February 3, 2017 (REVISED February 8, 2017) Law Library of Congress Program Explores History of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice

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The Law Library of Congress will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice with a program, “Understanding Seclusion: the Legal Dimensions of the Ghetto” on Tuesday, Feb. 21, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Montpelier Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.

“Understanding Seclusion,” sponsored by the Law Library in collaboration with the Embassy of Italy, will highlight the early history of the segregated Jewish community in Venice and showcase rare books and documents from Library of Congress collections related to the Jewish Ghetto of Venice.

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 Jewish population of Venice was required to live within this walled district until 1797, when the French army conquered Venice and dissolved the Republic. 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.

The program will feature Benjamin Ravid, professor emeritus of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, who will discuss the European legal context that surrounded the walled district; David Malkiel, professor of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University, who will discuss the Jewish institutions of self-government that existed within the walled district; and Dick Schneider, associate dean for International Affairs and professor of Law at Wake Forest University, who will discuss the 16th-century play The Merchant of Venice, which he arranged as a mock trial (that featured Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) in Venice during the summer of 2016, the year that marked five centuries since the establishment of the Venice Jewish ghetto.

At 2 p.m., attendees may view the documentary film, “The Venice Ghetto, 500 Years of Life” (2015), which reconstructs the history of the Venetian ghetto. The film will be shown in the Montpelier Room and is also free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.

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PR 17-006
2017-02-03
ISSN 0731-3527