Jewish Ghetto Venice

The Confinement

The Jewish Ghetto Venice is located in the Cannaregio district, where there is also the seat of the Venetian Jewish Community. The Ghetto was the area where the Venetian Jews were forced to reside during the period of the Venetian Republic. The first installations of Jews in the Veneto region date back to the fourth-fifth century in the wake of the expulsions of Jews from Spain in 1492.

The first Jewish Community in Venice enjoyed a climate of relative tolerance in order for the Council of Pregadi (Senate of the Maritime Republic) arranged on 29/03/1516 – which required all Jews to reside in the first European Ghetto (hereinafter called Ghetto Nuovo).

The First Synagogues at the Jewish Ghetto Venice

The construction of the first Synagogues: the Great German Schola of 1528, the Canton Schola of 1532(Ashkenazi rite), the Levantine Schola of 1538, the Spanish Schola of 1555 and the Italian Schola of 1575. All the buildings are still an architectural complex of great interest.

In Venice was in force a law which forbade the Jews to build new buildings, except the raising in height to the current existing buildings which sometimes reach up to seven floors (emblematic case in Venice). Despite the elevations, with time they had to resort to a substantial increase with the introduction of two other ghettos adjacent to the current Ghetto Novo (New): Ghetto Vecchio (old) and Ghetto Novissimo (brand new). At the end of each day, the inhabitants of the ghetto had to go back remaining confined inside until dawn due to the closure of solid doors controlled by guards who closed the two inputs of the Ghetto Nuovo.

Traditionally, the Venetian Jews practiced usury, a credit activity completely banned as contrary to Christian morality to make money from interest on money lent to a pledge. However, due to traces of letters, there is evidence that going to take out a loan at the ghetto or getting back objects as collateral, was absolutely normal. The professions that Jews could practice were very few including physician as well-trained and skilled in studying Arabic texts.

The relations between the Jewish Community and the Republic of Venice were tottering – so, from time to time, took place conversion campaigns and, for those who consented, their names were changed into the one who had led him/her to the rejection who very often was a member of the aristocracy. The best known example is the one of Lorenzo da Ponte (originally Conegliano surname) who was converted with his whole family, assuming the name of the nobleman who had converted him.

With the capitulation of the Venetian Republic and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797, ceased all forms of discrimination against Jews who were treated as all other citizens. The doors of the ghetto (hinges still visible today) were destroyed, and Jews were allowed to go and live in other areas of the city.

Jewish Museum and Pawn Shop

The Jewish Museum of Venice was opened in 1955 and, in 1986, had undergone a rearrangement and enriched by the donations that have been covered over time. Within its halls are exposed fabrics, silver and objects used for the ritual as well as to decorate the synagogues: Ataroth, Chuppoth, Ketubboth, Meghilloth, Meilim, Menoroth, Parocheth, Rimmonim, Shofaroth, Tallit, Yaddaim. The evocative Jewish cemetery is located at Lido.

In addition to the Jewish Museum, to visit one of the five beautiful Synagogues that in the past were nine, as well as the first and oldest existing Pawn Shop and numerous kosher restaurants in the area.