Restored Venice cemetery recounts Jewish history


VENICE, Italy -- The trail of Europe's restored Jewish heritage sites includes Lido in Venice, where guided tours of an ancient cemetery that had been abandoned for two centuries were introduced last year.

The cemetery holds the remains of prominent Jews who lived during the 17th century in the city's Jewish ghetto, which was established in 1516 as the first ghetto in the world.

According to Aldo Izzo, who is an expert on Venice's Jewish history, the most renowned Jews buried in the cemetery are Rabbi Leon da Modena (1571 to 1648), whose autobiography was translated into English in 1980 by the Princeton University Press; Sara Coppio Sullam, one of the ghetto's leading poets, who died in 1641, and Elia Levita (1469 to 1549), an Ashkenazic linguist.

In 1774, another cemetery, which is still in use, was established in the adjacent area, and the original cemetery was closed.

Several of the original cemetery's grave markers date from the 1400s; the oldest gravestone was dated 1389.

Land for the cemetery was given to the Jews in 1386.

Of all the Jewish cemeteries in Europe, only one, in Worms, Germany, has older tombstones, according to a spokeswoman for the New York-based Steven H. and Alida Brill Scheuer Foundation, which made the key gift that made the restoration of the cemetery possible.

One-and-a-half-hour tours of the cemetery are given year-round on Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

During the summer, tours are offered on Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. and Fridays at 10:30 a.m.

Tours can be combined with visits to the Jewish Museum of Venice and the Jewish Ghetto.

The cost of a tour is about $6 per person. Private tours can be arranged by appointment, starting at about $66 per person.

For tour information, contact the Jewish Museum of Venice at (011) 39-041 715-359.

Izzo also conducts a two-hour tour by appointment, which can be tailored to specific interests and includes both cemeteries.

The cost of this tour is about $150.

For more information, contact Izzo directly at (011) 39-041 526-6249, or write him at Via Jacopo Nani, 29A, 30126, Lido di Venezia, Venice, Italy.

For tourist information on Venice's Jewish history and community, visit the Jewish Venice Web site at

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