There is a widespread belief that Italian Jews in the modern period “assimilated,” meaning that they merged with the gentile society to such an extent that they abandoned their Jewish identity. This belief is based on the fact that modern Italian Jews became less observant. From the nineteenth century onwards, Italian Jews attended synagogue less frequently, observed kashrut less stringently, and married Christians in growing numbers. Most scholars have concluded from these trends that Italian Jewish identity disintegrated. This article argues to the contrary. Using a wide array of sources, including Italian Jewish community archives, newspapers, memoirs, and oral histories, it shows that the Jews of modern Italy maintained their distinctiveness from non-Jews and invented entirely new forms of Jewish culture. From the late nineteenth century until World War II, the Italian Jewish...

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