Venice’s Jewish Ghetto, a neighborhood in the Cannaregio sestiere, is full of contradictions. To start with, it hasn’t technically been a ghetto—an area walled off from the rest of the city—in centuries. In 1797 Napoléon and his men arrived, fully armed with liberté, égalité and fraternité, and tore down the wood doors. The area’s wealthy residents soon decamped to better addresses, and through the 1800s and most of the 1900s, the Ghetto was simply a poor neighborhood. It has remained the city’s center of Jewish life, however, with two functioning synagogues—the Schola Spagnola and the Schola Levantina (tours, 39-041/715-359)—as well as the Archivio Renato Maestro, a repository of historic texts relating to Venetian Jews (2899 Cannaregio; renatomaestro.org), and a community center.
Until recently, Gam Gam (dinner, from $35; 1122 Cannaregio; 39-041/523-1495), with its menu of falafel, couscous and other Middle Eastern dishes, was the only kosher eatery around, but now there’s also Le Balthazar (dinner, from $45; 2874 Cannaregio; kosherclublebalthazar.com), serving traditional dishes of the Veneto, like sardines with polenta. Great nonkosher options are I Quattro Rusteghi (dinner, from $45; 2888 Cannaregio, Campo del Ghetto Nuovo; 39-041/715-160), a spot offering Venetian staples, and Pizzeria Al Faro ($ dinner, from $20; 1181 Campo del Ghetto Vecchio; pizzeriaalfaro.com). Commercial life is much more vibrant than it was ten years ago. For Jewish glassware and silver objets, the best stops are Diego Baruch Fusetti (1218 Cannaregio; shalomvenice.it) and David’s Shop (2895 Campo del Ghetto Nuovo; davidshop.com). There are also two bookshops—Laboratorio Blu (1224 Cannaregio; 39-041/715-819), for children, and my own antiquarian Old World Books (1190 Cannaregio; 39-347/512-9695)—and four art galleries, most notably Ziva Kraus’s Ikona Venezia (2909 Cannaregio; ikonavenezia.com), which specializes in contemporary photography. Finally, the Jewish Museum (museoebraico.it), on the site of an old synagogue, welcomes 70,000 visitors a year.
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