The essay outlines the biographies of Jacob and his son Tullo in the context of the history of the Mantuan Jews in the age of emancipation. Giacobbe came from a family of the Jewish élite and was brought up to the Enlightenment ideas and to the principles of 1789. Following the path, which had been opened in Mantua by rabbis Simone Calimani and Jakob Rafael Jacob Saraval, Giacobbe turned toward the ideal of the reconcilability of  faith with reason, in tune with prevailing tendencies also within non-Jewish bourgeoisie. The inclination to reduce religion to the “love of the neighbor” brought Giacobbe to the more or less explicit recognition of the equivalence of different faiths, which mirrored at a cultural level the social integration between Jewish elites and non-Jewish bourgeoisie.
Tullo’s detachment from traditional faith was even more radical, however a strong need for a faith survived and this was satisfied by the conversion to the religion of the nation. In this sense you can talk of a marked “assimilazionismo.” The animated opposition showed by Tullo in the 1890s against any proposals to make a Jewish identity reviving can be explained by his fear for the centrifugal tendencies, which – along with the escalation of the class struggle – could have endangered the unity of the new State. Massarani was obsessed with these risks and he consequently acted in order to prevent them.

issue 08 / November 2015 by Maurizio Bertolotti