The Jews of San Nicandro

The Jews of San Nicandro

by John Davis
     
 

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Not many people know of the utterly extraordinary events that took place in a humble southern Italian town in the first half of the twentieth century—and those who do have struggled to explain them. In the late 1920s, a crippled shoemaker had a vision where God called upon him to bring the Jewish faith to this “dark corner” in the Catholic

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Overview

Not many people know of the utterly extraordinary events that took place in a humble southern Italian town in the first half of the twentieth century—and those who do have struggled to explain them. In the late 1920s, a crippled shoemaker had a vision where God called upon him to bring the Jewish faith to this “dark corner” in the Catholic heartlands, despite his having had no prior contact with Judaism itself. By 1938, about a dozen families had converted at one of the most troubled times for Italy’s Jews. The peasant community came under the watchful eyes of Mussolini’s regime and the Catholic Church, but persisted in their new belief, eventually securing approval of their conversion from the rabbinical authorities, and emigrating to the newly founded State of Israel, where a community still exists today.

In this first fully documented examination of the San Nicandro story, John A. Davis explains how and why these incredible events unfolded as they did. Using the converts’ own accounts and a wide range of hitherto unknown sources, Davis uncovers the everyday trials and tribulations within this community, and shows how they intersected with many key contemporary issues, including national identity and popular devotional cults, Fascist and Catholic persecution, Zionist networks and postwar Jewish refugees, and the mass exodus that would bring the Mediterranean peasant world to an end. Vivid and poignant, this book draws fresh and intriguing links between the astonishing San Nicandro affair and the wider transformation of twentieth-century Europe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his latest book, Davis (Naples and Napoleon) tells the story behind the ascent of Donato Manduzio from a poor and uneducated Italian shoemaker to the leader of a small sect of Jewish converts. Manduzio's spiritual journey begins in the 1920s when he's given a bible by a group of Pentecostals, and upon reading the Old Testament, rejects the notion that the Messiah had already come to earth as Jesus Christ, insisting that this could only be the result of divine intervention. It takes little time for his story to spread and for others from San Nicandro and neighboring towns to join Manduzio in practicing Judaism. They eat as close to kosher as possible given their limited means, observe the Sabbath, and refuse to acknowledge false gods and images. Davis's account of the remarkable spiritual journey of the San Nicandro Jews from persecution in Italy to liberation in Israel, where they reside to this day, is fluid and well-researched; a compelling story of the power of belief. (Oct.)
Forward
"Davis has infused this historical episode—as well as the question 'Who is a Jew?'—with larger meaning. . ."—Forward

Haaretz

"Davis does a fine job here of giving the reader the wider Italian historical context of the story. . . . We have John Davis and Yale University Press to thank for bringing this great story to light."—Shalom Goldman, Haaretz

— Shalom Goldman

National Jewish Post & Opinion

"The remarkable account of how a small number of Italians became Jews is set forth in this book with considerable verve by an accomplished writer. . . . [Davis] demonstrates his extensive knowledge of Italian history and his diligent tenacity in digging out this compelling but barely known story about San Nicandro''s Jews."—Morton I. Teicher, National Jewish Post & Opinion

— Morton I. Teicher

The Buffalo Jewish Review

"Davis demonstrates his extensive knowledge of Italian history and his diligent tenacity in digging out this compelling but barely known story about San Nicandro''s Jews."—Morton I. Teicher, The Buffalo Jewish Review

— Morton I. Teicher

Haaretz - Shalom Goldman
"Davis does a fine job here of giving the reader the wider Italian historical context of the story. . . . We have John Davis and Yale University Press to thank for bringing this great story to light."—Shalom Goldman, Haaretz
National Jewish Post & Opinion - Morton I. Teicher
"Davis demonstrates his extensive knowledge of Italian history and his diligent tenacity in digging out this compelling but barely known story about San Nicandro's Jews."—Morton I. Teicher, The Buffalo Jewish Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300160369
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
10/26/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
954,348
File size:
0 MB

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