The Jews of Corfu: Between the Adriatic and the Ionian

Corfu and Printing

 מחזור מועדי ה' : כמנהג ק"ק ספרדים הי"ו. נדפסו מחדש ... חג המצות.

Mahazor for Passover according to the Sephardic rite

Corfu, 1877

JTS BM675.P4 A3 1877d

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Giuseppe Nacamulli (1821-1886) was the pioneer of the Jewish press on Corfu. In the 1860s, he established a publishing house and a printing press and imported Hebrew letters from Livorno. Nacamulli used his press to publish religious and secular literature and began by publishing a periodical, the Greek-Italian newspaper Cronaca Israelitica/Israilitika Chronika (1861-1864).

Fluent in Hebrew, Greek and Italian, he translated between those languages and created a bridge between the cultures. On display here is his first Hebrew publication, a book of evening prayers for Passover printed together with a Haggadah. By the end of the 19 th century, the influence of Sephardic Jews from Livorno and Salonica created a shift in the religious practice of the Jews of Corfu and this prayerbook was printed according to the Sephardic rite rather than the Romaniote or the Apulian rite.

Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, is a tractate of Mishnah that details ethical principles and guidelines for interpersonal relationships. As noted on the title page of this book, it is customary to recite one chapter each Sabbath between the holidays of Pesah and Shavu'ot. The traditional Hebrew text was translated into Greek by Joseph (Giuseppe) Nacamulli.

Shir : li-khevod ha-torah

Shir li-khvod ha-Torah

Song in Honor of the Torah

Corfu, 1889

CUL MS X893.17 F21

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A hakhnasat sefer Torah is a celebratory and joyous occasion, marking the completion of the writing of a new Torah Scroll. This Hebrew poem by Elisha di Fano (Maimon ben Yitsḥaḳ Ṿenṭurah), commemorates the dedication of the new Torah scroll, donated to the synagogue by David Nahmias.

 הגדה של פסח / תרגום ]יווני[ על ידי אברהם משה ניקוקירי.

A Passover Haggadah with a Greek Translation

Translated by Abraham Moses Nikokiri

Corfu, 1940

JTS BM675.P4 A3 1940f

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This translation of the Haggadah into Greek was published during the chaos of World War II, just months before the Italian army occupied the Island of Corfu in April 1941. It was the very last Jewish book to have been printed on Corfu before the obliteration of the Jewish community in 1944. Since the Hebrew movable type previously used by the printer Giuseppe Nacamulli no longer existed, the Hebrew text in this book was handwritten and then lithographed. The printer commissioned and incorporated a new series of illustrations for this Haggadah. The pages on display here are open to the Hebrew and Greek verses where participants of the Seder plead with God to pour out His wrath upon the nations who have persecuted the Jewish people. The illustration is a surprising counterpoint to the texts and offers a more hopeful image of the Messianic Era when "nations will beat their swords into plowshares" (Isaiah 2:4).

Additional printed matter relating to Corfu can be found in a printed poem celebrating a medical school graduation, and a book describing a new school opening in 1843. Both can be found in the Education and Medicine portion of the exhibition.

Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. East / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5153 /