Mezuzah Blog

Jews, Medicine and the University of Padua

Scholars, luminaries and victims of the racial laws , just like Tullio Terni: the director of the Anatomy School of Padua and neuro-cardio-anatomist, one of the founding fathers of modern embryology he was sent away from  the University  for being Jewish, and then  dismissed as a professor because of his attraction to fascism. He committed suicide by cyanide: his final protest against the Jews expulsion.

On the occasion of the 800th anniversary celebrations of the University, the Padua Jewish Museum Foundation and the Centre for History of the University of Padua devoted special attention to the history of relationships between the Jewish community and the University. The exhibition Jews, Medicine and the University of Padua has been organized in order to throw light upon the Jewish physicians from Padua and the relationship between the Jewish Community and the University. It will be inaugurated on 2nd November and will last until 31st December 2022.

Starting from 1500, the University of Padua, the unique in Europe, admitted Jewish students, thus attracting young people from all over the continent and the Near East. Following the papal bull –In Sacrosancta -of 1564, a profession of Catholic faith was required to students at Italian Universities. The Venetian Senate, on which the University of Padua depended at the time, established the possibility of conferring degrees by auctoritate veneta (Venetian authority), without the presence of the town Bishop: thus the university  was open to non-Catholic students such as Protestants, Orthodox Christians and, specifically, Jews.

The University of Padua, ‘Universa universis libertas’, was the home, the training and breeding ground for the best European minds of  Medical Schools : from the Anglican William Harvey- the discoverer of blood circulation- to the eminent Jewish specialists Amedeo Conegliano, Donato Benvenisti and Samuel Medoro.

Richly decorated diplomas- starting from Harvey’s- portraits of physicians and historical pictures recall the history of opening, tolerance, and inclusion of the research and medical science in Padua, at the Jewish Heritage Museum.

Renaissance and modern graduation diplomas were richly illustrated with coats of arms and wax seals together with multiple references to Catholic faith. In particular, each diploma was marked, by the introductory phrase In Christi Nomine Amen, on the title page.  As for Jewish students, the University agreed to a change, in consonance with their faith. Thus, the introductory phrase became In Dei Aeterni Nomine

Despite this unique example of tolerance and acceptance, also the University of Padua was involved in the dramatic events linked to the fascist racial policies during the Second World War. In 1938, five professors of Jewish “race” were expelled from the University of Padua and only one of them held his former position after the fall of the regime.

Four events have been devoted to the analysis of these hidden pages of history, on the exhibition premises, with the support of Padua Municipality and UCEI

Wednesday, 2 November 17-18: Opening Ceremony

Opening Lecture: “The Training of Jewish Medical Students at the University of Padua in the 17th-18th Centuries”, Eddie Reichmann, Professor of Emergency Medicine and Professor in the Division of Education and Bioethics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York (USA).

Adolfo Locci, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Padua and Riccardo Di Segni, MD and Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Rome will participate.

Wednesday, 16th November, 5 pm:

The Jewish Community and the Great War

“The contribution of Jews to health care on the front of the Great War”, Rosanna Supino, president of the Jewish Medical Association.

 “The Castrense University” Fabio Zampieri, professor of History of Medicine, University of Padua.

Wednesday, 7th December, 6pm: Non-Catholic students at the University of Padua

 “Diploma of Doctor of Medicine granted by the University of Padua to William Harvey, April 25, 1602”, Gaetano Thiene, Emeritus Professor of Pathology, University of Padua.

Wednesday, 21st December, 5 pm: Racial Laws and the University of Padua

Racial laws and the replacement of Jewish teachers at the University of Padua”, Dr. Giulia Simone, Lecturer in Contemporary History, University of Padua.

“The cases of Terni and Dalla Volta.”, Gaetano Thiene, Emeritus Professor of Pathology, University of Padua.

All the events will take place at the Jewish Heritage of Padua, via delle Piazze, 26 and will be available on streaming at the following site:

The exhibition is open every Sunday from 9am to 6pm and on weekdays on reservation. To take part in the events, please write to or call 049661267( from 9am to 6pm, Mondays to Thursdays)


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