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 “The Venice Ghetto & Beyond” – A New Exhibition at the Center for Jewish History

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Meshal Ha-Kadmoni, 1546. Courtesy of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and Center for Jewish History

Della Influenza del Ghetto Nello Stato, 1782 – Courtesy of the Center for Jewish History

Torah Shield, Italy, 19th century. Courtesy of Yeshiva University Museum and Center for Jewish History

The Center for Jewish History will mark the 500th anniversary of the creation of the Venice ghetto in 1516 with a new exhibition that reveals the complex history of Jewish life in the Mediterranean world following the confinement of Venetian Jews to a walled-off section of their city. This unique assemblage of Italian materials – some of which date from the 16th century – opens a window onto intellectual and artistic achievement, Jewish practice and thought, enduring economic and cultural ties to the Christian and Islamic communities, and the ways in which the Venice ghetto served as a point of connection for Jewish communities in Europe and the Ottoman Empire.

Prominent objects in the exhibition include the Meshal ha-kadmoni, courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, written in 1281 by a Castilian Hebrew poet, scholar and Cabalist, as a response to the popular Arabian Nights. To increase its popularity, the book was embellished with fascinating miniature woodcuts, making it one of the first illustrated Hebrew book ever printed. Other prominent objects include a Bomberg Bible from 1547 from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research collections, a 19th Century Italian Torah shield from the Yeshiva University Museum and “Della influenza del ghetto nello Stato” from 1782 from the collections of the Center for Jewish History. 

The “Venice Ghetto & Beyond” exhibition features materials from the collections of the Center for Jewish History and two of its partners, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and Yeshiva University Museum, as well as other institutions and private collectors. The exhibition is presented by the Center for Jewish History and the Medici Archive Project. 

The “Venice Ghetto & Beyond” exhibition hours 

Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Monday and Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Friday, 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

About the Center for Jewish History

The Center for Jewish History in New York City illuminates history, culture, and heritage. The Center provides a collaborative home for five partner organizations: American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum, and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

The partners’ archives comprise the world’s largest and most comprehensive archive of the modern Jewish experience outside of Israel. The collections span a thousand years, with more than 5 miles of archival documents (in dozens of languages and alphabet systems), more than 500,000 volumes, as well as thousands of artworks, textiles, ritual objects, recordings, films, and photographs.

The Center’s experts are leaders in unlocking archival material for a wide audience through the latest practices in digitization, library science, and public education. As one of the world’s foremost research institutions, the Center offers fellowships, a wide array of exhibitions, symposia, conferences and lectures. The Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate, and is a partner of the Google Cultural Institute.

The Center for Jewish History is home to the Lillian Goldman Reading Room, Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute, The David Berg Rare Book Room and The Collection Management & Conservation Wing. Public programs create opportunities for diverse audiences to explore the rich historical and cultural material that lives within the Center’s walls.

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