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9/9/2016

Magnes exhibit highlights rich Jewish life of Venice Ghetto | j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California

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MagnesexhibithighlightsrichJewishlifeof
VeniceGhetto
bylaurapaull,j.correspondent

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Theexhibitcoincideswiththe500thanniversary
oftheestablishmentoftheJewishGhettoin
Venice.OnMarch29,1516,theauthoritiesofthe
citystateofVenicedecreedthatallresidentJews
wouldhavetomovetoanindustrialarea,a
metalfoundry,whichwasgatedatnighttokeep
themin.Thewordghettoprobablyderivesfrom
theItalianwordgeti,orfoundry.

S.F.Stateacknowledges
inadequateresponsetoprotest
againstJerusalemmayor

Within40years,whenanotherJewishdistrict
wasestablishedinRome,thetermghettohad
alreadycometomeantheplacewhereJewsare
confinedwithinanurbanspace,Spagnolosaid.
Butitwasntjustaplaceofsegregation.Itwas
ameetingplace.

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toJewishmuseum

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OneoftheexhibitionitemsfromtheMagnes
collectionthemedicaldiplomaofaJewishman
earnedfromtheUniversityofPaduain1682
willnotbeondisplayinBerkeleyuntilNovember
becauseitisonloantothecityofVeniceforits
owncommemorationoftheghetto.Thatexhibit
isintheDucalPalaceinSt.MarksSquare,where
thelegalsetupfortheVeniceGhettotookplace.
Theideathat500yearslater,theverycourtof
lawthatdeclaredtheghettotobeinforce
becomestheplacewhereanexhibition
acknowledgeswhattookplaceisaveryinterestingturnofevents,Spagnolosaid,notingthisisthe
firsttimeItalyhasdoneso.

ItfeaturesabeautifullycuratedrepresentationofthemuseumscollectionofItalianJewishartifacts,
includingritualobjectslikeHanukkahlampsandTorahpointersbooksanillustratedScrollofEsther
marriagecontracts,andTorahcoversexquisitelyembroideredandsignedbywomen.

Ketubah,1786

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ThattheJewsof15thand16thcenturyItaly
wouldmakethislightheartedjokemightreflecta
certaincomfortintheirmilieu,asopposedto,
say,inquisitorialSpain,fromwhichmanyhad
fledtotheirmoretolerantneighbortotheeast.
Oritmightspeakofsophistication,anoutcome
ofthedensemixingofdiverseJewishculturesin
theItalianPeninsulaformorethan2,000years.

Medicaldiploma,1682photos/courtesymagnescollection

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obits

InthelatemodernperiodoftheItalianRenaissance,Jewsliving
ontheItalianPeninsulatranslatedthephoneticsoundsofthe
regionalnameItaliaintoHebrew:ITalYah,orIslandofDivineDew.Itwasalinguisticpun.

ToFrancescoSpagnolo,curatoroftheMagnes
CollectionofJewishArtandLifeatU.C.Berkeley,
thepunalsosuggestsaculturalandlinguistic
symbiosisbetweentheJewishandtheItalian
culturesresultingfromtheirintertwinedhistory.
Thatisthefocusofanewexhibit,AnIslandof
DivineDew:ItalianCrossroadsinJewish
Culture,attheMagnes.

lifecycles

GoodfortheJews:Flattires,
poker,folkmusic,Chabon.
Antisemitismoncampus.Mexican
loungingsuits.GoodfortheJews?
PassoveratDisneyworld.
SpeakingSpanishinJewish
school
IshummusgoodfortheJews?

Whywastheghettoizationsuddenlydeemednecessary,whenJewshadalreadyinhabitedtheItalian
Peninsulaformillennia?ThelongestablishedItalianJewishcommunity,whichhadcomefromancient
Palestine,wasreceivingwavesofAshkenaziimmigrants,fleeingplagueandpersecutionorseeking
economicopportunityinItaly.EvenmoresignificantwastheinfluxofsouthernItalian,Spanishand
PortugueseJews,andconversos,expelledbytheInquisition.MiddleEasternJewsalsocame,especially
TurkishandGreekaswellasNorthAfrican.

http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/78371/magnes-exhibit-highlights-rich-jewish-life-of-venice-ghetto/

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9/9/2016

Magnes exhibit highlights rich Jewish life of Venice Ghetto | j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California
ThesewereJewswhoseidentitywasundefined
byanyone,Spagnolosaid.Mixed,unclear
identitieswerenotandstillarentaneasy
thingforsocietiestocopewith.
WhiletheVeniceGhettowasestablishedtoexert
controlandsurveillanceovertheJewish
population,itwasalsoanofficial
acknowledgmentthatitexisted.Inreality,the
boundariesbetweentheChristianandJewish
communitieswerealwaysporous,hesaid,With
Christianssneakingintotheghettoatnightto
visitthesynagogues,andJewssneakingoutto
theopera.

Hanukkahlamp,1700s

Culturalcollaborationswereinevitable.For
example,HebrewbookswereprintedbyChristian
printersJewswerenotallowedtohaveprintingpresseswithJewishtypesetterspreparingthe
manuscripts.SomeofthebooksintheMagnesexhibitshowbilingualpagesintegratingItalianand
Hebrewphrases.
AnIslandofDivineDewdoesntrestrictitselftotheVeniceGhettotheartifactsrepresentthewhole
richtapestryofJewishlifethroughouttheItalianPeninsulaoverseveralcenturies.
TheexhibittriestopinpointsomeelementsofJewishmodernitythataretheresultofcertaindynamics
wecanseeintheghettosandintheItalianJewishexperience,Spagnoloexplained.Itsanextremely
multilayered,multiculturalenvironment,ofthekindwedonotreallyseeagaininJewishhistoryuntil
themigrationofJewstotheAmericasandevenmoreso,theimmigrationtoIsrael.
Spagnolo,amultidisciplinaryscholarandassociateadjunctprofessorofmusicatU.C.Berkeley,
originallyisfromMilan.HehasbeenattheMagnessince2007andhasservedascuratorsince2010.
TheexhibitisalreadypartoftheMagnescollectionthelargerpartisfromthe1967purchaseofthe
privatecollectionofSiegfriedS.Strauss,andtherestfroma2015acquisitionofmorethan300objects
donatedbyMarkandPeachyLevyofLosAngeles.

ITalYah:AnIslandofDivineDewItalianCrossroadsinJewishCulture,Aug.30Dec.16
andJan.24June30,2017,attheMagnesCollectionofJewishArtandLife,2121AllstonWay,
Berkeley.OpenTuesdaytoFriday,11a.m.4p.m.Free.

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