La Solidarieta Israelitica e i Falascia. First Edition published in 1907. [translation of title] Israelite Solidarity and the Falasha. Controversial lecture by an Orthodox Rabbi and scholar on behalf of the Ethiopian "Falasha" Jews delivered in the Great Jewish Synagogue in Florence on the First Day of Passover by Dr. Samuel Hirsch Margulies. Firenze (Florence): Galletti e Cassuto, 7 pages. Text is in Italian. Original lecture pamphlet, bound in marbled boards, with handwritten label to spine. Stamp to title and last page, wear to extremities, otherwise in very good condition, internally clean.
BACKGROUND: This historically significant lecture given by the Chief Rabbi of Florence, influential religious figure at the time and foremost supporter of Falasha Jews, marks the beginning of Pro-Falasha committees established by Margulies, under the advocacy of Faitlovitch for the Ethiopian Jewish community. In October 1906, Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch, who was committed to Beta Israel (Falasha) research and relief, went to Italy with the intent to gain support for his campaign. Italian Jews embraced the movement on behalf of the Falashas. With the help and leadership of the Chief Rabbi of Florence, Dr. Samuel Margulies, Faitlovitch established in Florence the first Pro-Falasha Committee. Professor Moise Funzi and Advocate R. Ottolenghi were also original committee members. This is one of the earliest lectures since the formation of the committee, and contains excerpts from Psalms, Exodus, Ruth, etc. The Beta Israel or Falasha is a group formerly living in Ethiopia that has a tradition of descent from the lost tribe of Dan. Tradition states that they are descendants of Solomon and the queen of Sheba, and for centuries they have maintained separated, culturally and physically, from their African neighbors. 'Falasha' is Amharic for "Exiles" or "Strangers," a term used by non-Jewish Ethiopians, though the Jews consider it derogatory. For centuries the Falasha Jews have been treated as outsiders, practicing a form of Judaism that appears to predate much of the Old Testament. They also have a long history of practicing such Jewish traditions as kashrut, Sabbath and Passover and for this reason their Jewishness was accepted by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Israeli government in 1975. They emigrated to Israel en masse during the 1980s and 1990s, as Jews, under the Law of Return, though some who claim to be Beta Israel still live in Ethiopia. Their claims were formally accepted by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and are accordingly generally regarded as Jews. Other terms by which the community have been known include Kayla and the Hebrew Habashim, associated with the non-Jewish Habesha people.
Dr. Samuel Hirsch Margulies (1858-1922), was an Orthodox Rabbi and a scholar. He was born in Berezhany, western Ukraine (then mainly Polish speaking town with mixed Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish population in the kingdom of Galicia of Austro-Hungarian Empire), and studied at the Breslau Jewish Theological Seminary and at the universities of Breslau and Leipzig. He was Rabbi in Hamburg, district rabbi of Hesse Nassau, and in 1890 was appointed chief rabbi of Florence. In 1899 he became principal of Italy’s only rabbinical seminary, the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano when it transferred from Rome to Florence. Margulies was a powerful spiritual force in Italy and trained many of its religious leaders. He founded and edited Rivista Israelitica, the learned journal published by the Seminary. His scholarly publications included an edition of Rabbi Saadiah’s Arabic translation of the Psalms.
Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch (1881-1955), was an Orientalist, devoted to Beta Israel (Falasha) research and relief work. He made 11 missions to Ethiopia. In 1904 he went to Ethiopia for the first time and spent 18 months among the Beta Israel, studying their beliefs and customs. The results were published in his Notes d'un voyage chez les Falachas (1905). In his view the Beta Israel were Jews needing help to resist Christian missionary activity, which threatened their survival as a Jewish community. He promised them to enlist world Jewry on their behalf and took two young Beta Israel with him to Europe to be educated as future teachers. Having failed to win the support of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, he organized "pro-Falasha" committees in Italy and Germany to raise funds for Jewish education for the Beta Israel in Abyssinia and abroad.