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Judaica Europeana Jewish collections online
Number 8, 2016
Exterior photograph of the building containing the Italian Synagogue, Venice.
Facade of Scola Italiana, Ghetto Nuovo, Venice by Didier Descouens (own work) CC BY-SA 4
Scola Italiana was founded in 1575 and built on top of a building so it did not appear as a house of worship from the exterior.

Receipt no. 182 in the 18th century Book of Receipts of the Italian Synagogue, Venice
Receipt no. 182, possibly 2 April 1751, acknowledges reimbursement from the representatives of the Scola Italiana to Zuanne Adenghe, sculptor, for woodwork to the pulpit of the scola; no. 183, 15 June 1751, acknowledges reimbursement to Fernando Rossi, stonecutter, for a plate of Verona marble with eight letters. The digitization of this work was funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. Click image to enlarge.

Photo of the interior of the Italian synagogue, Venice
Interior of Scola Italiana. The least ornate of Venetian synagogues, it is known for its elegantly carved woodwork and brightness thanks to the five large windows. The book of receipts documents the renovation carried out in the 18th century. Photograph from the Jewish Museum Venice

18th century receipts from the Scola Italiana

The most recent addition to the digital collections of our partners published in the Europeana portal is the 18th century Book of Receipts from the Ghetto’s Scola Italiana (Italian Synagogue). The volume consists of manuscript records of various sizes written in Hebrew and Italian and bound together. It has been made available to Judaica Europeana by the Goldfarb Library at Brandeis University.

Professor Benjamin Ravid, a historian from Brandeis University outlines the context for this historic source:

‘Early modern Jewish Venice was a leading Jewish community. Conveniently located between East and West and North and South, it constituted a pole of attraction and a destination for Jews from all over Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Within its narrow confines coexisted four Jewish communities—the Italian, German, Levantine and Spanish-Portuguese—each following their own slightly differing rites and customs, with their own synagogues, rabbis and confraternities, and a coordinating representative General Assembly and Small Committee. This mingling of Jews of different ethnic backgrounds and rites produced a very dynamic and unique Jewish community with outstanding rabbis, intellectuals, and others who, despite confinement in the ghetto, were nevertheless integrated to a greater extent in their environment than would be assumed.

Jewish community records

With the abolition of the ghetto in 1797, and the following emancipation, assimilation and eventually the Holocaust, the records of the Jewish communities became scattered. Indeed, today there is no inventory of those still extant and very few of the limited number located have been described, let alone published. Consequently, the volume of an eighteenth-century Venetian Jewish communal accounts book of the Scola Italiana, is of special significance. [....] it contains an enumeration of the disbursements made by the Italian Jewish community of Venice in the eighteenth century. They were given to a wide range of individuals for various purposes, including communal officials for their salary, emissaries seeking alms from the Holy Land and non-Jewish artisans who had provided various services to the Italian Jewish community. Clearly, this manuscript represents a significant unusual insight into the realities of Jewish life, primarily in the religious, economic, and social realm, in a relatively neglected period in Venetian Jewish history.

This is indeed a unique manuscript, of which scholars and archives are presumably unaware, and preserving and making it available to scholars worldwide through Europeana and Judaica Europeana will constitute a significant contribution for all those interested in Jewish, Italian or Venetian history.’

Editor: Lena Stanley-Clamp, Designer: Catriona Sinclair, European Association for Jewish Culture, London
with contributions from the Venice State Archives and the Goldfarb Library at Brandeis University
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