In a recent post, “An Amazing Day in a Jewish Ghetto,” I promised to write more about the synagogues we toured and the history of the Jewish people living in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, Italy, during the 16th century. Several things stood out to us among all that we heard and saw, but the most surprising fact was that antisemitism did not begin with Hitler’s cruel and tyrannical campaign.
Although one could argue that prejudice against the Jewish people began the day God chose Abraham, we find a definite starting point for Italy’s history. In 1516, the Senate of the Republic of Venice and a cardinal of the Roman Catholic church, ordered the Jews to live together, segregated and away from the city center. The area they were forced to occupy was known as getto, a Venetian word meaning “foundry” where metal was cast. This is where our modern word ghetto was coined, and the reason it has the connotation of a neighborhood where minorities dwell. Click the photo on left to enlarge it.
Forced to live behind metal gates, they would be locked in at nighttime. Only the Jewish doctors could come out after the evening curfew. During the day, everyone had to wear red or yellow hats so they could be identified as Jews in public. They were forbidden to take part in construction work, for all the builders had to be part of a guild, and no Jew was deemed worthy according to the non-Jewish. It wasn’t until Napoleon arrived and took charge of the city in 1797 that the gates were removed and the Jews were permitted to move about freely. Still, they did not enjoy full integration until the late 19th century.
In my next post we’ll look at just a few more interesting details regarding the Jewish synagogues and the social classes that caused them to divide. If you think you’d like to receive notice when that or other new posts come out on uThinkology, you can easily subscribe here on the side bar to the right.