May 21, 2012
Speaker: Dr. Bernard Dov Cooperman, Louis
L. Kaplan Chair and Associate Professor of Jewish History at the
University of Maryland
Location: Magen David Sephardic Congregation; Rockville, MD
The Venice ghetto, like the city itself, is now largely the property of tourists. Just as picturesque Venice seems to travelers to float miraculously on islands surrounded by the sea, so too the ghetto seems a Jewish world of elegance and piety, flourishing remarkably behind locked gates in a hostile world. But tourist images can be deceiving. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Venice was a living port, a thriving metropolis, a city devoted above all to trade, commerce, and making money. And like all commercial ports, alongside its wealthy powerbrokers and scholarly humanists, there were inevitably also sailors and thieves, hustlers and con men. The Jews who flocked to the city reflected that same diversity as they competed and interacted with each other and with everyone else amid the bustle on the Rialto. During this lecture we "meet" some of Venice's Jews in those centuries and get a feel for the range of Jewish culture and the possibilities of Jewish life in the crowded streets of the world's most famous ghetto.