From the fifteenth century to the early decades of the twentieth century, San Daniele del Friuli hosted a fairly large and organized Jewish community.
The first Jews to settle in San Daniele were the Nantoa. In 1547 Simon Nantoa obtained a regular permit to exercise a pawnshop, approved by the patriarch Giovanni Grimani. This renewable contract allowed the Nantoa family to obtain a five-year residence, and established very specific rules for them to run the shop. The Luzzatto family, of German origin, took over from the Nantoa, who managed the pawnshop until its suppression in 1714 following the establishment of the Monte di Pietà.
The jewish community engaged in various activities: loans, trading of hay, cereals and tobacco, silk spinning and sale of cocoons, sale of hardware, farm animals’ breeding, goldsmithing and beekeeping. Medical activity, documented starting from 1549 and carried out with expertise, became another distinctive ability carried on by the Jewish community.
In San Daniele the Jews lived in fair economic conditions and never resided in a ghetto, in fact, the houses were scattered in different villages of the town. Under patriarchal jurisdiction from 1445 to 1751, the attitude towards Jews can be defined as benevolent, given the intolerance of the time. However, some restrictions persisted: the ban on going to the main square during Christian holidays and the obligation to close their windows when religious processions would pass.
In 1700 the community experienced a particularly fortunate period: they built a synagogue and obtained land for the cemetery. With the suppression of the Patriarchate in 1751 and especially after the death of the last Patriarch Daniel Dolfin, which occurred in 1762, the situation of relative well-being enjoyed until then changed radically. In 1777, after a law edited by the Republic of Venice, all jews residient in the Republic without a residence permit or who did not live in a ghetto were forced into exile. The San Daniele’s Jewish community was mainly made up of the Nantoa, Luzzatto and Gentilli families, while the Sullam, the Capriles, the Caravaglio and the Lolli families found hospitality in the town for shorter periods of time. The Gentilli were the last to leave San Daniele in the 1930s.
THE SYNAGOGUE: building demolished in 1969.
The synagogue was a place of study, meeting and prayer. It was located in a courtyard surrounded by houses in the current Piazza Cattaneo, once also known as "Jews’ square". During the First World War, the synagogue suffered extensive damage, especially during the Austro-German occupation, as it was even used as a shelter for horses. The holy ark, the books and the sacred furnishings, which survived the devastation, were transferred to Udine and in 1948 they were transported to Jerusalem in the museum of the Italian rite temple, where they are still on display to the public.
In the 1960s, the small Ashkenazi (jewish population of german origin) temple was demolished.
At the beginning of 1700, the Jewish cemetery of Udine, located in Calle Agricola, had no more space to keep being used. In 1734 the San Daniele community rented a communal land to build a cemetery. The site, existent to this day, is located in the open countryside, near the lake, and is known as "la Merenda" (the snack) because once upon a time people stopped to have a snack in front of it.
The cemetery is far away from the inhabited center because the authorities assigned an isolated land devoted to Jewish burial places in order to clearly distinguish them from Christian ones.
In 1735, after long negotiations, the land fas finally assigned to the community, but the cemetery could only accommodate the deceased residents of the area.
In 1751 the site was bought and Jews were free to bury their dead, whatever their origin.
The oldest tombstone is that of Ester of Baruch Luzzatto dated 19 March 1742.