Jewish Converts’ Inheritance Rights in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany: The Case of a Nun in the Convent of Santa Scolastica in Buggiano
“As defined by the Fortunati-Ergas case, catechumens and neophytes have a right to their allotted share of the estate of their parents, even while their mother and father are still alive, notwithstanding the privileges accorded the Jews of Livorno by Grand Duke Ferdinando I in 1593.” This claim, written in Florence in 1825, tried to depict the Fortunati-Ergas case as a bridgehead breaking the guarantees offered to the Jews living in Livorno since the end of the 16th century. Papal laws explicitly offered converted Jews the right to immediately inherit from one’s parents, as if they were orphans. On the other side, the so-called Livornine, issued in 1593, opposed this principle and stated that converted Jews could not inherit from their Jewish relatives. In the 18th century, the Fortunati-Ergas case became the battleground among canon laws and civil laws, defending or contrasting the right to inheritance of converted Jews. Sara Ergas was a Jewish woman from Livorno who did not follow the decision of her husband Moisè Ergas, a rich Jewish merchant who converted to Christianity together with their small child, taking the new names of—respectively—Francesco Xaverio Fortunati and Maria Maddalena Fortunati. Sara remained fiercely Jewish, and never satisfied the claims over her goods made by the apostates in Florence (where they had moved after their conversion), engaging in a legal battle that, as shown in this article, proved the Livornine to remain a strong pillar defending the Jewish privileged status in Livorno till the unification of Italy.