The synagogues in the Cannaregio area are also called "schole". Only three of them are still open for prayers. : the Scuola Tedesca, the Scuola del Canton and the Scuola Italiana in the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo. They were built by the first Jews arriving in Venice, Ashkenazim coming from Central Europe and Italians, occupying each the last floor of the building (since nothing can be higher than God). The two others, Scuola Levantina and Scuola Spagnola, located in the campo del Ghetto Vecchio, function in tow phases: one in the winter and one in the summer. These were built by the second wave of immigrants from North Africa, a much wealthier community as the previous one. That's why they are vaster and richer, and not integrated in pre-existing edifices.
Visit the inside of the synagogues! What you will notice right way, is the incredible and unexpected resemblance of the interior decoration with the churches of Venice!! The explanation is simple: since the Jews had no right to do other commerce than money handling, money lending, rag pickers or medical doctors, they decoration and designs of their synagogues were entrusted to the same craftsmen ateliers that worked in churches.
The five synagogues are almost invisible from the outside. But the interiors are sumptuous. The oldest, (1528-1529) is the German Jews synagogue (Scuola Tedesca). In the Scuola Spagnola, rites are still performed today. What strike us most on the CAMPO DEL GHETTO NUOVO are the bas-reliefs of Arbit Blatas, reminding the holocaust and deportation of 200 Venetian Jews.. The MUSEO DELLA COMMUNIA ISRAELICA or MUSEO D'ARTE EBRAICO is on the other side of the street closed on Saturdays. There you can admire all documents related to Jewish life. Visits of the synagogues are at 11.30 and 12.30.
Today, the ghetto is a living and popular area, where only 5 orthodox Jewish families survive.
If you leave now the Campo to the north, you arrive (after the bridge) on the Fondamenti degli Ormesini. . Walk on the right side of the quays, passing numerous shops, cafes, and trattorias until you reach a blue plaque "Ospedale". There you make a left into a small alley, cross another bridge and make a right at the Fondamenta della Sensa. Maybe it is time for lunch now and the inexpensive prices and the picturesque location of the OSTERIA ALLA PERGOLA will give you some ideas.
Continue the fondamenta up to the CAMPO DEI MORI.
This small, very picturesque "campo" is bubbling with energy. Its description with its three "Moresque" statues and the MADONNA DEL ORTO site will be for next articles.
More about Venice on my web site.
Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy, by R. Bonfil (Berkeley, University of California Press1994), Culture and Society in Venice 1470-1790, by Oliver Logan (London, B.T. Batsford,1972. ]-Encyclopaedia Judaica (ed. 1972, vol. 16, page 94) - A thousand Years of Culture and Civilisation, by Peter Lauritzen-Heures Italiennes, by Henry James (La difference 1985)--Culture and Society in Venice (1972) by O. Logan, -Venice and the Renaissance (1989) by M. Tafuri