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 and is the oldest Jewish ghetto in the world. It was not the first time that Jews in Venice were compelled to live in a segregated area of the city.
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.
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 related to the Hebrew word get, meaning a divorce document
Location and geography
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. The ghetto was connected to the rest of the city by two bridges that were only open during the day.
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. 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.
Today, the Ghetto is still a center of Jewish life in the city. The Jewish Community of Venice, that counts about 450 people, is still culturally very active, although only a few members live in the Ghetto.
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. Although only few of the roughly 500 Venetian Jews still live in the Ghetto, 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. In the novel Much Ado About Jesse Kaplan the restaurant is the site of a historical mystery. 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.
Notable residents of the Ghetto have included 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.
- Arnold Wesker's play The Merchant written in 1978 retells the story of Shylock and opens in the Nuovo Ghetto.
- Geraldine Brooks' 2008 novel People of the Book which traces the history of the Sarajevo Haggadah has a chapter with action taking place in 1609 in the Venetian Ghetto.
- Sarah Dunant's novel In the Company of the Courtesan, written in 2006, has some scenes which take place in a Jewish pawnshop in the Ghetto
- Susanna Clarke's 2004 novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell features a scene in the Ghetto.
- Hugo Pratt: Venezianische Legende. Corto Maltese. Bd 8. Novel. Carlson, Hamburg 1985, 1998. ISBN 3-551-71669-2
- Mirjam Pressler: Shylocks Tochter. Venedig im Jahre 1568. Novel. Alibaba Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1999, Bertelsmann, München 2005. ISBN 3-570-30172-9
- Rainer Maria Rilke: Eine Szene aus dem Ghetto. in: Rilke: Geschichten von lieben Gott. Insel, Leipzig 1931, Argon, Berlin 2006. (div. weitere Ausg.) ISBN 3-86610-045-0
- The trilogy by Israel Zangwill:
- Kinder des Ghetto. 1897. Cronbach, Berlin 1897, 1913 (German)
- Träumer des Ghetto. 1898. Cronbach, Berlin 1908, 1922 (German)
- Komödien des Ghetto. 1907. Cronbach, Berlin 1910 (German)]
- Daniel Silva: A Death in Vienna. 2004. Novel (features scenes in Cannaregio). ISBN 0399151435
- Weiner, Rebecca. "The Virtual Jewish World: Venice, Italy". The Virtual Jewish History Tour. Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2018-04-22.
- Liberman, Anatoly. "Why Don't We Know the Origin of the Word Ghetto?". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
- Jewish Community of Venice
- 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.
- Worrall, Simon (November 6, 2015). "The Centuries-Old History of Venice's Jewish Ghetto". Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- 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.
- Chabad of Venice
- Jewish Venice
- Gruber, Ruth Ellen (16 June 2010). "In Venice, a Jewish disconnect between locals and visitors". JTA. Archived from the original on 22 June 2010.
- Rick Steves' Venice, Rick Steves, Avalon Travel, 2007, p. 40.
- Friends Find Real Flavor of Europe, Jewish Journal of Greater L.A., 15 July 2004.
- 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.
- Paula Marantz Cohen (2004). Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-32498-8.
- Gruber, Ruth Ellen (30 November 1999). "Chabad now the Jewish face of Venice". JTA. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012.
- Wesker, Arnold. The Merchant with Commentary and notes. London: Metheun, 1983.
- Ariel Toaff, "Getto - Ghetto," The American Sephardi 6:1/2 (1973): 71-77.
- Sandra Debenedetti-Stow, "The etymology of “ghetto”: new evidence from Rome", Jewish History, Volume 6, Issue 1 - 2, Mar 1992, Pages 79 – 85, DOI 10.1007/BF01695211
- DIETRO LE PAROLE - GLOBALIZZAZIONE di Francesco Varanini
- Europe The Venice Ghetto on europeforvisitors.com
- (in French) Alice Becker-Ho, Le premier ghetto ou l'exemplarité vénitienne, 2014
- (in English) Alice Becker-Ho, The First Ghetto or Venetian Exemplariness, 2016 (unpublished)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ghetto (Venice).|
- Official website of the Jewish Community of Venice
- Official website of the kashrut in Venice
- Official website of Chabad in the Jewish Community of Venice
- the oldest Kosher restaurant Gam Gam in Venice
- Info Point of the Jewish Community of Venice
- Web site of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice
- Jewish Library-Archive "Renato Maestro"
- Ghetto map and history
- Wiki: University of California Santa Cruz, Jewish Writers and the Modern European City: Venice
- Map of the Ghetto drawing by Gianluca Costantini