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Venice: initiatives for the 500th anniversary of the first “ghetto”. Opening concert at La Fenice Opera House

All “li giudei debbano abitar unidi” (Jews should live together) in a fenced, supervised area of the city: that was decided just 500 years ago, March 29th 1516, by Venice’s Senate under the rule of Doge Leonardo Loredan. This is how the first Jewish ghetto was born. In 2016, Venice’s ghetto will be celebrating “half a millennium of a history ridden with obstacles, extraordinary characters and extremely-recognisable architectures”. A Committee has been set up in Venice to promote the event, “I 500 anni del ghetto di Venezia”, chaired by the president of the Jewish community of the lagoon city, Paolo Gnignati. “The main purpose of the Committee – as stated in the official website, www.veniceghetto500.org – is to organise and promote events and initiatives about issues of international, national, local interest, taking inspiration from the Jewish history of Venice and the ghetto”. The main events of European scope that have been organised by the Committee are three: the opening ceremony-cum-concert at La Fenice Opera House, tonight; an exhibition at Palazzo Ducale, “Venezia, gli ebrei e l’Europa. 1516-2016”, from June to November; and the restoration of the Jewish Museum. The website explains: “The district that brought the word Ghetto into the vocabulary of many languages as synonym with segregation and discrimination may also tell the whole world about the cultural and artistic contribution that the Jewish community of Venice managed to provide, by interacting with the surrounding society, in defiance of the restrictive conditions that had been imposed on it”.

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