The Jewish presence in the city of Cremona dates back to at least the 13th century. The Jews were allowed to settle there and not to be limited to small professional activities. Thus, they also became farmers and merchants, just like the other inhabitants of the city. This development allowed them to become the largest Jewish community in Lombardy in the 15th century.
Victims of political and religious threats, the authorities also defended them during the 15th and 16th centuries. Cremona therefore quickly became a Centre of Jewish studies of the first importance. One of the well-known figures was Rabbi Joseph Ottolenghi. A Talmudic academy and a printing house contributed to this development. About forty different books were published, among them the Zohar in 1559.
Nevertheless, at the end of the century, 12,000 Talmuds and 10,000 Hebrew books were burnt by the Inquisition. If 456 people lived in Cremona in 1590, only one family remained in 1629. The community’s archives are preserved in the Montefiore Collection in London.
In 2016, the National Library of Israel purchased a valuable collection of old Italian manuscripts. Among them are works printed in Cremona, including the Sepher Zevach Pesach with commentaries by Isaac Abarbanel, dating from 1557. Some of these precious manuscripts were, however, sold at auctions to other institutions.