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The Ghetto, Venice, and the Jews: A Historical Journey.

19Feb2:00 pm5:30 pmThe Ghetto, Venice, and the Jews: A Historical Journey.2:00 pm - 5:30 pm(GMT+00:00) The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10128

Event Details

This program is at capacity. Limited standing room tickets may become available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Centro Primo Levi, in partnership with NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the Library of Congress and The Jewish Museum, in collaboration with the Italian Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, as part of the Carnegie Hall festival La Serenissima: Music and Arts from the Venetian Republic, presents a roundtable discussion on Venice’s 500-year- old Jewish ghetto.

Speakers: Cristiana Facchini (University of Bologna), Evelien Chayes (Université Bordeaux Montaigne/ IRHT-CNRS), Martina Massaro (Università Iuav, Venezia), Giuseppe Veltri (University of Hamburg), Francesco Spagnolo (University of California, Berkeley)

After the panel, Rav Elia Richetti, renowned cantor and connoisseurs of the Italian Jewish traditions, will accompany the public through a journey into the Venetian Jewish liturgy.

This year of programs, publications and media attention on the 500th Anniversary of the Venice ghetto’s establishment, has by and large focused on the idea of ghetto as universal metaphor of oppression and resilience, as the prototype of the religious and racial seclusion implemented with the establishment of Papal ghettos, Nazi ghettos and American urban ghettos.

This roundtable invites a group of scholars to discuss whether such retrospective focus can be meaningfully applied to a time when concepts as rights, identity, resilience and assimilation were not part of the mindset or had very different meanings. Or whether a city-state whose power structure, characterized by high mobility, commerce and multicultural diplomatic codes, may have had more in common with the 21st-century world than with that in which modern ghettos were created.

Is it possible to undertake a reverse journey using as an interpretative model not the ghetto as universal metaphor of seclusion/osmosis but the one established in the Serenissima, at a time when the nation-state as we know it did not exist.

A time when “border” was a malleable administrative and diplomatic concept; citizenship an interpretable tool of government; “foreigners” people with whom to exchange goods and knowledge, whose juridic status was contingent on a vast continuum of wars and treaties both in the Western and Ottoman worlds?

When the Venice ghetto was established, in 1516 as a response to the request of a group of Jews who, fleeing war and persecution, sought legal residency in the city, there was no premonition that forty years later, the Papal State would order the massive segregation of Jews on theological grounds. The Republic, however, maintained its independence through an intricate web of war and peace relations with surrounding powers, including the Church and the Ottoman Empire. Foreigners were allowed to reside on the lagune, conditionally and in secluded areas. Although the first charter of minority residence was not created for the Jews, their quarter, the“ghetto,” became a template of segregation, outliving the Venice Republic and becoming a symbolic element in the foundational narrative of modern nation states.

But what did the ghetto mean for the Venetian oligarchy and the minorities that resided in the city? Where does the Venice ghetto stand in the history of the relations between ruling power and minority? What did the Jewish minority seeking residency in the Venice Republic mean by defining itself “nation” in terms of boundaries and relationship with others? Is it possible to reconsider this chapter of history without the retrospective lens created by the rupture between Church oppression and emancipation in modern national states?

We would like to put forward the idea that trying to imagine a society so far removed from ours as that of the Venice Ghetto, will contribute to understand the history of the Jews and other minorities and their dynamics with the majority.

The horizon of the society that produced the Venice Ghetto, may indeed have elements in common with today’s globalized world, and can help shed light on the legal and cultural challenges of inclusion and separation throughout history, as well as on the challenges of minorities’ self-governance and self-representations within different political systems.

Image: ‘Jessica’, Joseph Mallord William Turner, Tate Gallery

This program is made possibile through the generous contributions of the Embassy of Italy in Washington DC, Peter S. Kalikow, and the Cahnman Foundation with additional support from the David Berg Foundation.

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