Synagogue on 13 April 1986 symbolizing reconciliation between Christianity and Judaism in our generation.

Jewish Cultural Center of the Jewish Community of Rome

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Centennial Of The Great Synagogue Of Rome
Joint Issue Israel-Italy