The Jewish Ghetto of Venice

The Jewish Ghetto of Venice is located in sestiere Canareggio and its origins are lost in the mists of time. The first Jews made their appearance in Venice during the 11th century, and their presence became even stronger in the 12th century.

The History

According to tradition, a district of Venice was named Giudecca because of the fact that many Jews were living in that part of the city (its previous name was Spinalonga). Over time, Jews were not allowed to live in Venice anymore. It was only in 1516 that the Republic of Venice decreed that Jews must live all together and in the same area: this is how the ghetto was created. Jews had to obey all the strict laws of the Republic and were constantly controlled by Christians. In the same period of time, many synagogues were founded and started also to expand to welcome all the Jews living in Venice.

When the Republic of Venice fell, the racial segregation finally ended, highlighted also by the birth of the unified Kingdom of Italy. Afterwards, during fascism, 246 venetian Jews were deported, but only 8 of them managed to come back home.

Synagogues and the Jewish Museum

In the Jewish ghetto, there are 5 synagogues, called in venetian scole: Scola tedesca and Scola Canton, which practice the Ashkenazi rite, Scola Levantina and Scola Spagnola, which practice the Sephardic rite, and Scola Italiana.

The venetian Jewish Ghetto is the most ancient in the world, and is divided into 3 parts: Gheto Vecio, Gheto Nuovo and Gheto Nuovissimo. The Jewish Museum is located in Gheto Nuovo, it was founded in 1954, and here are kept objects, books, and artefacts of Jewish tradition.

The Red Bank

The Red Bank is the last pawnshop of Venice, but there were 3 of them in the past: the Red one, the Green one and the Black one. In Venice only Jews could collect interests on loans, as Venetians couldn’t do it because this job didn’t respect the Christian morality. Nowadays the pawnshop doesn’t work anymore, but it can be visited.

Traditions and food

When visiting the Jewish Ghetto, you can stop at Gam Gam restaurant, which is a typical kosher restaurant that respects the dietary law of the Bible. Closer to the restaurant, you can find also little shops that sell typical traditional desserts.