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Renaissance Synagogues Restored in Venetian Ghetto | entertainment news

CHRIS WARD-JONES, Associated Press

VENICE, Italy (AP) — The Jewish ghetto in Venice is considered the first in Europe and one of the first in the world, and new efforts are underway to preserve its 16th-century synagogues for remaining Jews and passing tourists.

According to art historian David Landau, over the course of nearly two years, restorers were stripping the paint and unearthing the original foundations of three ghetto synagogues, thought to be the only Renaissance synagogues still in use.

Landau is leading a fundraiser to restore synagogues and nearby buildings, both for Venice’s small Jewish community of about 450 and for tourists who can visit them on a tour of Venice’s Jewish Museum.

“I was really deeply offended by the condition of the synagogues,” said Landau, a renaissance specialist who bought a house in Venice 12 years ago. “I felt that the synagogues were in a very bad state. They have changed beyond recognition over the centuries and need to be cared for and loved.”

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It has received about €5 million to date and expects workers to be able to complete the rebuilding process by the end of 2023 if the rest of the funding is secured, although the original €4 million outstanding has now risen to €6 million due to skyrocketing construction costs. .

The Venetian ghetto dates back to 1516, when the republic herded a growing number of Jews into the area where the old foundries, or “Geti” as they were called, were located. The area, which was closed for the night, became what is considered the first ghetto in Europe and remains the center of Venice’s Jewish community in the Cannaregio area.

The first synagogue dates from 1528 and was built by German Ashkenazi Jews. Others followed and ministered to various groups, including one for Spanish Sephardic Jews and one for Italian Jews.

Nothing can be seen from the street, since the strict rules established by the rulers of Venice did not allow Jews to openly practice their faith. All synagogues are hidden on the upper floors of seemingly ordinary buildings, while the lower floors housed cramped living quarters for Jewish families.

The synagogues continued to operate continuously except during the years of World War II during the German occupation.

The head of the Jewish community in Venice, Dario Calimani, said that the restoration project is necessary both to maintain the religious and cultural life of the Venetian Jews today, and to preserve the history of the community.

“They are a testament to life as it was, the history of our community, a small community,” he said.

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