Jewish Ghetto Venice: History, What to See

by vacationideaz
jewish ghetto venice

Jewish ghetto or the Venetian Ghetto used to be an area of the Jews in Venice, Italy. Doge Leonardo Loredan passed a decree on March 29th, 1516 forcing segregation of the Jews as they were practicing a different religion. Thus Venice became one of the world’s first places where an entire community was forcefully evicted and segregated. The Jews stayed here between the 16th and the 19th centuries. The ghetto was finally disbanded when Napoleon conquered Venice in 1797 and the Venetian Republic was dissolved. The ghetto’s separation was ended.

The Jewish ghetto of Venice was in the Cannaregio neighborhood of the city. This was a fascinating area of the city and is still a very interesting area to discover. The buildings are taller as they had to accommodate all the Jews. The synagogues are within these buildings. See the museums and the many synagogues. See the signs in Yiddish. Many still wear their traditional dress here. You will also find restaurants selling Jewish food.

Jewish doctors, clothing merchants, and money lenders were allowed to enter Venice during the daytime for their business. But they had to return to the ghetto before night.

Jewish Quarter Venice

Jewish Ghetto Venice – Quick Facts

Jewish GhettoA neighborhood in Venice where the Jews were forced to live in confinement
Established onBy a decree of the Venetian Republic on March 29th, 1516
Disbanded in1797 after Napoleon conquered Venice
Active Between16th and the 19th centuries
AttractionsMuseum, synagogues, publishing houses, Jewish food

Ghetto

Some people believe that the ghetto term originated in Venice – ‘geto’ in the local dialect. They also say that this is the world’s oldest ghetto. But this is a myth. The fact is that many Jews were forced to live within enclosures throughout Christian Europe for 3 centuries before the ghetto was established in Venice by the papal bull of the IV council of Latran decree.

The Jewish ghetto of Venice was a gated community, one of the first in the world. The Jews were locked within doors in the Cannaregio neighborhood at night. The area was renamed as Contrada dell’unione in the 19th century.

Jewish History Of Venice

Jews have lived in Venice for a long time. Many more arrived after the Spanish Inquisition between 1478 and 1808. Many of them arrived in 1541. But the authorities had already restricted them in 1516. With so many Jews living in a small area, there was no other option but to build up. That is why you see the buildings taller here.

The upper stories around Campo del Ghetto Nuovo housed the new arrivals. Publishing houses and synagogues were also located here.

  • See Campo del Ghetto Vecchio’s two synagogues. Built in the 17th century, they are the most beautiful places of worship in north Italy.
  • See the memorial of Jews killed in World War II and in German concentration camps. 246 Jews from Venice were sent to concentration camps in 1943 and 1944. Just 8 survived.
  • Chabad of Venice has been offering local community tours for 3 decades.
Ghetto Vecchio

There is a lot of Jewish history in Venice, including the first printing of the holy books like Shulchan Aruch and the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, two of the most important books in Judaism.

The Jews of Venice had a respite after Napoleon took Venice in 1787, but only for 6 months. Austrian administration once again restricted their movement to the ghetto. Their rights were fully restored only after 1866 when Venice joined Italy. Recently, the ghetto celebrated 500 years.

The Old Jewish Ghetto of Venice

This is Venice’s original Jewish quarter. Ghetto Vecchio is narrow and not very bright, but this is the main street of the neighborhood. You will find 5 synagogues here, all in a small area. No one except the locals was allowed to visit these synagogues for many decades after the end of World War II. Now, everyone is welcome.

You will find a few kosher restaurants serving authentic food on a side street along Canale di Cannaregio.

Campo del Ghetto Nuovo

New Ghetto

This area has the only square in the ghetto, which was built in 1633. You will find a Jewish retirement home and many trees here. There is housing all around. The new ghetto is only a few blocks, separated from the city by 2 bridges. During the old times, the bridges would rise every evening so that the Jews of Venice could be contained within the area.

Jewish Museums

See the life of the Jews during separation in the museum. You can go to the museum at Campo del Ghetto Nuovo. The same ticket will also give you entry to the Scole, the earlier name of the synagogues.

Jewish Museum Venice
  • Old ghetto synagogues – Scola Spagnola and Scola Levantina
  • New ghetto synagogues – Scola Italiana, and Scola Grande Tedesca

The museum closes a little early on Fridays. Saturday is a day of rest. Also, visit the museum library or the Alef. See the culture and history books on display.

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