Reggio Isacco Samuele (1784-1855) 

23/03/2020

Isaac Samuele Reggio was born in Gorizia on August 15, 1784, son of the Ferrarese Jew Abram Vita, who had settled in Gorizia for a year, and who was then a rabbi from Gorizia for over forty years. He attended the public gymnasium while following, also under the guidance of his father, the traditional rabbinical studies within the Community. He taught humanities at the high school in Gorizia during the period of the French occupation of Gorizia and the consequent total emancipation of the Jews, and at the time of the Austrian restoration he had to leave his post to dedicate himself exclusively to the studies that fascinated him. An authoritative exponent of Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) at European level, Isaac Samuele Reggio claimed, as his personal vicissitudes demonstrate in concrete terms, the need for Jews to actively integrate themselves into society, while maintaining their religion and traditions. This attitude of his is also evident in his works, one of which is a deepening of Jewish studies (HaTorà wehafilosofia. Thora et philosophia, Vienna 1827), the others a dissemination addressed to a wider audience - and not necessarily only Jewish - through translation into Italian (La legge di Dio ossia il Pentateuch, Vienna 1821; Il libro d'Isaiah. Poetic version, Udine 1831) or, again, didactic texts intended for students or teachers (Picciola enciclopedia scritta per uso de' giovanetti, Gorizia 1812; Guida per l'istruzione religiosa della gioventù israelitica proposta ai maestri, Gorizia 1853). Thanks above all to his efforts, in 1829 in Padua, the higher institute for the training of rabbis was established, which took the name of Rabbinical College, the first of its kind in Italy, to which Reggio collaborated by drawing up the statute and the regulations, and where he declined the offer of a teaching post in favour of Samuel David Luzzatto.

In addition to collaborating with the Viennese Jewish periodical "Bikkure Ha-Ittim", linked to the Haskalah environment, he was the editor of the "Strenna israelitica", a magazine that came out for four years, from 1852 to 1855, with literary and current affairs articles on Jewish themes, and which had a considerable diffusion, contributing, together with the dense correspondence maintained by Reggio with Italian and European scholars, to make Gorizia known as "the little Jerusalem on the Isonzo" for the intense Jewish cultural activity that was implemented there. In 1841, on the death of his father, he assumed the role of Major Rabbi of Gorizia. He was always able to reconcile his studies and public commitments with the attention for his large family (his wife Rachel Levi had twelve children). He died on 29th August 1855, due to cholera, and is buried in the Jewish cemetery of Valdirose.