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It was probably in the ninth century that the Kalonymus family settled in Lucca and founded a talmudic academy there. In the year 917 members of the family moved to Mainz, thereby establishing talmudic studies in the Rhineland.

In 1145 Abraham Ibn Ezra wrote some of his works in Lucca. When Benjamin of Tudela visited the city about 20 years later, he found some 40 Jewish families.

Around 1431–32 Angelo di Gaio (= Mordecai b. Isaac) of Forlì opened a bank at Lucca; later the poet David b. Joab of Tivoli settled there. When the opinion of Savonarola was asked, he stated that while Jews should not be invited in order to lend at interest it was no sin if they did so once they came.

As a result of the anti-Jewish preaching of Bernardino da Feltre a Monte di Pietà was founded in 1489 and the Jewish bankers were fined heavily. Since they did not pay, they were expelled.

Around the middle of the 16th century a few Jews returned but after 1572 they were not allowed to stay for more than 15 days at a time. This restriction was set aside in individual cases from 1738. Since then, however, no more than a handful of Jews have lived in Lucca. source

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The Kalonymus Family

Moses I. (ben Meshullam)

Moses l Kalonymides Liturgical poet; lived at Rome or at Lucca about 850. Two tahanunim of his are incorporated in the Mahzor: one, beginning with אנא ה' אלקי תשועתי, comprises thirty-eight lines of four words each; the other, beginning with מקור ישראל, consists of forty-six lines, with a double acrostic on the name of the author at the beginning of the line; translated into German by Zunz ("S. P." p. 193).

Kalonymus II. (ben Moses)

Kalonymus ll.Klonymides Halakist and liturgical poet; flourished at Lucca or at Rome about 950. He was consulted on ritual questions by Rabbenu Gershom Me'or ha-Golah; and twelve responsa of his are included in the collection compiled by Joseph ben Samuel Tob Alam and published by D. Cassel under the title "Teshubot Geonim Kadmonim" (Nos. 106-118).

Meshullam the Great

Mesullam the Great, called also the Roman, was a Halakhist and liturgical poet; flourished at Rome or at Lucca about 976. He carried on with Gershom Me'or ha-Golah and Simon the Great a scientific correspondence, which is included in the "Teshuvot Geonim Kadmonim" (13a), and was the author of a commentary on Avot ("Aruk," s.v. ).

Meshullam engaged in polemics with the Karaites. From the Bible text he demonstrates that, contrary to their opinion, one may quit one's house on Shabbat and have one's house lighted on the night of Shabbat ("Semag," No. 66; "Sefer Ḥasidim,"No. 1147).

Meshullam was a prolific liturgical poet. Of the piyyutim contained in the kerobah of the "Shacharit" service of the Day of Atonement, at least twenty (possibly thirty-two) belong to him. He wrote also: an "'Avodah," recited after the prayer for the synagogue reader and containing a cursory review of Biblical history from Adam down to Levi; a yoẓer for Passover; and two zulot.

Altogether thirty-eight piyyuṭim are attributed to him. Although their language is labored, they are distinguished by their elevation of thought and conciseness. There was another payyeṭan called "Meshullam the Great," to whom probably belongs the Aramaic poetical Targum on the Decalogue which is generally attributed to Meshullam the Great ben Kalonymus (comp. Landshuth, "'Ammude ha-'Abodah," s.v.).

David Kalonymus ben Jacob

David Kalonymus ben Jacob (David ben Jacob Meïr) was an Italian Jewish astrologer of the fifteenth century, and a member of the Kalonymus family. He wrote in 1464 two astrological treatises, the smaller of which is on the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. He dedicated the latter work to King Ferdinand I of Naples, and hoped thereby to obtain religious liberty for his coreligionists.

In 1466 David translated from Latin into Hebrew an astronomical work of John of Gmünd, which he called Mar'ot ha-Kokabim ("The Aspects of the Stars"). The work is a description of an astronomical instrument which had been invented at Vienna in 1417. He was invested by the king with an office, probably that of astrologer.

In 1484 he wrote a philosophical treatise on the Destructio Destructionis of Averroes, which he addressed to his son Ḥayyim Kalonymus. source

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  • David ben Joab of Tivoli, b c1450 a wealthy banker in Lucca, and renowned poet and patron of scholars. source