Posted by Ben G. on May 13, 2014
Yesterday I got a fascinating question that was beyond my scope of knowledge on tzitzit and tzitzit customs. A prospective customer in California was helping his daughter buy a tallit for her groom. The groom follows Benè Romì customs, but did not grow up in an observant home, therefore he did not have a traditional handed down to him. So the question was how do Bene Romi tie tzitzit? According to the Ashkenazi custom or the Sephardic custom.
It just so happens that I have a friend who is a talmid chacham who grew up in Italy (Florence/Firenze, I think). So I sent the question his way and received the following reply:
The minhag bene-romi is a particular minhag [i.e. a distinct set of customs], that was also the minhag of the Aruch and of Shibolei HaLeket, they use to tie the zizis like traditional Ashkenaz.
I passed his reply onto the father of the bride, and now they know which tzitzit option to select.
Benè Romì customs, practices and liturgy show similarities to both Sephardic and Ashkenazi customs and practices. Very similar is minhag Italiani, which is found in northern cities.
In halachic matters, Italian-rite Jews generally adhere to the rulings of the Rif (Rabbi Isaac Alfasi) and the Shulchan Aruch, rather than the Ashkenazi customs codified by Rabbi Moses Isserles (the Rema).
According to some opinions, the Italian siddur retains the last remnants of the Judaean/Galilaean Jewish tradition, as opposed to the Babylonian tradition reflected in Sephardic and Ashkenazi rites.
Likewise some Italian traditions retain the Babylonian rite in an archaic form, comparable to the Yemenite nusach. As examples of old Babylonian traditions retained by only the Italians Wikipedia cites Keter Yitenu Lach in Kedushah and Nachamenu in Birkat Hamazon for Shabbos, both of appear in the Amram Gaon siddur, and the latter is found in nusach HaGra.