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40 years of active presence

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

    HISTORICAL BACKGROUND – French and British rule

    In June 1797, after 411 years of Venetian rule, Corfu came under rule of the Republican French of Napoleon Bonaparte. In the spirit of the French Revolution, the Jewish community was granted equality, which again led to the resentment of the Christian population. The rabbi of Corfu was even granted the same standing as the heads of the other religions. The same applied during the rule of the “opponents” of the Republicans, the Imperial French. On 2 October 1808, Corfu’s police commissar determined that “some bad people of bad ways […] attempt to carry out bad deeds against the Jews” and ordered that “no one from now on shall dare attempt to anger, either with deeds or actions, the peace and the security of the people who profess the Jewish religion”.

    In 1814 the British occupied Corfu, which remained under their rule for the next 50 years. While this period constituted an era of progress for the island on nearly all fronts, for the Jewish presence, which numbered around 4,000 people at the time, it brought the reversal of the rights they had enjoyed up to that point and the introduction of prohibitions and restrictions, after relevant laws were passed by the Ionian Parliament and ratified by the British Commissioner. Jews were thus deprived of their political rights and forbidden to exercise the legal profession, being limited to appearing in courts only as “sub-attorneys” (intervenienti). Despite these setbacks, a new synagogue was built, named the Nuova (“New”), which, however, was to be destroyed in the German bombing raids of 1943.

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