Venice has the oldest Jewish ghetto in the world. Don’t worry, I didn’t know that either. It is small and quiet and was largely empty when I visited in early afternoon, before jumping on my train to Rome.
Seeing the ghetto confused me, making me feel a whole bunch of different emotions. In some sense I was interesting and surprising to see Jews living in all sorts of places but it was heartbreaking to know that they had been hated and persecuted for so long. It hurt to think about everyone who died there before and durng the Holocaust. I was proud to know that Jews helped build Venice and, through persecution, built and continue to build a community in Venice. But also strange to think that Jews, in 2016, still lived in the ghetto when they could (theoretically) live anywhere in the city. It was comforting to see Magen David’s, rugelach, and synagogues so far from home.
The whole experience was weird, confusing, and eye-opening. I definitely have a lot to learn about my culture and how it operates around the world.