This and That

Random bits of my life

Posts Tagged ‘synagogues’

The Venetian Ghetto

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 15, 2012

Sign, Old Venetian Ghetto

The Jews of Venice were compelled to live in the ghetto from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The Venetian ghetto was the source of the English word, which actually means “foundry,” in reference to a foundry that was located close to the ghetto.

The sign above, “Gheto Vechio,” means “Old Ghetto,” but the name is a bit misleading because the “Old” and “New” ghettos refer to the foundries themselves, not to the Jewish communities. Jews inhabited the New Ghetto first (around 1516), before Levantine Jews began moving to the Old Ghetto (around 1541). The Jewish Virtual Library site has a comprehensive history of the Venetian ghetto.

The photo below is one of the tunnel-like entries into the ghetto. This particular entrance is beside Gam Gam, the popular kosher restaurant, on the Cannaregio Canal.

doorway, Venetian Ghetto

If you visit the ghetto, be sure to take a guided tour at the Jewish Museum in the courtyard. It’s the only way you will be able to see the interior of some of the five synagogues in the ghetto. When we were there, the two large Sephardi synagogues were undergoing repairs, but we did see the other three synagogues. You can’t photograph the interior (and the group was too small for me to surreptitiously take pictures), but the Jewish Museum site has photos of the sanctuaries.

It’s also worth knowing that the Jewish Museum has a kosher cafe and is reasonably priced, much cheaper than Gam Gam. Since it is only open during museum hours, you have to plan to be there for lunch or in the late afternoon, no later than six. The couple who run it don’t speak much English but they’re very nice. I had an excellent piece of fish there. It was small, but seasoned with great care. The azzimi dolce (sweet wine matzah cookies), probably from the Volpe bakery around the corner, are excellent.

Azzime Dolci

The Levantine synagogue, below, was founded in 1541.

Levantine Synagogue, Venetian Ghetto

Across the small courtyard from the Levantine synagogue is the Spanish synagogue (below), founded around 1580. It is the largest of the five synagogues in the ghetto.

Spanish Synagogue, Venetian Ghetto

Spanish synagogue, frontal view:

Spanish Synagogue, Venetian Ghetto

Door of Spanish synagogue:

Spanish Synagogue, Venetian Ghetto

Courtyard of the ghetto:

Courtyard, Venetian Ghetto

The photo below shows the Canton Synagogue, which occupies the top floor  of a residential building. When synagogues and apartments were in the same building, the synagogue was always above the dwelling spaces. The origin of the name is uncertain but the most popular theories are that the synagogue was built by the Canton family or that it was called Canton (= corner) because it is located in the corner of the courtyard.

Canton Synagogue, Venetian Ghetto

Courtyard, Venetian Ghetto

The German Synagogue (also called Tedesca) is trapezoid-shaped (the Jewish Ghetto of Venice site has floor plans for all the synagogues).  The Ashkenazi synagogues tend to have five windows, which we were told was a deliberate design choice, commemorating the Five Books of Moses. The Levantine and the Spanish synagogues, however, have four windows on their front facades.

German Synagogue, Venetian Ghetto

The Italian synagogue (below) was founded in 1575 and is built over apartments. It is the simplest of the five synagogues and quite austere in its decoration, without the lavish gold interiors that you find in the other synagogues.

Italian Synagogue, Venetian Ghetto

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Hoshana Rabbah, 2011

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 19, 2011

Hoshana Rabbah, 2011

Hoshana Rabbah is the seventh day of Sukkot. At the morning service the men carry their lulavs and etrogs and circle the bima seven times. Each circuit honours one of the patriarchs.

I took these photos from the women’s gallery in the synagogue across the street (Pnei Shmuel, Mitzpeh Nevo, in Maale Adumim). Since very few women attend this ceremony, there was a lot of room to move around but I had to stick my lens through the curtains and around the decorative grillwork. My son is the long-haired one in the blue t-shirt (my husband went to an earlier service in the downstairs hall).

Hoshana rabbah, 2011

Hoshana rabbah, 2011

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Two Synagogues in Safed

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 12, 2010

Painted Synagogue Ceiling

The first two photos depict the painted ceiling of the Abuhav synagogue in Safed. Named after Rabbi Yitzhak (Isaac) Abuhav of Portugal, this building was originally built in the sixteenth century. It was twice destroyed by earthquakes, in 1759 and 1837. The current building was dedicated in 1847. The wall behind the arks is the only part of the original structure to have survived the earthquakes. The painted ceiling is decorated with musical instruments used in the Temple in Jerusalem, symbols of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and four crowns: the Torah crown, the priestly crown, the royal crown, and a crown unique to Safed, the crown of impending redemption.

Apart from its painted ceiling, the other striking feature is that the synagogue has three aron kodesh or arks for the Torah scrolls. The ark on the right side holds one of the oldest (nearly 500 years old) Torah scrolls still in use.

Both photos were taken with a 10-22mm lens. I took the photo above from the bima itself. The one below was taken near the stairs of the bima.

Painted Synagogue Ceiling

The photo below shows the carved, painted Torah ark of the Ashkenazi Ari synagogue in Safed. This synagogue, built in the sixteen century by Greek Sephardi immigrants,  is named after Rabbi Isaac Luria (the “Ari”). It was destroyed in the 1837 earthquake and rebuilt 20 years later. The ark, carved from olive wood by a Galician craftsman, shows the Eastern European influence in its design.

Painted Torah Ark

The last photo shows the inscription above the doorway of the Ari synagogue. It reads: “How awe-inspiring is this place, the synagogue of the Ari of blessed memory.”

Doorway of Ari Synagogue, Tsfat

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