– by Rebecca Westlund
When Germany invaded Italy in 1943, two elderly men made it their duty to conceal a selection of valuable liturgical items in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, in the hope that they might be saved. When the men did not return from concentration camps their efforts were forgotten, until a recent restoration of the Scola Spanish synagogue uncovered the collection. It is because of the quick thinking of these men that Treasures of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice is available to the world now: a glimpse of something that hasn’t seen the light of day for decades.
Consisting of silver, wooden and gilded items, each piece was hand crafted meticulously during the 18th and 19th centuries to be used in worship services, holidays and rituals. Intensive restoration of the items, undertaken by the Venetian Heritage organisation, revealed finely worked embellishments covering the surfaces of silver rimmonin, hanging lamps and Torah crowns. In addition to these precious metal pieces, large ornate Torah cases with gilded wood and fabric covered surfaces were cleaned to stand proud and tall. It is easy to see how important these items were to the Jewish community and through these various pieces we are able to view the diversity within the Venetian ghetto.
As I gazed upon these intricate pieces of Jewish Venetian history I felt lucky to be in their presence. I highly recommend viewing this collection as both a valuable learning experience and an opportunity to see the fine craftsmanship of years past. The exhibition has been seen in New York, Venice and Vienna and is showing in the Art Gallery of Western Australia until the 16th of March.
Title photo credit: Belvedere
Torah crown photo credit: Art Gallery of Western Australia