Venice marks 500th anniversary of oldest Jewish ghetto

Venice will be commemorating the 500th anniversary of the first Jewish ghetto in history with a series of initiatives. On March 29, 1516, under Doge Leonardo Loredan, the Venetian Senate decreed that all Jews would be required to live in gated area of the city under surveillance. The area was called ‘Getto’, where unused materials from an old copper foundry were thrown.

”Jews are not nostalgic for the ghetto,” the head of the Italian Jewish Communities Union, Renzo Gattegna, said on Wednesday in opening a press conference for its presentation. “The ghetto represents segregation. This is why we are not celebrating anything and are instead commemorating a fact that remains a tragedy.” He underscored that despite all the difficulties, ”Venetian Jews were not defeated” and that ”a very high cultural, intellectual and religious tradition resulted”. Veneto region president Luca Zaia and the city’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, said that the event was also meant to fight against anti-Semitism and negationism. Venetian Jews numbered about 5,000 at the height of the ghetto. The head of Venice’s Jewish community, Paolo Gnignati, said that there are currently fewer than 2,000 in the entire region. The ghetto is also a place where Jewish traditions developed, where Jews from different places build synagogues, printed the Talmud for the first time and where they were able to contribute to the artistic, philosophical and religious give their artistic, philosophical and religious contribution to the life in the closed quarter as well as outside of it. Many exhibitions, conference and concerts will be sponsored by the ‘I 500 Anni del Ghetto di Venezia’ committee, representing the Venice Jewish community and the town council. A concert by the Orchestra del Teatro la Fenice, conducted by the Israeli Omer Meir Wellber, will be held on March 29.

From June 19 to November 13 an exhibition entitled ‘Venice, Jews and Europe: 1516-2016′ curated by Donatella Calabi will be held at Palazzo Ducale. Calabi said that she hoped that at least part of the exhibition would later travel to other places, since ”we want to reach the widest public possible”. Maps and archival documents will be showcased, as will important works of art and multimedia installations.

”We will explain how Jews lived in that era. Trades were practiced inside the ghetto as well as across the city. We will show how this continued after the gates were opened – and burned – with Napoleon’s arrival,” she said. Another ambitious project will be the raising of 8.5 million euros at the international level by the Venetian Heritage foundation for the transformation and restoration of Venice’s Jewish Museum (founded in 1954) and 16th-century synagogues. Between July 26 and 31, instead, the Campo del Ghetto will be the venue for a performance of William Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’, marking the first time it will be put n stage in the city where the story takes place.

(by Cristiana Missori)  © Copyright ANSA – All rights reserved


Ghetto di Venezia