Italy TravelVenice’s Jewish Ghetto Was Sadly First in World

Venice’s Jewish Ghetto Was Sadly First in World
Published on Saturday, April 7, 2012 by

On April 10th of 1516, the first Jewish ghetto in the world was established in Venice Italy. The government officially confined the city’s Jews to this one small area of the city, in the Cannaregio district. The gates of the ghetto were closed upon nightfall and Jews were banned from leaving. During the day, they were required to identify themselves: the men had a circle stitched on their left shoulder of their jackets and the women wore yellow scarves. Venetian law did not allow for the construction of standalone synagogues, so they were cleverly built on top of other structures. This is also because, according to Jewish law, nothing should come between the synagogue and the heavens.

The gates themselves were symbolic of the seclusion of the Jewish community from the rest of the city. On the other hand, remaining in close proximity to one another allowed them to more easily preserve their traditions and culture. The ghetto was the designated home of the city’s Jews until Napoleon took the city in 1797 and abolished it. Although few Jews still live in the ghetto today, it remains the center of Venice’s  Jewish heritage and community activities.

Break away from the crowds of San Marco Sqaure to visit this gem—it’s a must for history buffs. It is a 10- minute walk from the Santa Lucia train station and from Piazzale Roma. Visit New Ghetto, the Old Ghetto, the ancient synagogues, the holocaust memorial, the Jewish Museum and the surrounding Cannaregio district. The area is also filled with Jewish pastry shops and kosher restaurants.

By Kathy McCabe

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Taking your first trip to Italy in 2012? Learn everything you need to know when you get your FREE copy of The First Timer’s Guide to Italy by contributor Kathy McCabe.

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