(IT) Restoring Venice's Ghetto #general

Jan Meisels Allen

2016 will be the 500th anniversary of the Jewish ghetto in Venice. The
ghetto is crumbling and to restore it to its rich Jewish culture the
Venetian Heritage Council pledged $12 million to restore it into a Jewish
cultural center. Dianne Von Furstenberg, the fashion designer, founded the
Council, an international philanthropy. Restoration will include restoring
the five synagogues within the ghetto.

The Venice ghetto was the first ghetto in the world-the first case of
organized religious segregation. In 1516 the Serenissima Repubblica
confined its Jews in a ghetto-where Jews were locked up at midnight, guarded
by Christian guards who had to be paid upon entering the ghetto. The intent
of the restoration is to tell the stories of survival and accomplishment
despite being ghettoized. Today there are few Jews left in Venice-about 500
in the ghetto. In order to prevent Jews >from "roaming " about at night, the
new 1516 laws forced all Jews to live together on a site of a foundry ( in
Venetian Italian "geto") establishing the Ghetto Nuovo ( new ghetto) . Jews
were limited as to professions they could practice. These included doctors,
ragsellers, merchants and moneylenders.

The history of Jews in Venice goes back as early as the 10th century when
Jews were forbidden >from boarding ships, forced to settle outside the city
and pay special taxes. However, in the 14th century Jews were welcomed as
money lenders but that was short-lived as by the 15th century money-lending
Jews were banned. By 1492 many Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled by the
Inquisition settled in Venice. German Jews also escaping persecution found
their way to Venice and the ghetto Vechhio ( old ghetto).

To read an article on the history of the Venice ghetto and the impending
restoration see:
Original url:
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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