Family, Marriage and Inheritance Practices of a Jewish Elite in the Age of Emancipation



Marriage and inheritance practices that ensured continuity of lineage, the allocation of resources and the establishment or modification of roles and hierarchies within the institution of the family have, in many societies and historical contexts, played a crucial role in how social groups have defended their identity.1 For the Jewish minority, the material and symbolic value of marriage strategies, linked to a particular pattern of inheritance strategies, was very important. Marriage, and the transmission of ownership, reproduced the social order and the natural sequence of generations, defending the biological, social and religious continuity of the group.


Jewish Community Civil Code Jewish Woman Jewish Family Marriage Contract 
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  1. 1.
    For this concept, see Jack Goody (ed.), Family and Inheritance: Rural Society in Western Europe, 1200–1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    From 1778 to 1861 Jews in Florence were free to live outside the ghetto, to attend public education up to university level, to own land and property and to form business relationships with gentiles. They could not, however, work in public administration or the legal profession. After unification, in 1861, they obtained full equality of civil and political rights. See Attilio Milano, Storia degli ebrei in Italia (Turin: Einaudi, 1992); Vittore Colorni, Gli ebrei nel sistema di diritto comune (Milan: Giuffre, 1956).Google Scholar
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    Raffaele Romanelli, ‘Urban patricians and “bourgeois” society: a study of wealthy elites in Florence, 1862–1904’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 1 (1995), p. 17.Google Scholar
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    The ‘legitimate’ portion denotes that part of the inherited property due, according to the rules of the civil code, to legitimate heirs (in first approximation irrespective of sex); the ‘disposable’ is the part of the estate that the testator canassign on the basis of his or her own will. See Baldassarre Paoli, Le successioni testamentarie secondo il codice civile italiano (Florence: Barbera, 1873).Google Scholar
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    The principle of sexual equality was limited only to the sphere of inheritance law. In other matters of family law women remained in a subordinate position. The patria potestas (i.e., the right to exercise parental authority over minors, for example) was given to both parents but only the father was entitled to exercise it legally. In case of death that right was transferred to the wife. Married women were not allowed to operate freely on the market without the husband’s authorisation. In other words, they were forbidden to carry out any economic activity without their husband’s permission: they were not allowed to donate or acquire real estate, shares or bonds, or perform the assignment or collection of money or manage bank accounts. See Paolo Ungari, Storia del diritto di famiglia in Italia (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1974).Google Scholar
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    The donazione tra i vivi consisted in the transfer (donation or gift) of a share of the estate before the death of the owner. The procura (proxy) was the legal instrument that entrusted the management of the patrimony to a third person. This could occur before or after the death of the testator, preventing the legitimate heirs from controlling the legacy.Google Scholar
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    See Luciano Allegra, ‘Alle origini del mito della jewish rnomie. Ruoli economici e ideali domestici delle ebree italiane nell’età moderna’, in Claire E. Honess and Verina R. Jones (eds), Donne delle Minoranze. Le ebree e le protestanti dItalia (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1999); Allegra, Identita in bilico. Il ghetto di Torino nel Settecento (Turin: Zamorani, 1996).Google Scholar
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    See Elia Benamozegh, Delle fonti del diritto ebraico e del testamento del fu Conte Caid Nissim (Leghorn: Costa, 1882); David Castelli, Del testamento ebraico (Florence: Tip. Arte della Stampa, 1878).Google Scholar
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    ASFI, Post-unitary notarial, Notary Bandini, prot. 4003–08, 1872. The tosefet is a sum of money gifted by the husband — as a supplement to her dowry — to his bride. The size of this money gift is not fixed but follows local customs. In Florence it was fixed at up to 10 per cent of the total value of the dowry but in Leghorn it was much greater, reaching 30 per cent of the dowry. The praetium pudicitiae refers to the symbolic acquisition of the spouse. The price of her virginity was fixed by Jewish law at 200 symbolic coins, named zuzim. These coins were converted into local currency.Google Scholar
  13. 21.
    See Monica Miniati, Lesemanicipées’. Les femmes juives italiennes aux XIX et XX siecle, 1848–1925 (Paris: Champion, 2000).Google Scholar
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    Simonetta Soldani, ‘Nascita della maestra elementare’, in Simonetta Soldani and Gabriele Turi (eds), Fare gli italiani. Scuola e cultura nellItalia contemporanea (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1993).Google Scholar
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    See Raffaele Romanelli, ‘Individuo, famiglia e collettività nel codice civile della borghesia italiana’, in Raffaella Gherardi and Gustavo Gozzi (eds), Saperi della borghesia e storia di concetti fra Otto e Novecento (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1995), pp. 351–99.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2004

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