The Venetian Ghetto was the area in Venice where all Jews were banished by the Venetian Republic. The English term “ghetto” comes from the Venice Jewish Ghetto. Jews in Venice were separated in a secluded area, and this happened several times in the history of Jews living in Venice.

In 1797, Venice dissolved the Venetian Republic after being conquered by the French armies, controlled by General Napoleon Bonaparte who was then 28 years old, he also ended the separation of the ghetto from the city. Contrada dell’Unione was the name given to the ghetto in 19th Century.

The Cannaregio housed a foundry in the medieval times. Jewish lenders, physicians, and clothes merchants were permitted to join the Venice’s commercial interests through the day, which is due to the Venetian Republic’s 1516 decree. However, they are locked to be separated from the rest of Venice in the gated island (the Ghetto Nuovo or New Foundry) every Christian holidays.

When retailers fled the Spanish Inquisition in 1541 for Venice, the Jews moved forward. The Campo del Ghetto Nuovo stories became publishing houses or synagogues. The Schola Canton was a plain wooden cupola found nearest to the campo. Among the structures which remained is the Schola Italiana, a synagogue believed to be built by Italian Jews that are mostly destitute and who recently arrived after fleeing from southern Italy.

The Ghetto was expanded to the Arabian Ghetto Vecchio, creating a confusing situation in which the elderly Jewish, called the area as the New Ghetto instead of Old Ghetto. The number of Jewish refugees multiplied and they built two synagogues like the Campo di Ghetto Vecchio which was regarded as one of the most exquisite of its kind in Italy. The synagogues were restored in the 17th century. The Schola Levantina, is a 17th-century woodwork pulpit, although the Schola Spagnola, based around 1580, reveals just the way the Venetian community’s architectural designs flourishes: replicating high-arched windows, lush marble baroque interiors, and geometric details.

In 1787, the Jews in Venice experienced temporary freedom during Napoleon’s control, Austrian administration, however, secluded them back into the Ghetto. It was only when Venice merged that emancipation was obtained, but even it was short lived. Most of Venice’s Jews fled prior to the occupation however 246 of them were caught and sent to the camps between the 1943 and 1944. Nowadays, a memorial consisting of the names and ages, as well as harrowing bas-reliefs of those murdered Jews, now lines two partitions facing Campo del Ghetto Nuovo.

Even though you can walk around this tranquil precinct day until night, you can genuinely experience the Ghetto by taking one of those guided tours of three to the synagogues offered by this Museo Ebraico, leaving hourly from 10:30 am.

The area has Europe’s highest density of synagogues, and seeing them is intriguing not only culturally, but also visually. Though each is indicated by the tastes of its builders, Venetian influence is evident throughout the place. Women’s galleries resemble those of theatres from those of the past, and some synagogues were adorned by artists who were active in neighborhood churches; Longhena, Santa Maria Della Salute’s architect, revived the Spanish synagogue at 1635.

Seeing the Venice Jewish Ghetto now

Among the approximately 500 — 600 Jews in Venice only 30 remained in the historic Ghetto.
The ghetto remains, reflecting the Jewish way of life in Venice. The two operating synagogues, a day school, kosher food shops, a Jewish library, bakery, and also glass shops selling miniature glass Hanukkah lamps are still up for a visit.

The Museo Ebraico or the so-called Museo Della Comunità Ebraica is a small museum with a varied collection of artifacts dating from 16th–to 19th-century. It is available from Sun-Fri 10:00 am– 7:00 pm, while during Oct.-May only from 10:00 am– 5:30 pm.

The museum provides exceptional guided excursions, either in Italian or English. This includes the entire area and a number of old synagogues: Scola Canton (Ashkenazi), also the Scola Levantina (Sephardic), and of course the Scola Italiana (Italian)–although some excursions may bring you to the Scola Ponentina.

Tours are accessible on Sun-Fri at 10:30 am to 5:30 pm (Oct.-May, the usual last tour is until 4:30 pm); every Friday, the last tour is sometimes shortened or even removed from the schedule so don’t miss it.

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