Cherasco

The first Jews arrived in Cherasco in July 1547 when two Jews asked and obtained the permission to settle in this little town. Though the Jewish population never really picked up in numbers like in other cities or towns, in 1740 the ghetto was established. Here, due to the small number of Jews, the ghetto consisted basically only of one large building, still standing, where the Jewish populations of Cherasco and nearby Alba were required to dwell.

The construction of the Synagogue goes back to this period, hidden in a featureless building as all synagogues of the pre reformation period. Once inside you will find yourself like in a small, cozy salon where the original baroque decor, decorations, and frescoed walls are still for us to see. Along the ceilings are the painted Hebrew verses of poetry, including the names of members of the community. Above, by the womens’ gallery, is a small study room with a window looking outside onto the old ghetto alley. In 1848, like everywhere else throughout the Savoia-ruled Piedmont, the ghettos were dismantled. This was also the beginning of the rapid demographic decline of the local Jewish population that started to move to larger urban centres like Turin until in 1857 the local community was joined to the one of Cuneo and, finally in 1930, to the one of Turin which nowadays represents all the several smaller Piedmontese Jewish communities.

Though small, the Jewish community of Cherasco provided several eminent personalities not only to the town, but also at a national level. Probably the most famous is Emilio Debenedetti, the first Italian Jew to graduate in engineering. It was him at the head of one of the leading Italian electrical companies specialised in hydroelectric power tapped in the nearby Alps, who at the beginning of the XX century provided the town with electricity and donated the municipality of a bell that until nowadays rings in his honour on the day of his birthday.

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