Venice’s ghetto gets long overdue facelift

THROUGH a narrow, fraying sotto portico, or Venetian alleyway, and across a wooden footbridge, there is a wide square enclosed by rows of multicolored buildings.

Stepping into Venice’s Jewish Ghetto feels a bit like travelling back in time.

On March 29, 1516, the Venetian Senate gated the city’s Jews here near a cannon factory in one of the earliest examples of forced religious segregation.

In contrast to their Muslim, Greek Orthodox, and Christian neighbours, Venetian Jews were allowed to freely practise their religion as long as they remained inside the ghetto, paid their taxes and rents (higher than other citizens), and stuck to a few occupations — moneylenders, doctors, traders and rag sellers.

They endured, and over time the ghetto — crammed into the space of an acre — became the vibrant Jewish cultural capital of Europe.

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