Venetian Ghetto

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Coordinates: 45°26′43″N 12°19′35″E / 45.44528°N 12.32639°E / 45.44528; 12.32639

The main square of the Venetian Ghetto.

The Venetian Ghetto was the area of Venice in which Jews were compelled to live by the government of the Venetian Republic. The English word "ghetto" is derived from the Jewish ghetto in Venice, the Venetian Ghetto was instituted on 29 March 1516. It was not the first time that Jews in Venice were compelled to live ina segregated area of the city.[1]

In 1797 the French army of Italy, commanded by the 28-year-old General Napoleon Bonaparte, conquered Venice, dissolved the Venetian republic, and ended the ghetto's separation from the city; in the 19th century, the ghetto was renamed the Contrada dell'unione.

Etymology[edit]

Location of Cannaregio in Venice.

The origins of the name ghetto (ghèto in the Venetian dialect) are disputed. The following theories have been proposed:

  • ghetto formerly meant "street" (like German Gasse, Swedish gata, and Gothic gatwo)
  • ghetto is related to Italian getto (foundry)
  • ghetto comes from borghetto, diminutive of borgo, meaning "little town"
  • ghetto is somehow related to the Hebrew word get, meaning a divorce document

The Oxford University Press etymologist Anatoly Liberman suggested in 2009 that all four theories are speculative, but the first is by far the likeliest to be true.[2]

Location and geography[edit]

Ponte de Gheto Nuovo

The Ghetto is an area of the Cannaregio sestiere of Venice, divided into the Ghetto Nuovo ("New Ghetto"), and the adjacent Ghetto Vecchio ("Old Ghetto"). These names of the ghetto sections are misleading, as they refer to an older and newer site at the time of their use by the foundries: in terms of Jewish residence, the Ghetto Nuovo is actually older than the Ghetto Vecchio.

Culture[edit]

The Levantine Synagogue

Though it was home to a large number of Jews, the population living in the Venetian Ghetto never assimilated to form a distinct, "Venetian Jewish" ethnicity. Four of the five synagogues were clearly divided according to ethnic identity: separate synagogues existed for the German (the Scuola Grande Tedesca), Italian (the Scuola Italiana), Spanish and Portuguese (the Scuola Spagnola), and Levantine Sephardi communities (The Scola Levantina). The fifth, the Scuola Canton, was built as a private synagogue for the four families, one of them the Fano family, who funded its construction, and also served the Venetian Ashkenazi community. Today, there are also other populations of Ashkenazic Jews in Venice, mainly Lubavitchers who operate a kosher food store, a yeshiva, and a Chabad synagogue.

Languages historically spoken in the confines of the Ghetto include Venetian, Italian, Judeo-Spanish, French, and German[citation needed]. In addition, Hebrew was traditionally (and still is) used on signage, inscriptions, and for official purposes such as wedding contracts (as well as, of course, in religious services). Today, English is widely used in the shops and the Museum because of the large number of English-speaking tourists[citation needed].

Ghetto today[edit]

The Info Point of the Jewish Community of Venice in the Old Ghetto
A Lubavitch Yeshivah in the former Ghetto of Venice.

Today, the Ghetto is still a center of Jewish life in the city, the Jewish Community of Venice,[3] that counts about 450 people, is still culturally very active, although only a few members live in the Ghetto.[4][5][6]

Every year, there is an international conference on Hebrew Studies, with particular reference to the history and culture of the Veneto. Other conferences, exhibitions and seminars are held throughout the course of the year.

The temples not only serve as places of worship but also provide lessons on the sacred texts and the Talmud for both children and adults, along with courses in Modern Hebrew, while other social facilities include a kindergarten, an old people's home, the kosher guest house Giardino dei Melograni, the kosher restaurant Hostaria del Ghetto, and a bakery. Along with its architectural and artistic monuments, the community also boasts a Museum of Jewish Art, the Renato Maestro Library and Archive and the new Info Point inside the Midrash Leon da Modena.

In the Ghetto area there is also a yeshiva, several Judaica shops, and a Chabad synagogue run by Chabad of Venice.[7] Although only few of the roughly 500 Venetian Jews still live in the Ghetto,[8] many return there during the day for religious services in the two synagogues which are still used (the other three are only used for guided tours, offered by the Jewish Community Museum).

Chabad of Venice also runs a pastry shop and a restaurant named "Gam Gam" in the Ghetto. Sabbath meals are served at the restaurant's outdoor tables along the Cannaregio Canal with views of the Guglie Bridge near the Grand Canal.[9][10][11][12] In the novel Much Ado About Jesse Kaplan the restaurant is the site of a historical mystery,[13] every year for the festival of Sukkot a sukkah is built on a canal boat that tours the city, a large menorah tours the city on a canal boat during Hanukkah.[14]

Notable residents[edit]

Notable residents of the Ghetto include Leon of Modena, whose family originated in France, as well as his disciple Sara Copia Sullam, she was an accomplished writer, debater (through letters), and even hosted her own salon. Meir Magino, the famous glassmaker also came from the ghetto.

In fiction[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Weiner, Rebecca The Virtual Jewish History Tour
  2. ^ Liberman, Anatoly. "Why Don’t We Know the Origin of the Word Ghetto?". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 29 January 2016. 
  3. ^ Jewish Community of Venice
  4. ^ Laskin, David (March 9, 2016). "500 Years of Jewish Life in Venice". The New York Times online. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 15 June 2017. 
  5. ^ Worrall, Simon (November 6, 2015). "The Centuries-Old History of Venice’s Jewish Ghetto". Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 15 June 2017. 
  6. ^ Momigliano, Anna (March 28, 2016). "Venice’s Jewish ghetto is turning 500. Is it finally time to celebrate?". The Washington Post. The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 June 2017. 
  7. ^ Chabad of Venice
  8. ^ Jewish Venice
  9. ^ Gruber, Ruth Ellen (16 June 2010). "In Venice, a Jewish disconnect between locals and visitors". JTA. 
  10. ^ Rick Steves' Venice, Rick Steves, Avalon Travel, 2007, p. 40.
  11. ^ Friends Find Real Flavor of Europe, Jewish Journal of Greater L.A., 15 July 2004.
  12. ^ Jager, Elliot (15 November 2005). "Back to the ghetto". Jerusalem Post. After Friday night prayers in one of the historic but melancholy-looking synagogues, we went off to Gam-Gam (with its Crown Heights decor), where we experienced an evening of charm, warmth, and song. Maybe you have to be a member of the tribe to appreciate how good it feels to be gazing at a Venetian canal while singing Friday-night zemirot in the company of 150 Jews of all stripes, lands, and levels of affiliation, enjoying a free, bountiful meal waited upon by rabbis-in-training. 
  13. ^ Paula Marantz Cohen (2004). Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-32498-8. 
  14. ^ Gruber, Ruth Ellen (30 November 1999). "Chabad now the Jewish face of Venice". JTA. 
  15. ^ Wesker, Arnold. The Merchant with Commentary and notes. London: Metheun, 1983.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]