The First & The Last Ghetto
In some places, the weight of the history is almost palpable and same goes for words which carry on a whole universe of past events, hidden in its meaning. Before the word Ghetto became a symbol, a metaphor, it reffered to a specific geographical place—a small square, surrounded by water, in Venice. In honour of the 500th anniversary since the establishment of Jewish Ghetto of Venice, the Consulate General of Italy in Shanghai in cooperation with the Hongkou District and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum organized an event, that put into relation the Jewish legacy of two cities: Venice and Shanghai. The conference hosted at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum is a part of the high-profile activities promoted worldwide by the Committee «500 years of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice». This program not only aims to share precious cultural and ethical lessons, but brings up the broader question of cross-cultural dialogue.
You may have walked by the notable building in grey-red bricks on Changyang road, knowing only fragments of the role it had played for thousands of people fleeing the tragedy. But presenting the cultural and historical heritage of the Jewish settlements, the conference unveiled a deeper, shared story, which brings Shanghai and Venice closer together. Distinguished guests has unfolded the story of the word Ghetto and the world it meant for Jewish people, through the history of the very first settlement in Venice, 500 years old now. Centuries back, Ghetto in Venice made it possible for the Jews, who up until that point only had temporary permits, to live in the city on the regular basis. It became a community of diverse traditions, a religious center, a place of many cultural achievements and later the one, that carries a heavy history inseparable from our present and never forgotten.
Half of the millennium since the first Ghetto, it is essential to continue to educate the public on its heritage, and the complex history, unveiled through the connections with other Ghettos, like the one in Shanghai and precious lessons they share.