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A classic by Leo Levi
Traditional Jewish Music and Italian-Jewish Liturgical Traditions
Jerusalem, summer 1955, Published in: “Rassegna Mensile di Israel”, Tishri 5718, Ottobre 1957, Vol. XXIII, N. 10
What is the status of the minhaghim with regard to liturgical music and its distribution in Jewish Italy today? The goal of this paper is, first and foremost, to report on my findings in contemporary Italy. Then, in order to better contextualize my research, I will also go back and trace the history of these musical traditions from the Middle Ages. It is a difficult task but perhaps not an impossible one.
There are six different types of “ritual” in Italy today:
1) The oldest is of course the Roman-Italian, even though in the Rome of today, Sephardic influences prevail in the rite practiced in the Central Synagogue. It is well known that the five “Scole” – Sicilian, Catalan, Castilian, Italian and “Scola-Tempio” – were supplanted, about fifty years ago by the central synagogue.
2) In Northern Italy, from Florence to Turin and Padua, the Italian rite was practiced by communities established during the 1400s, when the first money-lending banks opened.
3) More recent than the Italian, but undoubtedly of medieval origin, is the minhag called “APAM” an acronym from the three Piedmontese kehilloth – Asti, Fossano and Moncalvo.
4) The Sephardic minhag conquered Italy by sea and it attacked the peninsula on two fronts, infiltrating both the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian coastlines.
5) The cantillation of the Sephardic-Levantine minhag, practiced today in Venice, Ancona and part of Ferrara differs, characteristically, from that of the Tyrrhenian kehilloth – with which it shares only a few patterns of biblical reading.
6)Between 1500 and 1700, the Italian Ashkenazi communities flourished around three epicenters: Casale Monferrato in the Piedmont, Verona and Padua in the Veneto and finally Casalmaggiore, Firenzuola and lower Lombardy. Read full article