22 – Museo Ebraico
22 – Museo Ebraico, stands next to the Old German Synagogue in the Campo di Ghetto Nuovo; in the Cannaregio district of Venice.
It was created by the Jewish Community of Venice in 1953 and is dedicated to Jewish traditions and life in Italy.
The Jewish Museum of Venice, believes that the sharing of stories builds a community. Since 1953, they have been striving to be compelling narrators of Jewish history and guardians of an amazing cultural heritage.
Divided into two areas: the first is devoted to the cycle of Jewish festivities and to objects used for liturgy; whilst the second area, deals with the history of Venetian Jews, through images and objects.
22 – Museo Ebraico – The Jewish Museum of Venice
The Jewish Museum of Venice, is situated in the Campo of the Ghetto Nuovo, on the southern aspect of the RIo della Misericordia. It is next to the most ancient Venetian synagogue: the “Scola Grande Tedesca” (Great German School). It is a small museum founded in 1953, by the Jewish Community of Venice.
The precious objects shown to public, important examples of goldsmith and textile manufacture, made between the 16th and the 19th centuries; are a lively witnessing of the Jewish tradition. The museum furthermore offers a wide selection of ancient books and manuscripts, together with some objects used in the most important moments of the cycle of both civil and religious life.
The museum is built in two areas: the first one devoted to the cycle of Jewish festivities and to objects used for liturgy, while the second, planned with a greater educational approach; deals with the history of Venetian Jews, through images and objects.
The first room of the museum, is dedicated to the cycle of the most important Jewish festivities with many ritual objects. You will find shown, among others, shofar, Channukkioth chandeliers, one Meghillat Ester, one Menora and a wonderful plate for Seder, the first dinner of Pesach. There are also found, many examples of crowns and spires, little hands to help the reading of the Holy Scroll, ancient keys to open the ark containing the Scroll and other jugs and handbasins; used by priests and examples of prayer bookbinding.
The second room of the museum, is dedicated to a rich collection of precious textiles, some of them still in use for the cult. There a different mantles for the Torah (Me‘ìlìm), precious coverings used to decorate the Torah (mappòth) and curtains to cover the doors of ‘Aron Ha Kodesh (parokhòth). The most precious example of Parokhet, under restoration at present, was manufactured in Venice, by Stella di Isacco from Perugia; in the first half of 17th century.
A further section of the museum, as conceived by Umberto Fortis, scientific director of the Jewish Museum, accompanies you through an artistic and cultural course; allowing to understand the fundamental stages, that Jews passed though in their Venetian stay.
The explanatory panels, show the immigration of the various Jewish ethnic groups to Venice and introduces the topic of usury; to understand the rise of ancient and unfortunately still persisting prejudices towards Jews.
The new permanent exhibition area, shows the various ethnic groups or “nationi” (Nations) as they were called long time ago; reminding us of their habits and showing a selection of documents and liturgical objects.
Even in the small room available, a section about the cultural life in the Venetian ghetto and devoted to its most renowned exponents; rav Leon Modena and the poet Sara Copio Sullam; just to quote the two major ones, should not be missed.
Part of the historical section is devoted to the Venetian Jewish book trade; renowned all over the world, for its valuable editions. It is made precious, by the presence of ancient volumes; already kept in the Library-Archive, “Renato Maestro”.
This section ends, with a big picture from the end of Second World War: the end of shoah and the beginnig of a new life, with the opening of the synagogues on the 3rd May, 1945.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GHETTO
Slowly, despite alternating moments of “permission” and “prohibition”, the number and importance of Jews in Venice grew considerably, to the extent that on March 29th 1516; the Republic found it necessary to enact a decree to organise their presence.
The Republic obliged the Jews to live in an area of the city where the foundries, known in Venetian as “geti”; had been originally situated. They were made to wear a sign of identification and to manage the city’s pawnshops; at rates established by the Serenissima. In exchange for the Community being granted freedom to practice its faith and protection in the case of war; many other onerous regulations, were also included.
The first Jews to comply with the decree, were the Ashkenazim from mid-eastern Europe. The word “ghetto” is still used today, to indicate various places of margination in society. Entrance was by way of two bridges, that were closed during the night and were guarded by Christians.
Known as “Scole”, the synagogues of the Venetian ghetto; were constructed between the early-sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries. Each represented a different ethnic group, that had settled here stably and obtained a guarantee of religious freedom. The German and Canton “Scole” practiced the “Ashkenazi rite”; the Italian, the “Italian rite” and the Levantine and Spanish, the “Sephardic rite”. Despite a few later interventions, these synagogues have remained intact over time and testify the importance of the Venetian ghetto. The unusually tall buildings for Venice found here, were divided into floors of sub-standard height; demonstrating how the density of the population had increased over the years.
After the fall of the Serenissima in 1797, Napoleon decreed the end of the Jewish segregation and the equality of rights as for other citizens. This provision became definitive, when Venice was annexed to the Italian Kingdom.
In 1938, the promulgation of the fascist racial laws, deprived the Jews of civil rights and the Nazi persecutions began. Two hundred and forty-six Jews, were deported from Venice and only eight returned from the death camps.
What was Europe’s first ghetto, is now a lively and popular district of the city; where the religious and administrative institutions of the Jewish Community and its five synagogues persist.
THE FIVE SYNAGOGUES
“Synagogues are the soul of the Ghetto. Built on the top floor of the pre-existing buildings in the Ghetto Novo; they are recognised with difficulty outside, while inside are little jewels”.
The Great German Schola. Built in 1528, the Great German Schola of Ashkenazi rite, was the first synagogue of the Ghetto. It was restored in the late baroque period while in the early nineteenth century; it suffered some some movement problems. The irregular plan of the Great German Schola, was made more harmonious, by the formation of an elliptic women’s gallery and by the decoration of walls covered with “marmorino”. You can see an inscription: the Ten Commandments in golden letters with red background running all over the walls of the cultural room.
The Canton Schola. The Canton Synagogue, was founded in 1531/32 and completely restored in late baroque period. The decoration of the Schola, is unique in Europe, for the presence of eight wooden panels showing biblical episodes from the book of Exodus; as the city of Jericho, the crossing of Red Sea, the altar for the sacrifices, the manna, the Ark on the banks of Jordan river, Qòrach, the gift of Torah and Moses that makes water flow from the rock.
The Italian Schola. The Italian Schola, founded in 1575, is not only the simplest of the Venetian synagogues; but perhaps the most luminous one; thanks to five wide windows opening on the south side of the square. it is possibly the most austere, for it lacks the gleaming tones of the golden leaf, decorating the two Ashkenazi synagogues.
The Levantine Schola. The Levantine Schola, founded in 1541, was rebuilt in the second half of 17th century. Even without documentation unequivocally, it is thought that the artists who worked for the restoration were Baldassarre Longhena; whose stylistic models are clearly evident on the facade and also Andrea Brustolon, for the important pulpit.
The Spanish Schola. The Spanish Schola, founded about 1580, was rebuilt in the first half of 17th century. The biggest of the Venetian synagogues, is of great visual impact – a wide double staircase, leads to a wide cultural room; overlooked by a high elliptic women’s gallery.
It is thought possible again, to be the work of Longhena, whose stylistic signature can be also perceived in the smart planning and design of the “l’’Aròn Ha Qòdesh”, in multicoloured marble.
*** PLEASE NOTE: THE PERMANENT EXHIBITION OF THE MUSEUM HAS BEEN TEMPORARILY CLOSED FOR RESTORATION (you can still go through its website below). Please check before visiting.
The temporary location is in the Ghetto Vecchio, in Calle del Forno 1107, where you will find the ticket office, the Alef bookshop and the Secret Garden of the Spanish Synagogue.
Official Website of Museo Ebraico di Venezia (Website has been adjusted for the temporary site information details)
To widen your experience and enjoyment before visiting, please see my comprehensive and illustrated posts, linked below:
—-The Venetian Jewish Community is committed to maintain its traditions and artistic legacy, share its history and culture and fight prejudice and anti-Semitism—-
TOP 25 MUSEUMS. Select your museum and click on the link.
22 – Museo Ebraico (not linked)
22 – Museo Ebraico 22 – Museo Ebraico 22 – Museo Ebraico