The oldest ghetto in Europe has five synagogues,
a Jewish museum, and a kosher restaurant.
the word "ghetto" has a negative connotation, being associated
with modern urban slums and the persecution of Jews in Central Europe during the
Nazi era. But in 1516, when an enclosed neighborhood for Jews was created in
Venice, "ghetto" referred to the foundry that the district replaced.
What's more, the intention wasn't to persecute Jews per se: The Venetian
Republic segregated its Jews to placate the Roman Catholic Church, which had
already forced the expulsion of Jews from much of Western Europe.
ABOVE: The Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, or "New Ghetto,"
in Venice, Italy. Despite the name, it was founded earlier than the adjacent
Ghetto Vecchio ("Old Ghetto").
The Ghetto both isolated and protected the Jewish residents of Venice who
lived within its walls. In The
Venetian Ghetto, Bernard Dov Cooperman
"The Ghetto's Jews did not refer to their enforced
residence as a jail. Rather, it was a biblical 'camp of the Hebrews,' a place
of Holiness on the way to the Promised Land. In Verona they declared a public
celebration of its establishment. For the puritanical young rabbi,
Samuel Aboab, who had first seen Venice as a 13-year-old student, the
city's Ghetto seemed Isaiah's Jerusalem .... Aboab's attitude tells us much
about Venetian Jewry's intense efforts to order their enclosed world; his
choice of words tells us even more about how these Jews identified with their
community-behind-walls and gloried in it."
"Throughout the Mediterranean region, it was quite
customary for foreign merchants to be housed in a separate quarter....When we
try to evaluate the Venetian Ghetto, we must remember that sixteenth-century
Venice also restricted the living quarters of Turkish and German
merchants....The Venetian Ghetto always served both religious sensibilities
and commercial needs. It allowed Venice to maintain its religious purity while
reacting to changed economic conditions."
Life in Venice's Ghetto
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