The ghetto at 500
Venice is famous for its beauty and history that have long been the source of legend and inspiration. Less known is the fact that for centuries, Venice was also a focal point of Jewish life and culture. The Ghetto, founded in 1516 as a place of segregation, became an important crossroads of various Jewish communities and a place for dialogue between Jews and non- Jews, the model for all subsequent ghettos, beginning with the name itself which derives from the Venetian geto (foundry). Today tens of thousands of people visit the Ghetto every year: they tour its synagogues and museum, gaze in wonder at the tall tenements and remnants of its famous ‘banks’, they read the memorial plaques dedicated to the Holocaust. The small but vibrant Jewish population treasures its own traditions and participates in the civic and cultural life of Venice. However the key stories and intellectual achievements of the Ghetto remain hidden and unexplored and the Ghetto still remains the most misunderstood and misrepresented monument of Venice. The approaching 500th anniversary of the founding of the Ghetto in 1516 is a unique opportunity to open a new phase in the history of this site and to highlight its global relevance, through a modern approach to its heritage. At a time of political uncertainty in Europe, the Ghetto has precious ethical and cultural lessons to educate the public about the Jews, about human rights, cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue.