Famous Ottolenghi III

Adolfo Ottolenghi
Chief Rabbi of Venice from 1919 to 1944

Adolfo Ottolenghi was born in 1885 in Livorno, the son of Abramo Avraham and Amalia Avraham, nee Ventura.
He married Regina (Gina) Tedeschi.

He studied at the rabbinical college in Livorno and was ordained Maskil (משכיל) in 1907 and Chakham(חכם)  in January 1911.
He also studied law at the University of Pisa, graduating as procuratore legal (Attorney at Law) and intended to pursue a legal career.

At the end of 1911, the Municipality of Venice offered him a position as secretary of the Fraterna Generale di Culto e Beneficienza, which he accepted. Chief Rabbi was at that time Moisè Coen-Porto, president of the community was Giuseppe Musatti. Ottolenghi was a rabbi from 1911 to 1919. During this time, he took care of Jewish refugees of the First World War. Venice was affected by the war, especially since the front line was not far away. As Adolfo suffered from extreme myopia he was exempt from military service and because of the proximity to the front lines he took many of the local community to Livorno.

From May 18, 1919, when he was elected, until his deportation and death, he was Chief Rabbi of Venice. In addition to his pastoral work within the community he devoted himself to deciphering the gravestone inscriptions at the Jewish cemetery on the Lido of Venice, and to the history of the Jewish community there publishing many papers and articles in the Italian Jewish press. He was elected to the Societa di Ateneo Veneto in 1933 in view of his contribution to the history and culture of Venice.

As decreed by Mussolini’s racial laws of 1938, Jewish students were no longer allowed to study in public schools and the expansion of the Jewish school of Venice enabled the community to accommodate all the city’s Jewish students. Prior to the Nazi occupation, many Jews had fled to Venice, but when that community was increasingly persecuted, the president of the Jewish community, Giuseppe Jona, took his own life in 1943, and Adolfo Ottolenghi inherited that position.

Many of the community fled to Switzerland and on 30th November 1943 came the order to deport the remainder of the Jewish community and confiscate their property. The community was notified on 2nd December 1943. During the night between 5th & 6th December 1943, 150 Jews were arrested and sent to the prisons of Santa Maria and Giudecca. On 31st December 1943 raids took place in the ghetto. Regina Ottolenghi escaped in January 1944 and stayed in Treviso until 7th April in the house of the notary Elio Gallina, who gave her forged papers in the name of “Pennella” and she made her the way to her sister’s home in Piedmont. Her youngest son was brought to safety in Genoa. Gallina, who brought hundreds of other Jews to safety, also welcomed Adolfo’s son Carlo Ottolenghi and his wife Annamaria Levi Morenos, as well as their three-year-old son Alberto and his sister Elisabetta, Adolfo’s two grandchildren who, with counterfeit papers Gallina was able to bring to Switzerland, under the name “Vianello”.

Part of the community of Venice had been deported to Como, including the now almost blind Adolfo Ottolenghi, who spent a month in prison. On 19th December 1943, a group of about 40 Jews was deported to the Fossoli camp. Only those over the age of 70 were allowed to return to Venice in early 1944, where they were imprisoned in the Casa di Ricovero Israelitica (The Jewish Convalescent Home). During the night of 17th to 18th August 1944, Rabbi Adolfo Ottolenghi was finally arrested together with the remaining elderly residents home whom he had refused to abandon and they were all deported to Auschwitz, where he died sometime after 2nd September 1944, the exact date is unknown.

On 28th April 1945, Venice, which had driven the Nazis out, was occupied by Italian troops.

The world’s first ghetto was established in Venice in 1516

The Venice Ghetto
The Jewish School in the Ghetto and the Memorial Paque
The front door of Adolfo’s house No. 23-6B, the door knowcker and the letter box
The brass plate in the sidewalk outside


The Jewish School in the Ghetto and the memorial plaques


By bryanell2020

Occasional genealogist and full-time Ottolangui family historian. 8th generation descendant of the 17th century Ottolenghi family of Livorno, born in London, graduated in Birmingham, lived around the United Kingdom, Israel, and in Rome, Italy. For a short while in Buenos Aires, and currently residing in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where I have been since 2005.

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