May 4, 2016 Law Library Program to Mark 500th Anniversary of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Liah Caravalho (202) 707-6462

The Law Library of Congress, in collaboration with the Embassy of Italy and the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland, will mark the 500th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice in 1516 with a program titled “La Città degli Ebrei/The City of the Jews: Segregated Space and the Admission of Strangers in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice.”

The event will take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24 in Room LJ-119, located on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Tickets are not required.

The program will feature University of Maryland history professors Bernard Cooperman and Stefano Villani, whose presentations are titled “The Ghetto of Venice: Real-World Problems under Segregation,” and “To Be a Foreigner in Early Modern Italy: Were There Ghettos for Non-Catholic Christians?”

Attendees may also view a display of rare books and documents related to the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, drawn from the Law Library, the Library of Congress Geography and Maps Division, its Rare Book and Special Collections Division, its European Division and the Hebraic Section of its African and Middle Eastern Division.

On March 29, 1516, the Venetian Republic required Jews in Venice to reside within a walled area within the city, separate from the surrounding Catholic population. The site chosen for this segregated area came to be known as the “Ghetto”— the first such walled enclosure in European history to be described by that word. The walled district was mostly inhabited by Jews who had once lived freely in Venice and Jews who had been expelled from Spain or had fled religious persecution in Portugal. The Jewish population of Venice was required to live within this walled district until the 18th century. Today, the Jewish Ghetto of Venice is remembered as an important Italian center of Jewish life and the site where many early Hebrew books were first printed, including the Hebrew Bible and the Babylonian Talmud.

Bernard Cooperman is the Louis L. Kaplan Professor of Jewish History at the University of Maryland, where he focuses on the development of communal institutions and political thought among Jews in early modern Italy. Cooperman co-authored the book “The Venetian Ghetto” (Rizzoli, 1990) and his recent publications include “Political Discourse in a Kabbalistic Register: Isaac De Lattes’ Plea for Stronger Communal Government,” published in “Be’erot Yitzhak, Isadore Twersky Memorial Volume” (Harvard University Press, 2004) and “Theorizing Jewish Self-Government in Early Modern Italy” in “Una Manna Buona per Mantova, Man Tov le-Man Tovah. Studi in onore di Vittore Colorni per il suo 92° compleanno”(Florence: Olschki, 2004). Cooperman was a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and also served as director of the Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland from 1991 to 1997. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Stefano Villani is associate professor in Early Modern History at the University of Maryland with historical expertise in the cultural and religious English history of the 17th century and the Quaker missions in the Mediterranean. Villani has also authored many books, including “A True Account of the Great Tryals and Cruel Sufferings Undergone by Those Two Faithful Servants of God, Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers. La vicenda di due quacchere prigioniere dell'inquisizione di Malta” (2003) and “George Frederick Nott (1768 - 1841). Un ecclesiastico anglicano tra teologia, letteratura, arte, archeologia, bibliofilia e collezionismo” (2012). Villani completed a Ph.D. in History at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa in 1999, with a thesis on the history of the relations between Britain and Italy during the Interregnum. He is now working on a research project about 17th-century English translations of Italian books.

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PR 16-081
ISSN 0731-3527