In the heart of the Mediterranean, Syracuse played a primary role as a cultural centre in the antiquity. This geo-cultural context also involves the Jewish communities that throughout the first millennium, following the diaspora, were concentrated in insular Italy, until their
in 1492 by the Catholic sovereigns.
A cloud of oblivion has long since shrouded the life of the Jews in Sicily, a cloud so thick that the ghettos, synagogues, cemeteries, sacred furnishings and books that belonged to some of the oldest communities in the Diaspora seemed to have been swept away by the harshness of history.
The task of investigating echoes and traces of distant Jewish settlements has been entrusted to archaeological discoveries and research in archival documentation. Jews were definitely in Syracuse from the 4th-5th century AD.
We know this thanks to archaeological evidence, but some scholars have suggested that the city was already inhabited by Jews before, considering the city’s unique position along the sea and the trade route that connected Asia Minor to Rome.
In the age of Pope Gregory I and throughout the Middle Ages, the Jews in Syracuse were not only landowners or tenants on church property, but mainly artisans and merchants.
Among their crafts, the most widespread were silk weaving, fabric dyeing and leather tanning.