A) The Jews in Rome
B) The ghetto
C) Health tradition and the first hospital
D) The Jewish hospital in the Island
E) The hospital today
F) Bibliography and Contributions
|A) THE JEWS IN ROME
Even if the evidence of the first presences of the Jewish people dates back to the II century b.C., the massive arrival of the Jews to Rome is connected to the deportations of thousands of them as slaves by empereor Tito after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Their condition changed time by time until the Jews was allowed to organize free and independent communities, always characterized by a strong feeling of identity and distinction from the other people. Such communities arose nearby the Tiber using the river like primary source of economic and trading activities: the main areas of settlement was at first Trastevere, around to square in Piscinula, and subsequently also on the left river bank, at the Porch of Ottavia where the ghetto would have be built, just in front of the Fabricio Bridge, that for this reason was also known as Pons Judeorum .
In Trastevere it is still present in Vicolo dell'Atleta, in the basement of a restaurant, what is considered the most ancient synagogue, that dates back to the XIII century (pict.A1 and A2), and identified by some scholars as the Nathan ben Jechiel one (1035-1106).
B) THE GHETTO
During the Middle Ages the roman Jews, mainly involved in commercial activities, did not have particular difficulties in living together the Christian population. But during the Renaissance, after the Protestant schism, the Roman Church became more coercive for the not Christian people so that in July 14th 1555 the pope Paul IV Carafa, just elected (1555-1559), revoked with the bulla “Cum nimis absurdum” all the previously granted rights and ordered to confine the about 3000 members of the Jewish community in a restricted area, the district known as Ghetto. [complete original latin text]
In order to reduce the effect of such ordinance in 1562 the new pope Pius IV (1560-1565) instituted in favor of the Jews the “Jus Gazzagà” (right of ownership) according to which the Christians kept the property of the houses located in the ghetto area, but without the right of evict the Jews who lived there nor to increase of the rent.
Originally the doors of the Ghetto were only two; in 1577 it was opened a third one. The main door was in the Giudea Square (no more existing and where it was located the fountain, the only drinkable water resource of the ghetto, just outside the fencing borders), the others two was nearby the churches of St.Angelo and St.Gregorio.
In 1589 the pope Sisto V (1585-1590) revoked some restrictions and widened the ghetto including the long building facing the Tiber river and Via della Fiumara (no more existing) at the ends of which two new doors were constructed. The ghetto reached a surface of 3 hectares.
In the picture B1, on the base of the 1748 Nolli map, are indicated the borders, the names and the positions of the five doors and the names of the main roads of the ghetto.
After more than two centuries the excessive growth of the resident people forced the pope Leone XII (1823-1829) to allow a further increase of the ghetto: therefore the (1825) building between Via della Reginella and Via St.Ambrogio was annexed to the ghetto opening an accessing passage between Via di Pescheria and Via Rua and adding three more doors, up to a total of eight doors (see pict.B2).
Finally in April 17th 1848, in the evening of the 5608 Pesach, the pope Pio IX (1846-1878) ordered the opening of all the doors of the ghetto and the demolition of the walls, that however was completed only in 1885. During the construction of the new embankments of the Tiber all the buildings of the ghetto were demolish except for the building, still existing, between Via della Reginella and Via di S.Ambrogio.
C) HEALTH TRADITION AND THE FIRST HOSPITAL
The Jewish community, even if restricted by the antiJewish norms in force in Rome, throve thanks to traders and craftsmen, administrators and trustees of the pope, scholars and doctors, the last ones mainly among the rabbis.
The medical attitude made up for the difficult life conditions in the ghetto, maintaining the sanitary conditions to a level comparable to the rest of the city. During the plague in 1656 rabbi Zahalon noted that “la pestilenza colpì anche gli ebrei, i quali però guarivano più in fretta dei cristiani” [the plague infected also the Jews, that however recovered more quickly than the Christians].
A first Opera Pia Ebraica [Jewish Religious Charity] was founded in 1600 with the purpose to provide a simple health service, mostly at domicile, to the Jewish people that was not allowed to enter the the hospitals in Rome.
In 1881, due to a popular initiative of a small group of about forty traders who taxed themselves by 10 Liras each, it was set up the “Associazione via della Fiumara 26 per il ricovero degli ammalati poveri” [Association of Fiumara Street 26 for the hospitalization of poor sick people]: so in the unhealthy street running alongside the Tiber (pict.C1) a real hospital house was risen, even if constisting of a simple two rooms house with only four beds and managed by voluntary staff; however it was guaranteed the observance of the religious rules also for the preparation of the food.
When the ghetto was opened the Jewish community included more than thirty brotherhoods for social and sanitary welfare and charity: this nucleus was the origin of the “Deputazione centrale israelitica di carità” [Central Jewish Deputation for charity] (1885), a new organization for charitable supervision born of the merging and reorganization of some brotherhoods.
D) THE JEWISH HOSPITAL IN THE TIBER ISLAND
In the end of the 1800's, thanks to the generosity of some well-to-do Jewish people, new charitable institutions were set out making easier the integration of poor people in the town, become capital of the Reign of Italy, after more than two hundred years spent enclosed in the ghetto, by now unhealthy and destined to be demolished.
In such context Angelo Tagliacozzo, one of the most representative exponents of the Jewish community, managed to obtain from the mayor of Rome Luigi Pianciani the concession of the left wing of the ex-Franciscan monastery of St.Bartholomew at the Island, a municipal property. The Association of Via of the Fiumara was quickly transferred in the new building (1882) and its name changed to “Jewish Hospital Bet Aholim” (in Jewish “Sick's house”). It included all the remaining charitable brotherhoods and get by the “Deputazione centrale israelitica di carità” the entrusting of all the sanitary activities relevant to the Jewish community.
In 1887 also the “Ricovero per israeliti poveri e invalidi” [Home for poor and disabled Jews] was accommodated in the same building; it continued the tradition of assistance to the old people already performed by the broterhood “Mosclav Zechenim ” [Home for old people]. (pict.D1 and D2)
The destruction of the ghetto, carried out in few months, caused the economic and social problem relevant to the moving to new lodgings: many Jews, with the help of the “Comitato per il decentramento degli Israeliti poveri di Roma” [Committee for the decentralization of the poor Jews in Rome] founded in 1884, settled in Trastevere, nearby the old district and the new hospital that, more and more equipped, became a reference point as sanitary institution.
In 1911 the Hospital was recognized as religious charity with the scope of: “curare gratuitamente gli ammalati poveri israeliti aventi il domicilio di soccorso in Roma, affetti da malattie acute o croniche non contagiose né diffusive” [to cure free of charge the poor sick Jews resident in Rome, suffering from acute or chronic not contagious nor diffusive diseases], and their Statute was approved with a Royal Decree. The regulations allowed to accommodate occasionally Jews not needy, even if travelling from other cities, but on payment and without detriment to the health service for the poor ones. So the tradition of the doctor-rabbis, among which let us mention Samuele Toscano, the first doctor of the hospital, and the director Benedetto Zevi, continued in the new hospital.
The Hospital had 17 beds and 8 more, separately located in a wing of the adjacent monastery of St.Bartholomew, assigned to the chronic sick people. (pict.D4)
The activity of the Hospital was economically supported by the subsidies supplied at first by the Ghemilud Chasadim (Charitable institution) and then by the “Deputazione centrale israelitica di carità”, as well as by the bequests of single benefactors among which let us mention Mosè Levi for his generosity.
E) THE HOSPITAL TODAY
The Jewish Hospital is currently integrated in the sanitary system of the Lazio Region, being open by now to all the citizens and organized to treat all pathologies. Nevertheless it is qualified in particular for the surgery of the hand and as a geriatric structure: this in coherence with its tradition of closeness to the home for the old, the above mentioned Ricovero per Israeliti Poveri Invalidi. In 1975 the Jewish Hospital was classified as "Specialized Geriatrical Provincial Hospital".
In 1970 the Medical Management of the hospital, the Hospital Wards, the Day Hospital, the Analysis Laboratory, the Radiology and the Surgery departments have been transferred to the Magliana area in Fulda Str., as well as the Ricovero per Israeliti Poveri Invalidi, that become independent in 2001 and transferred again to Portuense Str. in 2003. Only the General and Administrative Management's offices and a great specialized health clinic are still in the old rooms at the first and second floor of the ex-monastery of St. Bartholomew, recently restored within the works for the 2000 Jubilee (pict.E1 and E2). A third health clinic has been established in 2000 in the Marconi area.
The Hospital has altogether 120 bed places; 24 are reserved to surgical day-hospital service with that provides more than 20.000 operations per year. Within a project assigned in 2000 by the Lazio Region to the hospital, at present oncological and integrated attendance is provided at home to about 80 patients.
In the second half of 1980's a controversy, not yet solved, arose between the Hospital and the Association for the Historical Museum of the Tiber Island (AMSIT), the last claiming the right to use the Palace Pierleoni Caetani including the rooms currently occupied by the Hospital.
References in Rome:
Jewish Hospital (head office and surgery): Via Fulda 14 (in the Portuense-Magliana area)
Surgeries: Tiber Island - Piazza San Bartolomeo all'Isola n.21 and Via Veronese 59 (in the Marconi area).