Ghetto Vecchio

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Venice’s Ghetto

Venice - Ghetto - Levantine Synagogue
Venice - Ghetto - Jewish CommunityVenice - Ghetto - German SynagogueVenice -  Ghetto - Ponte de Gheto NovoVenice - Cannaregio - Ponte delle GuglieVenice - Cannaregio - PescariaVenice - Cannaregio - Canal

The Venetian Ghetto was officially created in 1516, it was the first one in Europe. All the Jews of the city were forced to move inside its perimeter, its doors where shut down between sunset and sunrise and watched by guards.

It is believed that the world Ghetto comes from the Venetian Gheto that means literally slag, it was used because in the same island where the Jews were confined there was a foundry where slag was stored.

The Ghetto is part of the Cannareggio sestriere (area) and it is divided in two zones: The Ghetto Nuovo (New Ghetto) and the Ghetto Vecchio (Old Ghetto). Actually the Old and New titles referred to the foundries located there before, while speaking about Jewish houses it was exactly the opposite: the Ghetto Nuovo is older than the Ghetto Vecchio!

Due to Venice history the Jewish community wasn’t very compact. Jewish from all over the world were living in the Serenissima Republic; the main groups were Italian, German, Spanish and Portuguese and Levantine Sephardi. There were 5 different synagogues, one for each group and the fifth one was privately built by four rich families. Many languages were spoken, the Hebrew was used for official purposes.

Only at the end of the 18th century when Napoleon’s troops conquered Italy the ghetto and its limitations were suppressed.

The Venice’s Jewish Community is still active and counts on more than 500 members. Although many Jews don’t live anymore in the area they come back for the religious celebrations or to enjoy the different services offered by the community. The synagogues in fact are not limited to the religious ceremonies but they are a fundamental part of the social life of the community. It is possible to take courses like Modern Hebrew, lessons on the sacred texts, or take advantage of facilities like a kindergarten, retirement home, guest house, a kosher restaurant and a bakery.

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Every year the community hosts a Hebrew’s Studies conference internationally well-known.

The Venetian Ghetto is one of the less touristic area of the city. Strolling around its narrow streets is a unique experience. The Ghetto was always overcrowded so the buildings are taller compared to the other sestrieri. Also the synagogues are very particular and not only because they were strongly influenced by the Venetian art. During the renaissance the law forbade to build separate synagogues so in order to obey the Jewish law that doesn’t allow to have any obstructions between them and the heavens they were built on top of other buildings!